Dacia Duster (2012 – 2018) Review
Dacia Duster (2012 – 2018) At A Glance
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 Because it’s been superseded by a newer model, it’s even more of a bargain on the used car market.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.
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.
If you're looking for the newer version, you need our Dacia Duster review.