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Driven: Dacia Duster TCe. Image by Dacia.

Driven: Dacia Duster TCe
When we first drove the second-gen Duster, we said it needed a turbocharged engine. Now it has one. What’s it like?

   



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Dacia Duster 130 TCe 4x2 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: sweet light-pressure turbo engine means the Dacia Duster makes even more terrific sense as a bargain crossover

Not so good: the handling, noise suppression and dashboard finishing aren't great, but hey - it's less than 16 grand!

Key Facts

Model tested: Dacia Duster 130 TCe 4x2 Comfort
Price: Duster range from £10,995; 130 TCe 4x2 Comfort from £14,995, car as tested £15,640
Engine: 1.33-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door crossover-SUV
CO2 emissions: 139g/km (VED Band 131-150: £210 in year one, then £145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 41.5mpg
Top speed: 118mph
0-62mph: 11.1 seconds
Power: 130hp at 5,000rpm
Torque: 240Nm at 1,600-2,000rpm
Boot space: 445-1,623 litres

Our view:

When we drove the second-generation Dacia Duster when it was new in 2018, we were deeply impressed by it. A notable improvement on the cheap, cheerful and rather popular first-generation model, the Duster Mk2 still had a primitive interior but the way it drove was surprisingly excellent. All it needed, we said at the time, was a light-pressure-turbocharged petrol engine to really seal the deal, as the 115hp/156Nm 1.6-litre four-pot naturally aspirated motor was arguably its biggest weak point.

Well, here we are in another Duster Mk2, this time with exactly what we asked for: a turbocharged petrol. And before you get all sneery and imagine that this is some archaic, unwanted, non-Euro-6 1.2-litre unit which the Renault-Nissan Alliance found loitering in a dusty corner and then thought it would be funny to foist onto poor old Dacia, think again. It's actually the group's latest 1.33-litre engine, the one you'd find in the new Renault Captur, in the most up-to-date versions of the Mk2 Nissan Qashqai and, perhaps most pertinently if you want a positive association for Dacia with a premium brand, housed within the nose of none other than the Mercedes A-Class.

And it is precisely what the Duster Mk2 needed. Seriously, this is a truly brilliant crossover. Yes, the interior finishing is still very plain and plasticky, but take a closer look at the central switchgear and you'll find it's no different to that found in the Renault Clio V, a car which seems to be the darling of some motoring critics for its cabin quality. Ergonomically, the Dacia's cabin is fine, the displays are all clear and informative (if not flashy), and the infotainment is perfectly presentable yet not award-winning, but this crossover is 360 quid less than £16,000, so by rights it ought to have wind-up windows all round and nothing more elaborate than a cigarette lighter for its equipment. And yet you also get cruise control, a trip computer, air conditioning and more from the Duster. It remains phenomenal value. It's also a completely bearable and somewhat likeable interior, especially as it has a big boot and decent space in the back for a couple of adults to sit comfortably.

Outside, we've always liked the way the Duster Mk2 looks and adding the TCe engine provides no giveaways as to its turbocharged potential, so it remains aesthetically pleasing. Desert Orange, one of just two options on our test car (the other being an emergency spare wheel for £150), is a particularly nice shade for the Duster and it costs £495. So we're happy with the appearance of the Dacia, we're content with the interior and we're suitably astonished by the relatively generous kit list. From our first drive in 2018, we also know we generally like the way the Duster drives, so as long as this TCe engine doesn't turn out to be a complete dog or turn the Dacia into a nose-heavy and understeery mess, then we ought to love this Romanian machine.

And we do. Getting the dynamic negatives out of the way, the suppression of noise on the Duster is only so-so, which means you hear more tyre roar and wind noise than you would in other B-segment crossovers, and the handling is like a compact SUV from some years back - you feel more imprecision to the front-end grip, you're aware of increased body roll, pitch and dive, and you're dealing with steering which is light and feedback-free, when compared to the leading lights in this market sector. But as very few small crossovers actually drive in anything like an interesting fashion, this mediocre handling isn't the major impediment to the (may we remind you? It's sub-£16,000...) Duster TCe that it could be.

Beyond that, what you'll love about the Duster is its ride comfort. It squidges along on its soft suspension and its 16-inch Cyclade alloys with fat-sidewall tyres, smoothing out rough compressions with a pleasant grace and managing to keep good control of the body, so that you don't get the sensation that you're bobbing about on a waterbed in a stormy sea when you're motoring along a lumpen back road. It's also decent on the motorway and as we covered 550 miles in a week in the Duster 130 TCe, where it turned in 41.3mpg overall and a best of 45mpg on a long run back from Gatwick Airport, it shows we weren't tired of driving the thing. In fact, we were sad to see it go.

Seriously - now it has the TCe engine it has always merited, you'd have to be the mother of all badge snobs to rule the Dacia Duster Mk2 out of your careful consideration of a small- to medium-sized crossover. It is unpretentious brilliance, a comfortable and capacious family vehicle that drives in a perfectly sweet and smooth manner, and which has a healthy equipment list. Oh, and have we mentioned it costs less than sixteen blinkin' grand?! As gravel-voiced Yorkshireman Ralph Ineson tells us so regularly on the TV ads, 'you do the maths'. Because, if there's anything to complain about with the Duster 130, it's that Dacia seems to be doing itself out of money for selling something so excellent so cheaply.

Alternatives:

Skoda Kamiq: Skoda feels like a machine from several classes above in terms of its finishing, but to get a decent 1.0 TSI SE you'll be looking at more like £20,000; another 25 per cent more expensive.

Suzuki Vitara: closest rival to the Duster in terms of value for money, the Suzuki feels a slightly more quality item but it's not a big enough gap to make the Japanese car's greater expense worthwhile.

Vauxhall Crossland X: if you feel Dacia is beneath you, then you could go for this instead. Although, for the life of us, we cannot fathom why you'd have the turgid Crossland X, over and above the much more likeable - and cheaper - Duster.


Matt Robinson - 16 Jan 2020



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2020 Dacia Duster 130 TCe Comfort 4x2 UK test. Image by Dacia.2020 Dacia Duster 130 TCe Comfort 4x2 UK test. Image by Dacia.2020 Dacia Duster 130 TCe Comfort 4x2 UK test. Image by Dacia.2020 Dacia Duster 130 TCe Comfort 4x2 UK test. Image by Dacia.2020 Dacia Duster 130 TCe Comfort 4x2 UK test. Image by Dacia.

2020 Dacia Duster 130 TCe Comfort 4x2 UK test. Image by Dacia.2020 Dacia Duster 130 TCe Comfort 4x2 UK test. Image by Dacia.2020 Dacia Duster 130 TCe Comfort 4x2 UK test. Image by Dacia.2020 Dacia Duster 130 TCe Comfort 4x2 UK test. Image by Dacia.2020 Dacia Duster 130 TCe Comfort 4x2 UK test. Image by Dacia.








 

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