New Dacia Duster adds hybrid power and sharper styling to its repertoire
Europe’s best-selling SUV returns as a thoroughly improved but still stellar value proposition. However, at what cost do the array of performance and efficiency improvements come?
Despite being named after a household cleaning utensil, Dacia’s Duster was met with considerable praise when it first launched some 13 years ago. Proponents loved its back-to-basics approach to off-roading, with the Renault-derived underpinnings offering everything you could need and nothing more. And those Duster fans were not a rare breed either, with demand for the cheap and cheerful SUV becoming so strong last year, Dacia’s Pitesti plant in Romania had to produce one vehicle a minute just to keep up.
So here it is, the new Duster. And straight away you might be stroking your chin with suspicion. How can Dacia make so many improvements but still offer the Duster for the usual bargain price? By utilising outdated componentry perhaps? No, actually, this latest model sits atop Renault’s current CMF-B platform — the same one that the Clio and future French models are set to use.
The engines earmarked to propel that new chassis are similarly un-Dacia-like. For the first time a new 140 bhp hybrid petrol promises to be the efficiency-focused choice — albeit offering little to no electric-only range.
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A slightly less powerful mild-hybrid option should also provide improved response and performance over previous ICE units, however it’s the Duster TCe 100 Bi-fuel that strikes us as the most unusual engine option. In this spec, a tiny 3-cylinder Turbo engine can run on either LPG (liquid petroleum gas) or good ol’ gasoline. But, given that there’s currently just 300 filling stations in the UK which sell LPG, the Bi-fuel Duster is probably not the wisest choice unless you have such a supplier on your doorstep.
Those looking to test their Duster’s utilitarian credentials to the max will be best served by one of the 4x4 variants — LPG Dusters are front-wheel-drive-only. And while we haven’t had a chance to sample the new model’s off-road prowess, we have no reason to suspect the third generation has lost any of the old car’s go-anywhere ability. If you are worried though, it could be worth swapping out the standard efficiency-focused Continental EcoContact 6Q tyres for all-season rubber such as the versatile AllSeasonContact 2.
We’d argue that the new cabin is the Duster’s biggest upgrade of all. Sure, it’s no Range Rover, but compared to the old car which looked like a 1990s minicab inside, this new interior is leaps and bounds better. A new 10.1-inch central display looks the business and houses Apple Carplay, Android Auto, and SatNav. While some properly posh driver assistance systems and Terrain Control are available for those willing to loosen their grip on a few more notes.
Here it comes then: the catch. Drumroll please, the new Duster starts from… an expected £20,000 or less. Oh, that’s actually quite reasonable. We just hope Dacia honours its previous commitment to keeping the model in that price range when official figures are released soon.
Hero image credit: Dacia