No-nonsense van version of budget-priced SUV
- Powerful and reliable engine
- Very competitive pricing
- Decent load area
- Spacious cab
- Short service intervals
- Fairly poor build quality
- Poor ride
Since reaching these shores in 2013, Dacia cars have sold well thanks to their low cost and proven Renault-based underpinnings. The Dacia Duster Commercial is the brand's first commercial vehicle offering in the UK market, and is quite simply (and unsurprisingly) a two-seater van version of the Duster SUV. As such, it is extremely competitively priced, with the entry-level Duster Commercial available for under £10,000 (plus VAT).
It doesn't offer much in the way of choice, though. The only engine option is a 1.5-litre diesel, which comes in one power rating, one wheelbase and two trim levels: Ambiance and Laureate. You can specify two- or four-wheel drive (at extra cost), however.
Does the Duster's low cost outweigh the compromises? Read on to find out.
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The Dacia Duster Commercial is powered by Renault's well-established 1.5-litre dCi turbodiesel, in this instance tuned to 110hp and 240Nm of torque. It’s coupled to a six-speed manual transmission, with no option of an automatic. Front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive versions are available on both trim levels.
The driving experience is a rather noisy one, something that becomes more and more apparent the faster you go - certainly other car-based vans are better in this area. We also noticed that the bulkhead, which is not fixed in the corners, tends to rattle and shake when travelling at speed.
Although the engine is sprightly and quick off the mark, the gearbox is notchy and decidedly utilitarian. And even though the steering is power assisted, it's heavy and slow to turn, making tight manoeuvers quite a chore. But it is precise and provides plenty of feedback, and faster cornering results in only a little body roll.
The four-wheel drive system, which is activated where fitted by turning a knob next to the gearstick, is very effective on sticky surfaces - helped by decent approach and departure angles of 30 and 36 degrees, respectively, and 210mm of ground clearance.
The cab of the Dacia Duster is very open and spacious, and the positioning of the rear bulkhead means that there’s enough room to accommodate drivers of most shapes and sizes. The interior follows a very simple, practical layout, but the plastics used are very cheap and tacky – even on the higher-spec Laureate model.
Both the steering wheel and driver’s seat are adjustable; however, we found that we were unable to elevate the driver’s seat whilst sat on it.
Standard equipment on the Ambiance trim includes alloy wheels with tyre-pressure monitors, front foglights and a 20W DAB radio with USB, aux-in and Bluetooth connectivity. Upgrade to Laureate and you get some satin chrome exterior detailing, extra interior plastic chrome, map pockets on the back of the front seat and, more luxuriously, heated electric mirrors, air-conditioning and a vanity mirror in the sun visor for the passenger.Starting to see how Dacia keeps the price down?
There is the option of a MediaNav infotainment system at extra cost, which adds satellite-navigation, steering mounted controls and a 7-inch touchscreen display. And four-wheel drive versions do get selectable two-wheel drive, auto and lock modes, plus a proper locking centre differential, which is useful if you do need to tackle difficult terrain. The system is similar to that used by the previous-generation Nissan X-Trail.
Dacia is one of the UK’s most affordable brands. At the time of launch in 2015 the Dacia Duster Commercial started at just £9,595 plus VAT, with the 4x4 system costing £1,700 extra (£11,295 plus VAT) and the higher-spec Laureate starting from £10,845 plus VAT.
In terms of day-to-day running costs, the Dacia Duster Commercial officially claims to achieve fuel economy in the mid-50mpg range, with the 4x4 version only slightly thirstier. Service intervals are set at short one-year or 12,000-mile, whichever comes first.
The Dacia Duster Commercial is still a relatively new model, but it didn't leave us fully convinced about its build quality; one of the bumper brackets of our test vehicle wasn’t connecting which left part of it sticking out – although these kind of faults will be covered by Dacia’s three-year, 60,000-mile warranty. There are quite a few components that rattle and shake on the open road, like the bulkhead, which isn’t encouraging.
The running gear shouldn’t cause you too much hassle though; the 1.5 dCi diesel engine has been used in Renault and Nissan products for over 15 years, and the 4x4 running gear is also of a proven design.
The Dacia Duster Commercial does fairly well for safety equipment. In addition to the driver airbag, there are also passenger and front side airbags. All models also receive remote-control central locking and a Thatcham-approved immobiliser. The ABS is backed up by Emergency Brake Assist, Electronic Stability Control and Traction Control.