Dacia Duster: PH Fleet

Ladies and gentlemen, do not adjust your dial. You have not tuned into the wrong website and we have got a Dacia Duster on the PH Fleet. Yes, really. But how, you may be wondering, did a website known for putting performance and fun first end up with a small SUV that is firmly propping up the budget end of the market?

Yes, this was its first day with us...
Yes, this was its first day with us...
The thing is, whilst performance and fun really are our focus, we also love an underdog and have a list of 'guilty pleasures' as long as your arm. On top of this, we have to confess that viewed from afar we have a slightly weird fondness for the Duster. It is the very antithesis of a silly, fake 'soft roader' that puts styling ahead of substance. Furthermore, I'm pleased to say that on first acquaintance the appreciation is only growing stronger.

But let's take a step back and look at what we specifically have. We'll forgive you if you were not previously all that aware of the model range and nomenclature associated with the Duster. Being completely honest we weren't either...

As I mentioned, performance matters here at PH so we were always going to go for the fastest and most powerful motor, which happens to be the 1.2-litre TCe. This direct-injection turbocharged engine is new for 2017 with outputs of 125hp and 151lb ft of torque, the latter at just 2,000rpm. Realistically it was never going to feel fast, but so far the car has proven to be far more sprightly than we were expecting. This is no doubt helped by the kerb weight of 1,294kgs.

Originally Editor Trent had pitched the idea of us running a proper 'NATO-spec' Duster, which Dacia refers to as the 'Access' trim level. I say 'trim', but that is over selling it. Think hose-out interior, seats, a steering wheel and, well, not a lot else. Thankfully this plan was dropped when we discovered you couldn't have it with the 125hp motor. I spent a few weeks living in fear of what sort of car I'd end up with, especially since I'm going to be driving the car quite a lot, so I just went ahead and ordered the most expensive model when no one was looking.

Go Duster, go!
Go Duster, go!
Starting at £15,795, the 'Prestige' is top of the range and genuinely well specified. Seven-inch media touchscreen including sat-nav, DAB and Bluetooth? Check. 16-inch diamond cut alloy wheels? You bet. Parking sensors and rear parking camera? Present and correct! Given that from 2017 onwards all models get quite a lot of spec as standard, 'our' Duster really is ready for anything. Well, nearly anyway. We obviously needed the Nissan-developed 4x4 system, so on it went. Looking back, it was at this stage I got a bit carried away. In my defence, wouldn't you want your Duster to have more 'leather', more 'protection', more 'styling', more 'window' and more, erm, 'touring'?

Well, I did. So I ticked every single box on the order form. All of them. The lot. The sum total of these five aptly named option packs mean that the car is positively dripping in stuff. Full leather upholstery, centre armrest, posh mats, tow bar, roof bars, mud guards, boot liner, window deflectors, daytime running lights and a load of chrome bits. It is, as they might have once said in the motor trade, fully loaded.

Obviously such a highly specified car needed to look good too, so I also went with Pennine Green metallic paint. OK, so it looks a bit brown, but in some light conditions it looks good. And to counteract the inevitable comments, I don't mean it looks good in the dark.

At this stage I'm sure you're worrying that we've ended up with a frankly ridiculous price tag that undermines the very point of the car. Well, we haven't. Despite all this box ticking the car only costs £18,980. Looking back, the only way we could've made the car more expensive would have been by specifying a diesel engine and auto 'box, but that was ruled out grounds of performance and taste.

This will be tested. Extensively, we hope
This will be tested. Extensively, we hope
Now, being completely honest, we knew from the start that to successfully run a car like the Duster on the PH Fleet we'd need to plan plenty of activities in order to keep things interesting. After all, what's the point of driving a car that feels robust and ready for anything if we don't thoroughly test that theory out? As if to underline the severity of our intentions, you'll note that the pictures of the car are all taken off road. That's because we went off-roading in it on our very first day of ownership.

The car has got off to a great start and performed incredibly well on its maiden voyage where it literally went up hill and down dale (more on that next time). Anyway, it must be getting under our skin as it has already become known as 'The Mighty Duster' at PH Towers, and we only give nicknames to cars that really endear themselves to us. It is going to be an interesting long-termer and we've got big plans for where we're going to take the car and what we're going to do with it... did someone say track day?

: 2016 Dacia Duster Prestige TCe 125 4x4
On fleet since: January 2017
Mileage: 857
List price new: £15,795 (As tested £18,980 comprising Metallic paint for £495, European mapping for £90, Aspira leather upholstery for £500, protection pack for £495, touring pack for £565, action pack for £755 and window pack for £285)
Last month at a glance: The Duster debuts in all its Pennine Green glory!



Photos: Sim Mainey

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Comments (99) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Vee12V 31 Jan 2017

    I once drove a 4x4 model on a challenging offroad terrain on normal tyres, and was surprised with well it handled the circumstances. Had a soft spot for them ever since.

  • Truckosaurus 31 Jan 2017

    I'm still trying to decide whether £18k for a top of the line Duster is a bargain or ridiculous.

    I think if I was in the market for a 'cheap' Brand New SUV/crossover I'd be looking at a Kia Sportage (£24k for the cheapest 4x4 model).

    Alternatively, buy the base model 4wd Duster for £12k, stick some winter tyres on it and you've got a decent winter beater for the next decade.

  • z06tim 31 Jan 2017

    I would definitely consider one of these for my wife, but unfortunately they don't do an auto (to the best of my knowledge). Your article suggests an auto is available. Otherwise, it was a good read and echos some of my opinions on this no nonsense, good value, small SUV.

    Edited to add - seems they actually do a diesel with an auto, but no petrol.

    Edited by z06tim on Tuesday 31st January 08:47

  • em177 31 Jan 2017

    I love a Duster. They're going to be awesome cheap sub £2k sheds in a few years smokin

  • tomic 31 Jan 2017

    Is this the same 1.2 engine you get in a Qashqai?


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