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Romania’s value champion compact crossover enters a second model generation. It still might not be as refined as other SUVs, but the Duster is very much in a class of its own

The introduction of the second-generation Dacia Duster seems like a good time to take stock of how much progress Renault’s Romanian no-frills budget car brand has already made in the UK.

While it arrived in other markets some years earlier, the original Duster crossover SUV was the car with which Dacia chose to relaunch itself on these shores five years ago. We liked it, we rated it and, along with its Sandero, Sandero Stepway and Logan MCV range-mates, we watched it get off to a flying sales start.

Square-shape grille motif is now larger and more imposing than it was on the facelifted first-generation Duster - but looks and feels as plasticky as ever

Having started from scratch in 2013, Dacia sold just over 25,000 cars in the UK in 2017, and claimed more than 1% market share: more than Lexus, Alfa Romeo and Jeep managed between them. Is it now about to find another gear, however? The next couple of thousand words should give us an idea.

We’re running the road test ruler over a car whose dimensions are almost identical to that of the one it replaces, but on which there have been key styling and architectural changes wrought and which has an all-new interior offering more space and better occupant comfort and convenience than its predecessor.

The Duster is set to continue where the last one left off, having that ‘shockingly affordable’ sub-£10k entry-level price, but also developing in ways well beyond its predecessor.

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This is a car in which cabin noise at a cruise has been halved in comparison to the old Duster, says Dacia. It can be had with equipment never seen on a Dacia before, from a multi-view reversing camera to keyless entry and a blind-spot warning active safety system. It still comes with the option of two driven axles and more than 200mm of ground clearance, but now you can have leather seats and climate control with it.

So is this still the simple, functional, cheery Duster we knew before? We chose to test a mid-range 1.6-litre SCe 115 4x2 Comfort model to find out.

First drives