Carrying over the original Duster’s B0 model platform doesn’t seem to have been the worst news for the second-generation version as far as this section of the road test is concerned.
This is a fundamentally simple vehicle, after all, and the incremental fettling of its ride and handling, rather than starting again with an all-new component set, has delivered a car that rides in the fairly soft, quiet, comfortable and obliging way you might expect of something with 16in alloy wheels and 65-profile tyres (both almost unknown among rival compact crossovers).
While the car clearly puts comfort and ease of use ahead of outright grip and dynamism on its priority list, it also handles just fine – with decent steering response, present but progressive lateral body roll and a good balance of grip that doesn’t deteriorate too much when you need to hurry it through bends.
The fact is, the meekness of the engine makes you unlikely to regularly investigate exactly how much cornering speed the chassis can carry – and when you do, it won’t be for the fun of it.
If there’s any telltale of the Duster’s cut-price status in evidence here, it may be on outright shock absorption and general ride isolation, because sharper edges certainly find their way into the cabin more readily than they might in a more expensive rival and there are times when the car’s vertical body control could be more settled.
The new electromechanical power steering does a better job of filtering out any shocks that might otherwise have diverted the car’s front wheels than the one’s old hydraulic rack used to, however. The rack feels pragmatically paced, and is of medium-light, easily-to-twirl weighting at parking speeds and feels well-judged at higher speeds too.
A decade or so ago, a car with the Duster’s budget positioning might not have come with anti-lock brakes and definitely not with electronic stability control. The fact that a £10,000 family car now includes both as standard is a victory for safety.
Moreover, the fact that the ESC is a decent system which isn’t overly intrusive or without subtlety — and so you won’t regret not being able to disable it — is also good news. The car’s outright body control is respectable, and it grips keenly enough and stays decently balanced even when rolling hard, allowing the ESC to stay in the background until you really need it.