On the face of it, the pitch made to the market by the Dacia Duster is so outrageous, so bold, so seemingly implausible that your first thought is to find the catch, which instinct tells you simply has to be there.
The fact is this: buy a new Duster and you'll find a good looking compact SUV with a spacious interior, for not much money, parked outside your house. It's cheaper than a Ford Fiesta, and the diminutive Smart car. It’ll only cost marginally more than Fiat’s asking price for the cheapest Panda, for goodness sake. The cheapest Skoda Yeti featuring an engine of identical power to that of the entry level Duster costs notably more.
That said, the headline grabbing entry level price is for a poverty spec model without so much as a radio to its name and if you want your Duster to have four-wheel drive you’ll need to fork about £2000 more.
Moreover the base ‘Access’ grade comes only with 1.6-litre petrol power so if it’s diesel you want you’ll need to hop up to mid-spec ‘Ambience’ which, model for model is a further four-figure chunk of change and even that won’t buy you air-conditioning or alloy wheels. If you want such items as many might these days be regarded as basic essentials, you’ll need the top of the range ‘Laureate’.
Then again even this most dashing Duster of all still costs less than the skinniest Skoda Yeti.
Were this Duster like the last one, which went on sale here briefly at the end of the 1980s, perhaps the pricing would be understandable. But it’s not an automotive excrescence so terrible it makes a bus pass look attractive, it’s an apparently credible product made in a state of the art factory in Chennai, India out of largely Renault and Nissan components.
Which is why Jean-Christophe Kugler, Executive Vice President of Dacia, is so pleased with the range of as he coins it 'reliable, user-friendly cars that are affordable as well'. Speaking at the 2016 Paris Motorshow, Kugler explained that the effort to improve the appearance and ergonomics hasn't ballooned the price with prices across the Dacia range increasing by a mere two percent over seven years.
It’s time to find out if there’s something we’ve missed.