Dacia Duster Access 1.6 4x4

DACIA made its UK debut at the 2012 Goodwood Festival of Speed and managed to grab headlines at the event known as one of the most glamorous on the motoring calendar.

Dacia Duster Access 1.6 4x4

Engine: 1,598cc, four-cylinder, petrol

Power: 105bhp and 109lb.ft. of torque

Perfomance: 0-62mph in 12.8 seconds and 99mph

Economy: 35.3mpg (combined)

CO2 emissions: 185g/km

Price: £10,995

It was after a staggering BMW M6 convertible which had been driven up Goodwood’s hillclimb in extremely sideways fashion by Fifth Gear star Tiff Needell that I first clapped eyes on the Indian-built SUV being manufactured under the ownership of Renault.

Moments earlier the £99,045 BMW had been the cheapest car on track by a price margin that could secure you a small house in Rotherham, but the Dacia was the cheapest new car at the show.

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In stark contrast with the McLarens, Ferraris and Bugattis that were commanding the attention of petrolheads on the supercar run it was the sheer value of Dacia’s Duster that had the crowds flocking.

Decals boasting an £8,995 list price captivated the crowds.

It seemed that Renaults budget brand was taking a new direction that no-one else had bothered with, despite the tough financial times.

To people like myself who sample the glamour of Goodwood as light relief to a penny-pinching daily existence, the Dacia made immediate sense.

In 2013 the Duster hit UK streets proper and I recently got the chance to steer one for a week’s test in order to find out whether it really is possible for Renaults budget brand to offer a decent-sized family transport for half the price of its key rivals.

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The Dacia Duster I experienced was not the absolute base-spec model that boasted that eye-catching price tag.

Seen here is the Duster Access 1.6 16v 4x4.

Adding four-wheel-drive into the mix adds £2,000 in entry level Access trim, but at £10,995 this Duster remains around £3,000 cheaper than the diminutive Fiat Panda 4x4 and is half the price of a similar-sized Volkswagen Tiguan.

In the metal it has a utilitarian charm that appears unapologetic about its black plastic bumpers and wing mirrors.

Sturdily square-set with roof rails and a sump guard in evidence, it’s a rugged looking machine.

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Standard-fit steel wheels may might be to everyone’s taste, but I think they marry in with the Dacia Dusters values and look suitably no-nonsense.

Dacia’s brand philosophy dictates that the brand centres on eliminating the unnecessary and giving customers the option to pay for what they value, after all.

Even a stereo is optional on the Access trim Duster and while mine did come with the Bluetooth-equipped Kenwood stereo system (250), I was left to sweat it out with no air conditioning.

A level of hard plastic trim not seen on most mainstream cars nowadays forms the dashboard and door inserts.

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Overwhelmingly grey in its colour scheme, the interior is practical, however, with plenty of cubby holes and a steering wheel, gear lever and various buttons sourced from the Renault parts bin.

Less familiar  and somewhat staggering at this price  is a dial for the switchable 4x4 system, which can be turned through 2WD, 4WD and Locked settings.

There’s plenty of interior space. Up front and in the rear there is ample space for five adults.

The doors feel lightweight and close with a clunk but the similarly light boot lid conceals 475 litres of load space...around 160 litres more than in the Ford Focus you could buy if you had another 3,000 burning a hole in your pocket.

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With just 105bhp, 109lb.ft. of torque, a 35.3mpg fuel economy claim and 185g/km CO2 emissions, a question mark exists over its long-term suitability for the Duster.

Pace is an issue. Dacia claim a 12.8 second sprint to 62mph and 99mph top speed but the engine needs to be worked  denting the fuel economy significantly  for the Duster to feel that quick.

The steering and six-speed gearbox are pleasingly slick and the Duster offers impressive comfort thanks to extremely cushioned seats and chunky tyres which go a long way to eliminating road imperfections without troubling the suspension.

It might not feel quite as direct and roll-free through bends as many modern SUVs  with a propensity to understeer if pushed  but in terms of ride quality, the Duster impresses.

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A motorway cruise comfortably assumed too, but lack of refinement can become an issue on longer journeys.

At low speeds the 4x4 systems differential also creates a few murmurs of discontent that sound deadening would surely have kept at bay in a more expensive SUV.

But this is a vehicle produced on a fairly unbelievable budget.

So what if the fuel filler cap smashed like a metal tray being struck over a wrestlers head each time I flicked it shut, this is a four-wheel-drive family SUV for less than most Goodwood VIPs will pay for a holiday.

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If you like the Dusters style then my advice would be to invest in the diesel version, which is available for £11,995 and boasts 56.5mpg fuel economy and more palatable 130g/km CO2 emissions.

Apart from that, it is very hard to question anyone who takes advantage of Dacia’s cut-price motoring revolution.


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