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.