SNOBBERY is a marketing specialist’s dream and probably the one thing that lands so many people in financial strife these days.

Buying the latest trainers on store finance, queuing up outside an Apple Store for the latest iPhone or, indeed, spending more on monthly car repayments than the mortgage or rent on your home is all bred out of a short-sighted disregard for what really matters in pursuit of something to impress your fellow man.

In the hyper-aspirational world of new cars, Dacia very much bucks the trend and now I’ve had the chance to get behind the latest Dacia Duster — with mixed results.

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At £13,930 all-in, the Dacia Duster Comfort SCe115 4x2 tested here was almost £4,000 more expensive than the entrylevel model.

That’s still in line with entrylevel versions of the comparatively tiny Ford Fiesta or Volkswagen Polo, though, and comes with more standard equipment to boot.

Dacia has not completely transformed the styling of the Duster this time around, but it looks suitably sturdy and utilitarian.

New rear light clusters, faux air vents behind the front wheels, roof rails and 16-inch alloy wheels completed a look which elicited a “monster truck” description as seal of approval from my five-year-old.

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Inside, unyielding plastics abound, but in the centre console, where more expensive cars might feature a touchscreen sat-nav system, resides...a seven-inch touchscreen sat-nav infotainment system.

The Duster’s seats lack lumbar support and some lateral bolstering and the trim plastics are cheap, but this is a cheap car.

Setting that aside, there is space and equipment aplenty.

For the price of a three-yearold, 30,000-mile Volkswagen Tiguan, the Dacia serves up a three-year manufacturer’s warranty and kit, including a reversing camera, air conditioning and cruise control.

At that, it was even liberating to drive a car without the constant bleep and chirrup of a lane departure warning.

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For me, the Comfort spec’s equipment level hit a sweet spot.

Driving the Duster feels like stepping back in time.

Although it steers easily and is manoeuvrable, where many modern cars have dynamics reined in by electronic aids and trick suspension, the Duster leans into corners and shifts its weight around on its chassis.

It’s all predictable and the ride is nicely compliant too, but it highlights how mollycoddling many vehicles have become that this feels quite raw.

The 1.6-litre normally-aspirated petrol engine of the SCe 115 develops 114bhp to the Duster’s front wheels.

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The Renault-sourced engine is light on low-end torque and a claimed 11.9-second acceleration time to 62mph feels fairly optimistic.

Up steep inclines, a changedown through the five-speed manual gearbox and a breathy soundtrack feel at odds with the Duster’s muscular appearance.

That said, it cruises contentedly on the motorway and feels more than adequate so long as you don’t expect genuine grunt.

During my time with the Duster, it also exceeded published fuel economy claims of 43.5mpg (CO2 emissions 149g/km), which was impressive.

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Things fell flat for my blossoming relationship with the Duster when I finished work on Friday evening, however, with a 90-mile drive ahead of me.

On entering the car and turning the key, a warning light illuminated and limp mode engaged, the poor Duster unable to summon a cruise of more than about 15mph.

I’d just been telling a colleague how impressed I was with it.

The last time I parted company with a test car on the back of a trailer, it was a Porsche 911 with a puncture and no replacement tyre to be found.

That was embarrassing.

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This time around, I felt sad that what probably amounted to an electrical glitch had robbed the Duster of its chance to prove itself a champion of affordable new cars.

What the Porsche goes to show is that, whatever you pay, there’s always a risk.

And if the alternative is a used SUV with 30,000 miles on the clock, I’d probably still rather have mine with the reassurance of a Dacia three-year warranty.