Dacia Duster (2012 – 2018) Review

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 Because it’s been superseded by a newer model, it’s even more of a bargain on the used car market.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.

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

Ask Honest John

I've been waiting months for a part, what can I do?

"I bought a dacia duster 17 reg in may of this year. The top hose to radiator burst in mid October, I rang the dealers and they said they could not take in for 5 weeks, Renault Dacia Watford took it in on 21 November and have called me next day saying it could be 2 weeks to 2 months to get the hose as they are having trouble getting their parts from Morocco because of the war in Ukraine. Got a text yesterday from Renault saying part still on back order. I'm an ongoing cancer patient and suffer with stress and this is really affecting me, is there anything I can do?"
Parts shortages are a problem with very few solutions, because dealers across the country will likely be experiencing the same issues. If the car is being repaired under warranty then your only option is to stay in regular contact with the dealer, explaining your situation and asking that they make you a priority. Alternatively if you are happy to go outside the dealer network you may have more luck using an independent garage, as a Dacia or Renault specialist may be able to source a quality part more easily.
Answered by David Ross

What's the best practical family car for £5000?

"We have recently had a baby and have a dog which means we have outgrown our Ford Fiesta. We are looking for something under £5k with room for car seat, buggy, luggage and dog but don't want anything too big as we live in the city and have to park in some tight spots. Wish list - reliable, cheap to run, - mpg, insurance, tax, repair etc. Ideally parking sensors too. Also needs to be petrol as we live near a ULEZ zone. Not bothered about style or mod cons but if it had bluetooth and DAB I'd be chuffed. We went to see a Skoda Fabia estate but the interior possibly felt a bit too small. With the car seat in the back you have to have the front passenger seat scooched up and struggling with that in the fiesta. Not totally ruled it out though as it seems to tick a lot of boxes. Have also been considering the Ford C-MAX or Vauxhall Zafira (even though we don't need 7 seats - I know they fold really easily and it's quite a nice option to have). Is there anything out there that we haven't considered that might work for us?"
The longer the list of requirements, the smaller the shortlist of potential vehicles, so unfortunately there are not a huge number of cars that will meet all these criteria. The Ford C-MAX and Vauxhall Zafira are quite a bit larger than your Fiesta, but you could consider their smaller stablemates in the form of the Ford B-MAX and Vauxhall Meriva. Alternatively you could look at cars like the Dacia Duster and Citroen C3 Picasso, both of which are compact but practical and offer low running costs.
Answered by David Ross

Does my Dacia Duster have an alarm?

"Does my Dacia Duster have an alarm?"
You haven't told us the age of your car but if it's a first generation model it will have an alarm if fitted with the optional Protection Pack. This also included rear parking sensors, tailgate protection, bootliner and front and rear mudguards for £575.
Answered by David Ross

Which 4x4 should I buy for £4,000?

"I am looking for a 4x4 with reasonable mpg. I have a 30-mile round trip five days a week on country roads and also need to go off road to feed livestock. I have a budget of £4,000. What do you suggest? "
I'd recommend the old version of the Dacia Duster. You'll get a diesel model that'll be very economical and capable enough off-road, especially with a decent set of tyres. It'll have more than 100,000 miles on the clock and feel a little tired, but it doesn't sound like that will be a major issue for you. With a full service history it should be mechanically sound. The old Suzuki Jimny is a more rugged off roader, but they suffer badly from rust and aren't actually that economical on fuel despite having a tiny 1.3-litre petrol engine. We have listed all the issues we're aware of on both cars: Dacia Duster: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/dacia/duster-2012/good Suzuki Jimny: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/suzuki/jimny-1998/good
Answered by Russell Campbell
More Questions

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