You can no longer bag a new Dacia Duster for under £10,000
Car Reviewed: Dacia Duster TCe 90 Journey
Today’s car is still relatively cheap and it makes perfect sense in a sector that’s starting to rocket into the stratosphere. The Duster may sound like a steal for £19,795, but what’s it really like to live with?
My Duster TCe 90 Journey test car arrived on a trailer and the driver handed me the stocky key. The £650 Arizona Orange paintwork, the most vibrant of the range, popped in the sun and complemented the utilitarian plastic trim. The previously mentioned stocky key allowed the holder to unlock the doors, open the boot (although manually) and turn the headlights on and off.
The interior, notably filled with scratchy hard plastics, was a bit slab-sided but well put together. The Journey guise has a basic sat nav system and keyless entry; it also has a 360-degree camera system and heated front seats. Dacia has thrown in some new-age quirk with the digital temperature dials, but the instruments remain analogue — you can’t have everything for circa £20k!
The tank was full and the fuel readout showed 485 miles. For the first part of the week, the Duster was used to grab crisps, coffee and milk from our local shop — a one-mile gauntlet run, consisting of heavy temporary construction work and woeful Scottish winter weather, but we needed our ‘essentials’. The 90bhp petrol powerplant often struggled to pull away from the endless temporary traffic lights, but the suspension trampled the beat-up road surface with only very mild juddering rattling through the cabin.
After arriving home, checking the star-rated economy screen was a must – a quickly accessible feature within the speedy 8.0” touchscreen – it showed a three-star acceleration for the journey (out of five), but a return of 35mpg. A longer route was needed to get closer to the 45.6mpg claimed by Dacia, but a somewhat expected result for a busy town drive.
The Duster couldn’t have arrived at a better time as our household was adopting a four-legged family member, which meant travelling 43.3 miles from our Clackmannanshire to Dumbarton, Glasgow, to spend time with our future pet. Over the route, mixed with B-roads, towns and motorways, the Duster returned a healthy 44.6mpg, just one digit off Dacia’s official claim. The ability to switch between normal and ‘eco’ modes by pressing a button, rather than invariably faffing with a touchscreen, was grand.
Swapping cogs via the six-speed transmission was a swift reminder of the car’s ruggedness; with each movement, there was clunking like an old Victorian signal box.
The engine remained hushed on the road until you climbed the rev range. It felt livelier out of town with impressive mid-range pickup and kept up well with busy motorway traffic — still, you won’t be dusting much on straight stretches. On the tighter B-roads, slowing for tight corners is a must as the Duster rolls a fair bit; there’s no sporty setting, but do you need that on a rugged two-wheel drive Qashqai competitor?
For those who have a dog, the Duster offers 445 litres in real-world talk, which is plenty for taking your pooch to meet new friends at the local park. Two anchor points, which have been used on more than one occasion, are located on the floor.
The car was picked up at the end of the week and these were my thoughts. My engine choice is the TCe 130 for the extra oomph, similar economy return and little price differential, but that really is my only gripe.
The Duster requires an open mind. Just don’t expect polished touches like those found on a similar-sized Qashqai or Volkswagen T-Roc. If you can see past some minor quality matters, you’ll find a decent family workhorse underneath and quickly love it for what it is.
A motoring journalist from Central Scotland with a Diploma in Freelance and Feature Writing from the London School of Journalism, contributing to various online and print automotive publications. Matthew covers features, news and car reviews and enjoys the fast-paced environment of the motoring world with a strong coffee in hand. From a Honda Jazz to a Lamborghini Reventón there’s nothing off limits.