If you were asked to name which brand has the most enthusiastic owners, you’d probably name one that’s aspirational such as Mercedes-Benz or Land Rover ñ or perhaps Volvo with its slightly left-field reputation for attracting connoisseurs keen to be a little bit unpredictable. But I’m not writing about any of those brands here, as the pictures clearly show. I’m writing about Dacia, and according to a recent YouGov poll that focused on brand advocacy, the Renault sub-brand came first.
I’ve got a couple of friends who have owned Dacias for a while and the enthusiasm they have for their cars sometimes borders on fanaticism. Part of that is because of the value for money they’ve enjoyed, and much of it is because of the reliability they’ve come to take for granted. It’s easy to see why they’re so keen ñ but to claim the top spot is still something of a surprise.
Whether or not I’ll be delivering eulogies in a few months remains to be seen, but after five months with the Logan that we ran as an interim fleet car, the Duster feels like a much newer and better-quality vehicle. Which is only to be expected as the Logan was launched in summer 2013, although the Stepway specifically didn’t arrive until four years later. As a result, the Duster is a generation newer, so it has more technology that’s better integrated, it’s built to a higher standard and it’s more refined.
Our Duster will be with us until summer 2019, unless anything goes horribly wrong, which is unlikely. The original Duster that we ran on our fleet several years ago wasn’t completely fault free, but the Logan didn’t put a foot wrong in 11,000 miles and the latest Duster gives every indication that it’ll be just as dependable.
Powered by the familiar 1,461cc diesel engine seen in so many Renault group models, our Comfort-specification Duster is three-quarters of the way up the range, with only the Prestige sitting above it. That means we miss out on climate control, 17-inch wheels and keyless go, but we still have the benefit of cruise control, a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system, 16-inch alloys, powered windows front and rear, a rear parking camera and sensors, a navigation system, plus electrically heated and adjustable door mirrors. All of this comes at a list price of just £15,395, which to put that into perspective is £6,200 cheaper than the entry-level Kia Sportage diesel and £3,600 less than the cheapest SsangYong Korando diesel. If £15,395 is still too much for you, Dacia offers a diesel-engined Duster Essential for just £13,695, although the model range kicks off with a poverty-spec petrol-engined Access model for a mere £9,995.
I reckon our Duster is the pick of the range, and out of the four trim levels, ours makes the most sense. Prestige carries a £1,300 premium over Comfort and it’s not really worth the extra. Also, our front-wheel drive Duster is £2,000 cheaper than the four-wheel drive alternative which is heavier and less frugal, and of little extra benefit for most of the year. The only extras fitted to our car are metallic paint (£495) and a spare wheel (£150).
As this report was written, we’d had the car for just a week and covered all of 300 miles. As a result, there’s not much to report. First impressions are of a car that’s alright rather than exceptional in most respects, from the refinement and packaging to the build quality and driving experience. The fact that it’s fine rather than not good enough is cause for celebration at the prices Dacia is charging ñ or as a Dacia ‘owner’, should I be frothing at the mouth with enthusiasm lest I’m blackballed by the owners’ club?
Date arrived 10th December 2018
Fuel economy 51.3-57.6mpg (WLTP combined low-high) 51.8mpg (on test)
The column stalks in the Logan always felt rather under-engineered, but the Duster’s controls all feel much more robust.
Our car does without the keyless go of top-spec models. That’s no problem, but the key doesn’t slide smoothly into the ignition barrel and at night it’s hard to line everything up.