From £8,7004
The Duster Black Edition features more kit and cosmetic upgrades, but it does away with the Dacia's budget appeal entirely

Our Verdict

Dacia Duster

The Dacia Duster is a no-nonsense machine that wears its bargain price tag like a badge of honour. And we can’t help liking it for that.

Matt Burt
17 September 2013

What is it?

The Dacia Duster Black Edition was originally a one-off model that was created to celebrate the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Reputedly 'overwhelming' interest in it at the event, however, led Dacia to put the model in to production.

Cosmetic changes for the Black Edition include a distinctive brushed metal-look black vinyl wrap and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Inside you'll find upgraded trim in the form of a leather interior, while the Dacia's kit levels are bolstered by the addition of a Kenwood infotainment system. This adds sat-nav, DAB radio, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, a USB connection and DVD playback to the Duster's relatively spartan kit list.

The Black Edition is available on two-wheel drive and four-wheel-drive versions of the Duster Ambiance and Lauréate models. Opting for the pack adds a substantial £5390 to the list price, however, which escalates the cost of even the cheapest model to £16,985. That's almost the same as an entry-level 2.0-litre diesel Skoda Yeti.

More alarmingly, if you opt for one of the four-wheel-drive models - as tested - the price hovers perilously close to the £20,000 mark. Suddenly, the Dacia seems very expensive.

What's it like?

Inside the Duster Black is fairly utilitarian, despite the addition of leather trim. The seats and general driving position are fairly comfortable, but the steering column doesn't adjust for reach, which may frustrate some. All-round visibility is good though, improving its ease of use.

Standard kit on the Ambiance model includes electric front windows and not much else, so the addition of the comprehensive Kenwood infotainment system does at least give you a little more to play with. It is, however, nothing to write home about; most would be happier with an upgraded conventional headunit and a £200 sat-nav unit that could then be transferred from car to car. The lack of air-con is also frustrating, and something that can only be resolved by spending even more money on a Lauréate model.

Many will be pleased to find plenty of storage points, a decently sized glovebox and a large boot, but some elements of the interior leave a lot to be desired. For example, the light in the glovebox in our test car had already fallen out, as a media connector had also been pushed through its hole, and the cabin isn't particularly refined on the move, either. Despite the Black Edition commanding quite a significant price tag, it still feels very much the budget product.

Out on the road it is, predictably, like a conventional Duster. The Dacia's 1.5-litre diesel engine is quite eager and its turbocharger spools quickly and audibly, adding a little character to an otherwise unremarkable engine. It's not a quiet unit, and under hard acceleration it becomes particularly coarse and loud, but given the base price of the diesel Duster you can't complain.

First gear in the Dacia's serviceable six-speed transmission is a very slow crawler ratio, ideal for low-speed manoeuvring or off-roading; you can achieve a controlled and smooth take-off in second gear, avoiding the need to upshift almost instantly.

The Dacia is suitably frugal when it comes to fuel consumption as well, returning a claimed 53.3mpg. A 50-litre fuel tank should allow for a useful real-world range of somewhere in the region of 500 miles as well, meaning frequent refuelling stops won't be a necessity.

On the road there's little to revel in. The steering lacks self-centering effort and is surprisingly heavy at lower speeds, giving the Duster a slightly unwieldy feel, and there's virtually no feedback. The ride quality isn't particularly good either, with pronounced roll in corners, substantial heave over crests, and a notable thud over sharper bumps. Its brakes are effective though, but a soft pedal and a lack of initial bite means they don't inspire confidence.

Given the cost of the entry-level Dacia Duster, however, it's not an entirely bad car to drive and for most it will prove perfectly adequate. In standard form it can even be quite endearing, thanks to its percieved ruggedness and low cost.

The Black Edition, however, is pitched at a price point that puts it up against much more competent, capable and desirable rivals.

Should I buy one?

Dacia has had a credible shot at making the Dacia Duster a little more distinctive and appealing, but the additional cost is simply unjustifiable.

If you were talking about a £1000 upgrade pack, then the extras would be worthwhile and your additional investment would probably help preserve the Dacia's residual values a little.

The extra £5390 premium the Black Edition commands is equivalent to simply throwing money down the drain, however. You may also find that the wrap, which accounts for a substantial £2000 of the additional cost, may not last particularly well over time.

Our test car's wrap had already started lifting slightly in a few corners, for example, suggesting it may look quite tatty after a year or two's weathering - and caring for it will no doubt prove more difficult than a regular painted finish.

At the end of the day, for £20,000 you could buy a nearly new 2.2-litre diesel Land Rover Freelander - in a good specification, with less than 5,000 miles on the clock and lots of warranty remaining.

Sure, that's not what many cost-concious buyers are looking for - but it just goes to show the kind of price inflation the Duster Black has experienced, and why it's not a particularly worthwhile buy.

In standard form, however, the Duster remains a cost-effective option, and one that's worth considering.

Dacia Duster Ambiance dCi 110 4x4 Black Edition

Price £19,580; 0-62mph 12.5sec; Top speed 104mph; Economy 53.3mpg (combined); CO2 137g/km; Kerb weight 1294kg Engine 4 cyls, 1461cc, turbodiesel; Power 107bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 177lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

Join the debate

Comments
8

17 September 2013

But even if no one buys one, its got the Duster some more publicity and i am sure thats job done for Dacia.

17 September 2013

Quite agree, probably only one will be made.

17 September 2013

... more with Lewis. Dacia's real appeal lies in the value it offers for the money. For this money there's a lot to buy. And for this money, one should expect at least Renault's 1.6L diesel.

17 September 2013

I like the Dacia Duster, but the real appeal is at the other end of the range.

Just think, for the price of this Black Edition, you could buy two basic Access models, and have enough left over for a set of winter wheels and tyres for both of them if you're worried about getting about in winter. Other than having (the advantage of?) a diesel engine and a stereo (easily rectified), I can't really see what this car offers over other Dusters.

Just saw a Duster Access in UN white, and couldn't help feel that the owner had made the right decison. Less than £9,000 seems an absolute bargain.

17 September 2013

By the sounds of it this car is worse than the review would let on. People seem to tiptoe around Dacia just because top gear love it.

I may be wrong but it seems that these cars are worse than the reviews let on.

17 September 2013

I'm disappointed Dacia have produced this model. One of the company's advertising catch phrases is "function over frivolity", an approach which I admire. With this, though they fall at the first hurdle.
I'm not sure I can take them seriously any more.

17 September 2013

You really would have to be an idiot to buy this car in this spec. However, I do think the brushed-effect finish looks nice, at least in pictures and where it is not already falling off! I can see it looking like badly applied wallpaper after a year or two.

 

I'm a disillusioned former Citroëniste.

17 September 2013

Think this car sums up the problem with Dacia's in a neat package.

As a budget car, the entry level Duster is great - a 4x4 for under £9k which will probably handle all a British winter will throw at it - but when you start adding options and moving up the trim levels that price soon jumps into the range of much better new and used cars before you take into account 3 years of deprecation.

The same applies to the Sandero. At £5995 it's a bargain but when you hit the better spec'd versions you're in Fiesta or Polo range and to be honest for an average family with a couple of kids they won't notice the Fiesta and Polo isn't as big as the Sandero.

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