Always more, for no more expensive: the second generation of the Duster confirms the master stroke of Dacia and returns to play the whole mess with general SUVs. Be careful, it will hurt.
With the Duster, Dacia created in 2010 a real phenomenon: a vehicle with a price / performance ratio just as spectacular as that of Logan and Sandero, but embellished with extra soul thanks to a robust silhouette of a little fighter, at the moment perfect for surfing the wave of SUVs that swept the market. Add some strong off-piste skills to make sure rural and mountain people love you, the most effective anti-over-the-top marketing (” We’re not going to spend so much !”) And get a bestseller international, be it under the Dacia emblem in Europe or hit by the diamond of the parent company in the emerging markets (Brazil, India, Russia).
Seven years later, the C-segment SUV market has seen its volumes increase by 2.5 and the Duster appears as a model that is all the more strategic for the Renault group. At the time of replacing, Dacia could not afford to disorient fans of the third best-selling vehicle in the category in France. This probably explains why you have to look twice to make sure that you are dealing with a brand new car, which does not share a single body panel with its predecessor. Despite measurements almost unchanged (4.34 m long and 1.80 m wide), the Romanian SUV benefits from subtle virilized lines thanks to a raised waistline, a tilted windshield and a bow and a stern with a more horizontal design. It’s up to back that the change is most obvious thanks to big square lights way Jeep Renegade. The more heavy hardware than in the past (protection pads on the shields, raw plastic wing hubs, high-end 17-inch wheels) also helps to reinforce the visual presence of the new Duster.
The taste of simple things
Inside, the change is more brutal but particularly welcome. The Duster abandons indeed the insipid dash close to the Logan, Sandero and Lodgy for a sober furniture, massive and angular, that one would imagine willingly on board the next Land Rover Defender. Under an imposing battery of round aerators and a non-slip storage compartment, the plastics remain unsurprisingly completely rigid but are very dull, the foams of the armrests are softer and the door handles do not crack any more than the feet of the central console or platinum hosting the multimedia system, often overlooked by GPs much more expensive.
The screen has been raised by 7 cm but remains a little low and is unfortunately sensitive to glare. Overall, the ergonomics goes straight to the point if we except the incongruity of the regulator / limiter switch at the foot of the handbrake. The automatic air conditioning stage – a first at Dacia – is superb, the satin chrome inserts are judiciously distributed and if the whole remains austere, it exudes good taste and carefully avoids the foil.
The habitability evolves little and remains generous for four people, even if the leg room in the back is nothing exceptional today. The trunk regresses from 30 l to 445 l (411 for 4×4 versions) but remains quite welcoming considering the size of the car. It also offers extremely easy access and a flat floor when the seat is folded down (1478 l).
At the wheel, the Duster is also better than defending itself. Very well cushioned, with a new power steering slightly sticky but precise, it distills a remarkable driving pleasure, which the Renault Kadjar mollasson could take seed. A little stiffer at low speed than its French cousin (at least with the 17-inch wheels of our test models), the Dacia SUV is very comfortable, helped by the maintenance of fully redesigned seats around an elongated seat and more compact foam.
Not much to report under the hood: the Duster takes the four-cylinder gasoline (1.6 SCe atmospheric 115 hp, 1.2 TCe 125 hp) and Diesel (1.5 dCi 90 and 110 hp) of its predecessor. Our test vehicles were powered by the 1.2 TCe and the 1.5 dCi 110 hp, in their 4×2 version. The two blocks are perfectly calibrated for the Duster. Nervous, flexible and discreet, more unctuous than the three-cylinder that bloom on the segment at this level of power, the 1.2 TCe is irreproachable in terms of approval as sobriety (6.9 l / 100 km read, to relativize however on a coastal course undemanding and compare to the 6.2 l / 100 km announced in the mixed cycle).
A little less alert and especially more rough, the 1.5 dCi does not demerit, especially associated as here with the EDC dual clutch gearbox and six reports which he is unfortunately for the moment the only one of the range to be able to benefit (only in 4×2 ). Soft, reasonably responsive, with a very nice sequential command, this transmission billed only € 1,300 inspires only praise on the Duster. The 6.8 l / 100 km achieved during our test (4.5 l claimed in the mixed cycle) are to be counted on a mountain road book approached at a much more removed pace. If the soundproofing has been greatly improved, the Duster still allows to filter a lot of air noise on the highway, to which is added in the background the rumble of Diesel still too present. Again, nothing dramatic.
Competition? What competition?
Photo Credit – Jean-Brice Lemal – Dacia
Like the other engines except the dCi 90, the dCi 110 is available with all-wheel drive. Combined with a system of descent control and a manual locking of the differential (and of course the generous ground clearance and the reduced angles of attack and exit of the bodywork), this one did wonders on the muddy course and steep slope concocted by Dacia in a quarry, embellished with some crossings of bridges. Also fitted with all-season tires (Bridgestone Dueler H / P Sport AS), our 4×2 gasoline and diesel versions have swallowed two dozen kilometers of rocky track without flinching, confirming the excellent predisposition of the Duster for the activities of outdoors. We also note the arrived at the catalog of four cameras appreciable to slalom between the strains like to refine his niche. The option is charged between 400 and 900 euros depending on the finish, and coupled with a warning of blind spots.
Even more advanced than its predecessor, the 2018 Duster vintage presents itself as an extremely competent SUV. The coup de grace comes again to the reading of the tariffs, always so derisory: produced in Romania around proven Renault components, the Duster sticks to 11,990 euros in entry-level, a version gasoline atmospheric stripped. Much more representative, versions 1.2 TCe 125 4×2 and 1.5 dCi 110 4×2 EDC in high Prestige finish are displayed at 18 103 (including malus) and 18 650 euros (+ 1 300 euros for the EDC box on the Diesel) while offering standard radars and reversing camera, auto air conditioning, GPS, keyless access and start, 17-inch wheels and hardware that goes hand in hand. That’s between 4,907 and 6,700 euros less than