Review: Dacia Duster (2012 – 2018)
Great value for money. Spacious and practical cabin. Available with all-wheel drive for less than £12,000. 5 Stars for Duster 125 TCe 4WD.
Feels dated. 1.6 Petrol-engine loud at motorway speeds. Rust in the seams was a problem especially on early white Indian built ones.
Dacia Duster (2012 – 2018): At A Glance
With an entry price that's sub-£9000, it’s easy to have low expectations for the Dacia Duster, but it's a pleasant surprise. Even in more expensive trim levels it is a good buy on merit of its size and practicality. For the same price as a small hatchback you can get a full-sized family car with an economical diesel engine and the option of all-wheel drive. It’s an impressive formula.
It’s not without its flaws, of course. It isn't the sharpest car to drive, nor does it pack in the most luxurious materials or the best levels of equipment. But it’s honest, unpretentious, solidly built and spacious enough for a family, with a boot that puts some larger cars to shame and enough rear leg and headroom for teenagers.
The basic model might have an almost shockingly low list price but it does without some essentials like a radio and air con. It’s only offered in white with black bumpers, which does nothing for its looks so moving up to a mid level Ambiante or the top Laureate is more sensible plus they come with the advantage of a frugal, tractable diesel engine.
Dacia offers all-wheel drive in all trim levels for a premium of around £2000. In reality very few people will need it, but for rural buyers it’s a very affordable way to get behind the wheel of a 4x4. It’ll cope with light off-road work but it’s more at home in low-grip on-road conditions like sleet.
A low purchase price, reasonable running costs and a practical design mean that the Duster can overcome its technological and dynamic shortcomings. It's not going to appeal to everyone, but for buyers seeking something honest and without lofty pretensions there's every reason to consider the Duster.
In Summer 2016 The Dacia Duster was massively improved by a facelift and the adoption of Renault's twin cam 1.2 litre petrol engine, designated TCe 125 in the Duster.
What does a Dacia Duster (2012 – 2018) cost?
Dacia Duster (2012 – 2018): What's It Like Inside?
The Duster’s cabin is tremendously practical, especially when you consider the size of cars with which Dacia is competing at this price. It forgoes the most up-to-date soft touch dashboard coverings and stylishly sculpted centre-console, but it’s still solidly screwed together and has a wealth of neat touches.
There’s a multitude of stowage areas, from cubby holes in the dashboard top and door bins to a storage compartment in the roof on Laureate models. There’s also a huge 475 litre boot that can be expanded to 1636 litres with the seats folded, providing there’s no spare wheel fitted. The boot can be kitted out with a hose down floor covering – handy for dog owners or gardeners – and the load lip isn’t very pronounced so loading bulky items should be easy.
Additionally there’s a decent amount of space for rear seat passengers. Even teenagers will fit, so the Duster is a smart choice of family car – but you do have to forgive some flaws. The driver seat, for example, wobbles noticeably at its lowest height setting and the controls for ventilation are very stiff to operate.
Add to that a slightly confusing radio, old-fashioned dashboard illumation and some fairly flimsy feeling switches and it’s hard to call the Duster’s cabin plush. It’s easily forgiven when you consider the price, though – a mid-spec Duster is a similar price to a mid-spec Ford Fiesta or Vauxhall Corsa, both of which are far less practical.
Access models come with steel wheels, black bumpers and door mirrors, remote central locking, one-piece folding bench rear seat, electric front windows and Isofix mounting points.
Ambience models gain front fog lights, radio CD player with steering column controls, Bluetooth, Aux/USB connectivity, 60/40 split rear seats, height adjustable driver’s seat and a choice of colours.
Laureate models gain 16-inch alloy wheels, body-coloured bumpers and door mirrors, satin chrome door handles and side sills, leather steering wheel cover, satin black interior detailing, manual air conditioning, electrically adjustable heated door mirrors, onboard computer with fuel economy readout and a roof storage compartment.
Child seats that fit a Dacia Duster (2012 – 2018)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Dacia Duster (2012 – 2018) like to drive?
Dacia originally offered two engines. Entry level Access models come with a 1.6-litre petrol engine which produces 105PS and 148Nm of torque which officially manages 40mpg. It’s perfectly acceptable for shorter trips and twisting roads, but those who drive on the motorway will find it a bit too loud. Thankfully the 1.5-litre dCi diesel is a much better cruiser.
In fact it’s much better full stop. It’s frugal, with official economy of 57mpg and while it only has slightly more power than the petrol engine, at 110PS, it has plenty more torque – 240Nm to be precise. That means it’s more useable – there’s no need to work the gearbox hard and overtaking is easy. Mid and top trim Dusters come with the diesel engine as standard.
There are no fancy fuel-saving technologies like stop/start or energy recuperating brakes on offer, so emissions for both engines are a little on the high side - petrol models fall into VED band G and diesels into a more palatable band D. That makes the argument for the diesel model even stronger.
Regardless of engine, the Duster is unremarkable to drive. The suspension is configured to deliver decent ride comfort rather than exciting handling and it works well, absorbing most lumps and bumps easily while keeping body roll in check through corners. The steering is a little heavy and isn’t exactly a pleasure, but it’s accurate enough.
While the ride and handling are fine, the suspension and all weather tyres can be a bit noisy when crossing potholes and bumps. Refinement isn’t the Duster’s strong suit but is acceptable for the bargain basement prices.
|1.2 TCe 4x2||46 mpg||10.4 s||138 g/km|
|1.2 TCe 4x4||44 mpg||11.0 s||145 g/km|
|1.5 dCi 4x2||60–64 mpg||11.8–12.4 s||109–130 g/km|
|1.5 dCi 4x4||60–64 mpg||12.4 s||109–137 g/km|
|1.6 105 4x2||40 mpg||11.5 s||165 g/km|
|1.6 105 4x4||35 mpg||12.8 s||185 g/km|
|1.6 115 4x2||44 mpg||11.0 s||145 g/km|
|1.6 115 4x4||42 mpg||12.0 s||155 g/km|
Real MPG average for a Dacia Duster (2012 – 2018)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
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Can you recommend a budget-friendly, reliable, no frills 4x4?
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What do owners think?
Our view gives your our opinion, based on driving hundreds of cars every year, but you can't beat the views of someone who lives with a car day-in, day out.
- 5 star 17%
- 4 star 33%
- 3 star 33%
- 2 star
- 1 star 17%