Dacia Duster 4×2 Comfort: long term test review

First report: Does our new diesel Dacia Duster have a kind of magic? Early impressions are goodVerdict4.5Our new Duster is already stirring us into song with its back-to-basics interior and low running costs. It’s also a bargain to buy, costing less than many superminis, but with more than enough space for our snapper.

Mileage: 2,040
Economy: 52.6mpg

I want to Break Free, Radio Ga Ga, Under Pressure, A Kind of Magic – like most people, whether they choose to admit it or not, there aren’t many Queen hits that I don’t enjoy. And if I do happen to be behind the wheel when one comes on the radio, then without a doubt I will be cranking up the volume and trying my best not to damage my vocal cords while joining Freddie Mercury in song.

But such is the power of advertising that since I’ve been handed the keys to the newest member of the Auto Express fleet, there’s been one particular song that I haven’t been able to stop belting out, regardless of whether it’s coming through the stereo or not: “Another one drives a Duster!”

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As catchy as adverts can be, we all know they’re designed to sell products. So over the coming months, I’ll be running our new budget SUV to see whether more and more of us should be driving a Duster, like the earworm song in the TV ad suggests.

Our car is a front-wheel-drive diesel model, which is the version that we think makes the most sense, especially in manual form. Without four-wheel drive, there’s a weight saving of 85kg, which means we can make the most of the efficient 1.5-litre turbodiesel engine under the bonnet.

It certainly seems to be paying off so far; an average of 52.6mpg is a pretty good return, considering that there are only about 2,000 miles on the motor at the moment.

Our Comfort-spec car comes with 16-inch alloys, cruise control, cloth seats, a reversing camera and a seven-inch touchscreen display, with sat-nav as standard. Cars built after December 2018 feature Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, too, although mine was produced just before then, so I’ll be making do with the built-in navigation. I would say that “I Want it All”, but I really don’t – honestly, this kit list is spot on for me.

The back-to-basics nature of the Duster is a big selling point, and my first impressions are that this really is a good car; I didn’t have to be behind the wheel for long to realise how much I liked the Dacia SUV.

I am no technophobe, but I’m loving being able to drive through congested streets near my home in London without having lots of different sensors and alerts trying to convince me that I’m about to have a crash. I’ll blame that on the over-sensitive safety functions in many other cars. In fact, I’m always telling them, “Don’t Stop Me Now”.

The Dacia’s seven-inch infotainment touchscreen has quite an old-fashioned interface, using large buttons with lots of primary colours, but it is very accessible from the outset, and that has helped me to get up to speed with the system quickly.

Another thing I usually hate in modern cars is having to tap away at a touchscreen in order to change the air-conditioning or heating settings. But, of course, the no-frills Duster has a traditional set of buttons and dials to control these features, which means I’m able to keep my One Vision on the road.

So while some people might find the lack of tech in the new Duster a turn-off, for me it’s actually quite refreshing. It also means you get more car for your money, because the budget SUV offers loads of interior space for not a lot of cash. The boot offers 1,623 litres with the rear seats folded down. That’s more than enough space for someone who is training for a Bicycle Race to chuck all their gear in the back, for example. For me, it’s more about stashing away my camera equipment and car cleaning kit, and it’s top marks so far for the Duster here.

Then there’s the rear seat space, which is also very good. There’s much more room in here than you’ll find in a similarly-priced supermini – certainly enough space for a couple of Fat Bottomed Girls or boys, although I haven’t tested that theory out.

I’m looking forward to seeing how well the Duster copes with daily life over the next few months behind the wheel. Will the back-to-basics nature start to grate, or can its simple charm keep me happy? Hopefully, it will be the latter, but that remains to be seen. For now, there’s only one thing to say, isn’t there? I’m in Love with my Car (yes, that really is a Queen song).

*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

Key specs

  • Model: Dacia Duster Blue dCi 115 4×2 Comfort
  • On fleet since: December 2018
  • Price new: £15,395
  • Engine: 1.5-litre 4cyl diesel, 113bhp
  • CO2/tax: 115g/km/£140
  • Options: Metallic paint (£495), space-saver spare wheel (£150)
  • Insurance*: Group: 14, Quote: £570
  • Mileage/economy: 2,040/52.6mpg
  • Any problems?: None so far

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