Dacia Duster - modern day Lada Niva? PH Blog

When a modern car is compared to an esteemed forebear, the latter has usually been out of production for many years, the passage of time enhancing the elder vehicle's qualities and airbrushing its imperfections until it becomes a nearly inimitable benchmark. That can't be said about the Lada Niva, or the Lada 4x4 as it's also known. As recently as 2015 you could head to a chap in Sidcup, hand over £10,799, and drive off into the sunset in a 1.7-litre, left-hand drive import model. Nonetheless, the Niva is the yardstick by which all subsequent cheap off-roaders have come to be measured, and deservedly so.

You wait for one mention of the Niva on PH...
You wait for one mention of the Niva on PH...
Nowadays, the title of go-to budget off-roader has fallen to the Dacia Duster and at PH we have been running a fully-optioned one since January. So far it has tagged along on a shoot in the Yorkshire Dales with a Twisted Defender 110 and a Mercedes G-Class, completed the North Coast 500, and has recently returned from an extensive group test with our sister publication Autocar. There it found itself up against some pretty hefty competition, but after two days play... rigorously testing the vehicles in a former quarry turned off-road playground, the Duster left everyone pretty impressed. It scurried up steep inclines and wasn't troubled by fairly deep mud. It may have faltered on the rock crawl, but likely only because, preferring to drive home rather than return on the back of a lorry, we decided to call it quits before cracking the sump or damaging a suspension component. In other words, we gave up before the Duster did.

Just being mighty again!
Just being mighty again!
The Niva may have been more rugged than the Duster with its central locking differential, permanent four-wheel drive and hose down interior, but nowadays cars don't have the luxury of being designed to perform a single function as well as possible. Many off-roaders spend their time tackling multi-storey car parks and school runs, hardly ever traversing a dusty track, let alone massive inclines or deep mud. The Duster, with its optional 4WD system and smaller but more powerful engine, has a slightly lower ground clearance (210mm vs. 265mm) and wade depth (350mm vs. 600mm) than the Lada but it is far better suited to modern life, replete as it is with gadgets like Bluetooth and sat-nav, yet will still get you out of sticky situations when absolutely needed.

If I were to go off-roading the Duster wouldn't be my first pick, but I wouldn't be disappointed to find myself in it either. The sense being that it was the same with the Lada when other, even more utilitarian vehicles were on offer. For under £18,000, and considerably less than that in more basic guise, it sets a new standard for the cheap and cheerful, go-anywhere off-roader.





[Sources: Mark Key, Dacia]


Comments (57) Join the discussion on the forum

  • IanJ9375 20 Apr 2017

    Love the Duster does what it says on the tin!

    We had one as a loaner when our Alfa company car kept leaking fuel, we had a Duster, a Focus, a Fiesta and a BMW 330d.

    Since that time we've swapped to a 330d company car, I've bought a Focus RS and the outlaw Grandparents were so impressed with "Derek" they bought a brand new Duster back in 2015

    Thanks Alfa you did a great job of introducing us to other brands lol

  • 300bhp/ton 20 Apr 2017

    Dacia Duster - modern day Lada Niva?

    Nope not even close. Come on PH, I mean WTF. Just because the Dacia is cheapish and AWD does not make it remotely similar to the THREE door rugged compact Lada. The latter having true off road abilities, while the Dacia is just a budget variant of a Nissan X-Trail with compact crossover off road abilities to match.

    Really FFS. Such a comparison is like saying is a Brabus ForTwo a modern day Lotus 7... because it has 2 seats and no roof rolleyes

  • 300bhp/ton 20 Apr 2017

    Piston Heads said:
    The Niva may have been more rugged than the Duster with its three locking differentials, permanent four-wheel drive
    Has the person who wrote this article actually even been in a Niva?? You may want to check some of your facts. wink

  • 300bhp/ton 20 Apr 2017

    Oh and it's good to see that much of the Lada info seems to have been lifted from Wikipedia... however you may have wanted to read some of the content a little more closely.

    For starters, nobody in the UK really knows the Niva as the Lada 4x4, despite Wiki saying it was named as such from 2009.... The Niva, apart from imports (of which there are very few) was never called this in the UK. And as by 2009 they had long since stopped being sold by Lada in the UK.

  • 300bhp/ton 20 Apr 2017

    Ok, I might have been having a bit of a dig already on this article.

    However on a serious note.

    Piston Heads said:
    Small and gutsy, the little Dacia will not disappoint if you want to off-road
    I can genuinely offer an off road site and some comparison vehicles if you'd like to make this an article. Location is in Bedfordshire not far from the M1.

    There is mixed terrain on offer as well as some green lane type terrain.

    I could also be flexible on dates/times to suit. Let me know if you are interested.


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