Dacia Duster (2012 – 2018) Review

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Dacia Duster (2012 – 2018) At A Glance

Honest John Overall Rating
Overall, the Duster makes a mockery of the prices asked for rival SUVs. It’s not perfect, but you’ll get to enjoy the smug sense of satisfaction of having more money in your wallet.

+Exceptional value for money – an SUV for the price of a small hatch, low running costs, hugely practical, large boot and spacious cabin.

-Lacks the modern safety equipment that’s commonplace now, substandard interior quality with some very cheap touches, cheapest model lacks air-con and a radio.

Insurance Groups are between 5–13
On average it achieves 75% of the official MPG figure

The Dacia Duster is the UK’s cheapest SUV. It comes with a price tag that pitches it against premium city cars, with even the most expensive model costing less than an entry-level Ford Fiesta. Launched in 2012, the original Duster raised a few eyebrows thanks to its bullish pricing, Tonka toy styling and impressive practicality. Because it’s been superseded by a newer model, it’s even more of a bargain on the used car market. Although it can’t offer the overall quality and refinement of rivals like the Nissan Qashqai and Kia Sportage, the Duster is a very easy car to recommend.

Looking for a Dacia Duster (2012 - 2018)?
Register your interest for later or request to be contacted by a dealer to talk through your options now.

Why spend tens of thousands of pounds on an SUV when you can buy one for the price of a city car? Although the Dacia Duster isn’t perfect, it gets the fundamentals of motoring spot-on, which makes it a compelling used car purchase.

Launched in 2012, this version of the Duster lived on until 2018, with facelifts in 2014 and 2016. Like the other models in the Dacia range, it grabbed the headlines thanks to its aggressive pricing and chunky styling.

But there’s more to the Duster than a cheap price. It’s one of the most spacious cars in its class, with a large boot and room for up to five adults. You sit high in the car, which gives you a commanding view of the road ahead, something that’s especially useful when driving in town. The light steering and easy-to-drive nature make it no more stressful to live with than a supermini or city car.

It has another ace up its sleeve: four-wheel-drive. Although the majority of Dusters leave the factory with front-wheel drive, a select group of individuals have discovered how capable it is as a 4x4.

Although it’s not going to challenge a Land Rover off-road, the Duster is leagues above the majority of its competitors when the going gets tough. Because it’s so cheap, you won’t mind if you have a little incident with a tree stump or gate post.

Back on the smooth stuff, the Duster isn’t the last word in refinement. It rolls when cornering and there’s plenty of wind and road noise when you’re on a motorway. But the soft suspension and raised ride height mean that it's surprisingly comfortable, especially if you opt for one of the higher trim levels.

We’d avoid the entry-level Access trim. Although the price tag is tempting, the absence of air-conditioning and a radio will make Duster hard to live with over the course of a PCP deal. A mid-range Duster would be a safer bet… if ‘safer’ is the right word.

Unfortunately, safety isn’t a Duster strong point. A three-star Euro NCAP safety rating puts the Dacia at a disadvantage alongside rivals with five-star ratings to their name. It’s not an unsafe car, it just lacks the driver assistance systems fitted to more modern rivals.

This aside, it’s easy to mount a case for the Dacia Duster. Alongside the cheap prices, the Duster should also be affordable to run, helped in no small part by the efficient petrol and diesel engines. The 1.5-litre dCi diesel is the star of the show, offering an excellent blend of performance and economy. For towing and long trips, it’s the ideal choice.

Elsewhere, the 1.2-litre turbocharged engine (badged TCe 125) bridges the gap between the petrol and diesel engines. It’s the unit to choose if you spend most of your time in the city.

Ask Honest John

What's the best small, reliable car with raised driving position for under £8000?
"I'm a single parent looking for advice for buying a small, reliable, inexpensive to run car with a high driving seat and easy access for the driver (dodgy hips). Good visibility and value are must. It would be great if it's good to drive, has decent interior space and looks cool, but I realise I can't have everything. What do you recommend for under £8000?"
My first recommendation would be the old shape Honda Jazz 1.3 petrol. It sits higher from the road than a standard hatchback and is very comfortable and spacious for its size. It also has an excellent reputation for reliability: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/honda/jazz-2014/ If you want a crossover with a higher driving position then you'll get less for your money (due to the fact small SUVs are very desirable on the used market). But £8000 should get you a Suzuki Vitara or a Dacia Duster in a decent spec.
Answered by Dan Powell
When should I replace the cam belt on my Dacia Duster 1.5 diesel?
"I am confused about the cam belt change schedule on my Dacia Duster 1.5 diesel. I was advised to change the cam belt and associated parts- at 60,000 miles. But the manual states a change at 100,000, what do you recommend?"
I personally recommend changing the cam belt, tensioner and water pump every 50,000-60,000 miles or five years (whichever comes first). The manual may state 100,000 miles, but neither the belt manufacturer nor Dacia will pay to fix the catastrophic damage a snapped cam belt will cause to the engine. The majority of cam belt complaints (I hear about) happen between 50,000-100,000 miles or 5+ years.
Answered by Dan Powell
Can you recommend a budget-friendly, reliable, no frills 4x4?
"We're looking for a second car. Something with no frills; a proper 4x4 (rural Highlands and Islands) with a raised driving position, reliable and preferably under £5000. We are considering an old Nissan X-Trail, Skoda Yeti, Mitsubishi Shogun and Suzuki Vitara. Would you recommend any of these or something different? Thank you."
You might find that second-hand Shoguns have led pretty hard lives and finding a good one can be difficult. Diesel X-Trails can be troublesome, while we've also had a lot of issues reported with Yetis. My money would go on a Suzuki Grand Vitara or Honda CR-V. Both ought to be very reliable choices. Also, consider a Dacia Duster if you're after a no-frills 4x4.
Answered by Andrew Brady
What automatic SUV should I buy on a £10,000 budget?
"I am looking for a small or medium automatic SUV 2012 or newer for under £10k. I do about 18-20k miles per year. What would you recommend? Is mileage a big factor as I appreciate for my budget it may be high. Should I raise my budget for lower mileage or if nothing is available for under £10k look at a smaller car with lower mileage?"
I'd recommend a SsangYong Tivoli. It's a good budget SUV and £10,000 will get you a 2016 model with the diesel engine and automatic gearbox. Also consider a Dacia Duster.
Answered by Andrew Brady

What does a Dacia Duster (2012 – 2018) cost?