After the excitement of the Duster’s touch-screen failing, it’s all back to normal as the car is now ticking over without a murmur. Our Dacia has notched up 1,500 miles over the past month and apart from the cable-operated fuel filler opening only when it wants to (a lever has to be pulled inside the cabin to release it), it’s all good.
Just after I filed my last report, I was reading through some online Focus owner reviews and one of them made a really interesting point. It’s something I’d often thought about but never articulated in a review because it seems so obvious: all cars are built to a budget and the finite amount of money that’s available to develop them should be spent in the right areas. Too often, extra pieces of equipment are shoehorned into a cheap car without the basics being right. But Dacia has taken the opposite approach as it focuses on getting the essentials sorted and you can then tailor the equipment fitted to suit your budget.
So while the Duster lacks polish in some areas ñ and I’ll focus on those in a future report ñ it’s good where it matters. So, for example, while the optional full-sized spare wheel costs an extra £150, at least there’s room for it, because on a lot of its rivals there’s nowhere to carry a spare. It’s also under the boot floor so you don’t have to empty the load bay in the event of a puncture.
The headlights work well even though they’re only halogen units, the multi-media system sounds great and is intuitive to use, and the exterior design is pretty smart. Equipment levels are decent for the price, and while the cabin is swathed in hard grey plastics, the quality is generally good and so is the fit and finish. It won’t trouble Audi of course ñ it wouldn’t even give Hyundai or Skoda sleepless nights ñ but those cars cost thousands of pounds more and the difference in terms of quality and equipment isn’t always commensurate with that premium.
I recently had to undertake a long-distance motorway drive which took several hours, and as I cruised home in the early hours of the morning, I was struck by just how good the Duster is in such conditions. As I streamed Radio 2’s Sounds of the 80s from my phone, the audio system sounded excellent, partly because it didn’t have to compete with too much background noise. The car felt stable in windy conditions, the ventilation is good and the seats are comfortable, if not all that supportive. Claiming that I was in automotive heaven might be stretching the point, but many cars costing twice as much wouldn’t have done a better job of that journey on that night.
Date arrived 10th December 2018
Fuel economy 64.2mpg (NDEC combined) 50.0mpg (on test)
Few cars come with a full-sized spare wheel nowadays, even as an option. The Dacia’s costs an extra £150, but it’s worth every penny – and easily accessible under the boot floor.
The rear parking camera works very well in terms of clarity when the lens is clean. But it gets grubby all too easily, once the back of the car has got covered in spray.