Dacia Duster Prestige Blue dCi 115
The budget SUV has been given a makeover and Ed Coles finds that its value-for-money appeal is backed up by decent off-road performance
Dacia Duster Prestige Blue dCi 115
Overall Rating: 80%
Price as reviewed: £22,590
Dacia’s no-frills Duster burst on to the scene in 2010 and since then the affordable SUV has grown in popularity. Dacia has given the Duster a bit of a makeover in the past couple of years and added an automatic gearbox option, but alas only the two-wheel-drive version has been given special treatment. Instead, we’re having a play with the higher-spec Dacia Duster Prestige Blue dCi 115 4×4 version. Let’s go and see if we can get it stuck.
First impressions Dacia Duster Prestige
On first impressions, the Duster looks quite smart. It’s certainly not a bad effort for a ‘budget’ vehicle. Based on styling alone, it looks like it could be fun. The silhouette remains similar, but with a few more interesting angles.
I like the ruggedness of it, with its iron-blue metallic paintwork, chrome trims and 17in alloys. The front and back have had some restyling, too. A chrome grille and trims add to the ruggedness and it’s all finished off with fancy Y-shaped LED headlamps. It all works well together.
Under the bonnet is a diesel 1.5 dCi engine with all the usual eco-gadgets fitted. The little 1.5 kicks out 115bhp and 260Nm of torque. It’s not masses of power, but at a little under a tonne and a half, the Duster is relatively light and more than capable of towing its own weight. It can also launch itself to 62mph in a moderate 10.2 seconds and has a top speed of 108mph. The range has three choices of petrol engine, two diesel versions and a bi-fuel engine. However, if you want a 4×4, the 1.5 dCi is the only option.
The Dacia Duster Prestige sports a reasonably sized boot — certainly enough room for luggage, kit or shopping. A couple of dogs will fit in snugly, as do around six(ish) bags of wheat, to use the standard scale. The gun slip fits in at an angle, but the rifle sticks are definitely destined for the back seat. With the rear seats folded, the Duster has 1,600 litres of space. (Read our advice on travelling with your gun.)
On crouching down with the trusty feed bag, there are positive signs at the front. A healthy 210mm of ground clearance isn’t too far from pickup territory. At the back, we can see quite a bit of the running gear. It doesn’t look overly robust in 4×4 terms and the driveshafts look rather dinky.
Inside, things are straightforward and simple, but a little more than basic. The dash has a late-2000s Renault Clio feel to it, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Otherwise the kit is far from frugal. It’s reasonably stylish and, once we’ve adjusted the Prestige’s heated seats and steering column, it’s quite comfy. The 8in touchscreen controls most of the goodies — DAB, satnav, Apple and Android connectivity, Bluetooth, reverse sensors and camera.
There’s also automatic air conditioning, keyless entry, start-stop and the right number of driver aids — ABS, hill start and descent control, electronic stability control and traction control, blind-spot warning and tyre-pressure monitoring. The controls are user-friendly and the gearbox settings are straightforward.
When reversing out at home, the first thing of note is a horrible rattle from the back. It’s a trim noise, as the suspension sounds and feels relatively smooth over my potholed driveway. Alas, the rattle is still there on the twisty country roads and the smoother motorways. Despite the rattle, the Duster feels smooth and comfortable over bumps and through turns. It holds the road well, with minimal boatiness, and feels stable. The suspension is about right, maybe slightly soft.
Performance-wise, first and second gear feel a bit close together and almost surplus to requirements. The six-speed gearbox is slightly notchy going through the gears and it took me a while to get to grips with fifth to sixth. The Duster isn’t lightning quick — a little sedate to start off — but once up to cruising speed, it’s quite responsive on the open road. Around town, it performs well and it’s quite an enjoyable commute. It’s comfortable to drive and the controls are all simple and easily to hand.
But what’s it like off-road? Selecting the ‘auto’ gearbox setting, I tried a gentle bit of stubble to start with, covering it with ease. Crossing the tramlines gives the suspension a bit of a workout, but the plucky Duster handles it well and there’s no unpleasant knocking, although the rattle is still there. Traction is good, as is the dust cloud the aptly named 4×4 is making.
Locking the diff, it is time to test it in the woods. Through the woodland tracks, it is quite agile and negotiates the twisty bits well. Crossing the heavily rutted track tests the suspension and we used all of the suspension travel and ground clearance.
The new Dacia Duster Prestige is a pretty good all-rounder and I enjoyed our week-long affair. It’s got just the right amount of kit and entertainment, and the build quality is reasonable. Despite Dacia being branded a budget manufacturer, it doesn’t feel cheap. It’s capable of some off-piste action, as well as being a comfortable runaround. I do wonder how much of a toll prolonged off-road use would take on the Duster, though. The fuel economy seemed good, as the gauge didn’t move far in a week.
So how much for this latest Duster? Being the higher-spec version, it has a price tag to match, but in the greater scheme of things, it’s pretty good value. With the addition of metallic paint and a spare wheel, this model comes out at £22,590 on the road.
Need to know
- Manufacturer Dacia
- Model Duster Prestige Blue dCi 115 4×4
- Power 115bhp, 260Nm of torque
- Top speed 108mph 0-62mph 10.2 seconds
- Economy Combined 53.3mpg Low 47.9mpg Medium 56.5mpg High 61.4mpg Extra high 47.9mpg
- Towing weight 745kg
- Towing weight, braked 1,500kg
- Ground clearance 210mm