I’d been feeling pretty smug in ‘my’ Duster, right up until John rocked up in ‘his’ new Defender. Having said that, at nearly four times the price (£82,255 as tested), I could never afford the latest addition to the PH Fleet. What I could afford, though, is £23,095 for a Dacia Duster. The mighty David Duster is almost half the kerbweight of the Goliath Defender too, at 1,263kg vs 2,348kg. Perhaps I’ll keep feeling smug a little longer after all.
But obviously we’re not really here to compare a Duster to a Defender; their owners will have quite different buying criteria. What the Duster continues to be, is the everyman hero. It’s not as cheap as it once was - but nothing is these days. I’ve been piling the miles onto NG72 MKL, and I’m thoroughly enjoying the process.
As a quick recap, we have a top-spec Journey, with the petrol 1.3-litre turbocharged four-pot mustering 150hp, only offered with the automatic six-speed EDC gearbox. If you’d prefer a manual, you’ll only get 130hp out of the same engine. Dacia offer a Bi-Fuel Duster with an LPG tank and if you want proper off-road ability, you’ll have to buy a 115hp diesel as the only powertrain matched with four-wheel drive. Naturally, we opted for the most power.
The result is just so effortless to live with. I hop in with keyless entry, press the start button, pop it in drive and I’m off. I’m really not that fussed about a manual gearbox in a car for daily duties, and while the EDC automatic in the Duster is hardly a Porsche PDK, it’s perfectly adequate for the job of helping you zip from 0-62mph in 9.7 seconds. No doubt helped by the aforementioned kerbweight, which you can really feel when driving.
Dacia’s rugged outdoor lifestyle branding will never align with high-performance motoring, but it’s a surprisingly nippy package and I’d struggle to see any Duster owner wanting for more power. Sure, there’s plenty of body roll in the corners, but the ride is soft and comfy. As are the seats, which is important given how much time I’ve spent in the car recently for Sunday Service travel, PH Project Car shoots and PH25 event planning. I’ve always been a bit of a leather snob when it comes to a car’s interior, but the (positive) reality of living with the cloth seats in the Duster may sway me for future car purchases.
Smartphone pairing connects instantly, and the sound system is pretty decent, whether I’m listening to another episode of Cautionary Tales by Tim Harford or blasting out some Frozen bangers on the nursery run. It also makes me so happy that the heater controls aren’t buried in a touchscreen, and there are proper knurled knobs to turn. While still a basic interior, it’s a massive improvement over what Dacia first brought to the UK and fit for many a kayaker or camping family that Dacia are targeting. All the buttons are clear and easily within reach without having to fumble around - what more could you ask for? The four-camera multi-view parking system is very handy too.
My only grievance so far is the rear legroom isn’t quite what you’d expect of a car this size, so it’s definitely one to try before you buy. I’m only 5’11 on a good day, but I can’t have a rear-facing car seat behind me for a long journey. Forward-facing car seats don’t have the same issue though, so unless you’ve got twins, rear-facing seats are fine behind the passenger seat. You can’t stack the boot from floor to ceiling either without risking your kids getting a face full of luggage – the only perceivable way around this would be to fit a dog guard if you need to pack the car up for a weekend away.
But with the rear seats down it’s cavernous and more than adequate for loading up with photographers or Sunday Service gear. And despite me driving it very much without fuel economy in mind, my long-term average so far is 43mpg. Which I’m sure, will be another win over John’s Defender, too. All is well, then, in Duster paradise – long may it continue!
Car: 2023 Dacia Duster Journey TCe 150 Auto 4x2 EDC
Price as tested: £23,095 comprising urban grey paint (£650) and spare wheel (£300)
Run by: Ben Lowden
On fleet since: March 2023
Mileage: 3,964 (delivered on 633)
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