Well that’s better. A cross-country drive to meet colleague Phil Huff sees me inherit Diesel Car’s Dacia Duster, a car previously curated by Richard Dredge. I did this to body-swerve a plan to jump from the Honda Civic hatchback (temporarily inherited from Tyler Heatley) into a saloon iteration of said model. I hope you’re keeping up at the back. As things transpire, our long-suffering editor indulged this last-minute request because, like it or not, my family have become SUV-addicted. So we found that the (literal) descent to a Civic was less than ideal for family needs. Specifically, the kids said they couldn’t see out in the rare moments when not playing Roblox, while the load space laughably failed our hoarding habits. Hence Dacia to the rescue.
Phil said he’d meet me amid the glory of Cherwell Valley Services, pointing out he’d be the one in a voluminous orange beast. In barely the time to eat an undercooked sausage roll, I spotted it on the horizon. Disco Caramac might be more precise, I concluded, were you visiting Halfords for a paint match.
So came initiation time. Here’s how I do mine: jump in, drive off and try to familiarise yourself with everything while driving. It’s a dumb approach, I know (officer), but if any car is blessed with clever, intuitive design, everyone should be fine. And overall we were. It’s quite a cultural shock to go from the sporty, low-slung Civic to lofty perched-up Jeepish thing, and like the head-up display graphics that you don’t get in budget brands, two headlines loomed in the first mile. The steering’s relatively low geared and, at low speeds, spells more helming than steering (while it’s not exactly over-keen to feed information back to your fingers) and the ride, though it feels papery in town, is more than acceptable once properly up and running.
For the latter reason, I soon found the mindset that I might get on with a Duster more than my domestic cleaning efforts might suggest. It’s roomy, it’s comfy and when you walk off for the first driving break, doesn’t look like something you feel compelled to explain to passers-by as being a loan car. For a ‘budget’ brand, that bodes well. And don’t listen to me: Dacia customers have, I see, supplanted Skoda’s for returning chart-busting levels of satisfaction. I wonder if this is akin to the perverse pleasure of whipping out a Lidl carrier bag in the queue at Waitrose, but let’s not over-analyse. All the pointers are positive: solid switchgear, effective (if unexciting) cabin planning, an engine that delivers you to your destination with no song and dance… so far, I’d liken this to ideal background music: it boosts your mood, even if you don’t remember the melody come bedtime. Yep, I think a period of harmony is steadily approaching.
Date arrived 10th December 2018
Fuel economy 64.2mpg (NDEC combined) 54.6mpg (on test)
The colour! Why not? Well, Desert Orange costs £495 as an option but adds car park presence well above the price tag.
Is it still legal to impale Romanians (who decide to plot a USB slap-bang in the middle of the dash)?