While Dacia has gone to some lengths to update and modernise the Duster’s interior, opening the door still reveals the sea of hard plastics you’d expect from a car in this price bracket. New seats provide improved support, while the driver’s seat now offers 60mm of height adjustment, as opposed to 40mm in the old model. The steering wheel adjusts for rake and reach, too.
Speaking of the steering, its new, electrically assisted set-up is one of the most easily noticeable changes between this car and its predecessor. Where the old model’s steering rack was heavy and devoid of feeling, it’s now far lighter, making the Duster that much easy to manoeuvre in tight spots. Unfortunately, though, it’s still not talkative in any way.
Not that this really matters, though, because the Duster isn’t a car for hustling down a challenging stretch of B-road. For starters, its naturally aspirated engine doesn’t offer much in the way of performance. Peak torque of 115lb ft is available at 4000rpm, so you need to wring the engine’s neck to get it to pick up the pace.
On the one hand, this isn’t too much of a problem, because the five-speed manual gearbox is light to shift and precise enough to navigate through the gears with ease. But on the other, the engine is particularly vocal at the upper climbs of its rev band.
That said, at least the Duster is decently comfortable. It by no means rides with the sophistication of pricier C-SUVs, with some shuddering over rough surfaces at low speeds, but in general, vertical and lateral body movements are tidily contained. Road noise is prevalent at a cruise, despite the car's dinky 16in wheels, and there's some wind buffeting around the wing mirrors, but you certainly won’t emerge from the Duster at the end of a long drive broken and defeated by fatigue.
Interior space, meanwhile, is plenty usable. Useful storage cubbies are dotted throughout the cabin, while head and leg room in the second row is abundant enough for two adults to ride in comfort. Boot space, meanwhile, comes in at 445 litres (in front-wheel-drive cars), which is more than the 430 litres you get in the Nissan Qashqai.
While the vast majority of our time was spent in the front-wheel-drive petrol, we did have a very quick go in a diesel 4x4 model on an off-road circuit, too. While this isn't yet on sale in the UK, it’s worth mentioning just how well it copes with the muddy stuff. Like, the seriously muddy stuff.
This tester - likely through a lack of skill and a deep-seated inability to properly follow instructions - ended up getting the Duster stuck in a rather deep body of water during a failed crossing attempt. But despite the horrendously boggy mud and the water that was seeping in through the doors, the plucky Dacia still managed to get free eventually, without the need for a tractor or a properly qualified off-road driver at the wheel.