Dacia Duster cuts a dash: We drive the new family SUV


What price safety? And how much does it matter when bagging a bargain-priced car that’s a delight to drive?

That thought struck home when trying out the recently refreshed Dacia Duster. 

It’s a fully-loaded, no-frills SUV that looks the business and brings simplicity back to motoring from a Romania-based company that’s the budget arm of France’s Renault. 

No-frills SUV: Good value and a great drive come as standard with the Comfort TCe

No-frills SUV: Good value and a great drive come as standard with the Comfort TCe

Launched in the UK in 2013 and with more than 2 million sales worldwide, this updated version has undergone a few tweaks such as a sharpened exterior with a new 3D-chrome grille, Y-shaped LED headlights, rear spoiler, and an upgraded interior including enhanced headrests, satin chrome door handles and a high-positioned centre console. 

Prices for the range start at £14,495. I was driving the Comfort TCe 130 4X2 front-wheel drive variant powered by a 129hp 1,332cc turbo-charged petrol engine, linked to a six-speed manual gearbox, priced at £18,240. 

In keeping with Dacia’s back-to basics philosophy, there are no ‘options’ save metallic paint at £595 and a proper spare wheel at £300, included here. 

Launched in the UK in 2013 and with more than 2 million sales worldwide, this updated version has undergone a few tweaks, including a fresh grille design

Launched in the UK in 2013 and with more than 2 million sales worldwide, this updated version has undergone a few tweaks, including a fresh grille design

Prices for the range start at £14,495. We drove the Comfort TCe 130 4X2 front-wheel drive variant powered by a 129hp 1,332cc turbo-charged petrol engine, linked to a six-speed manual gearbox, priced at £18,240

Prices for the range start at £14,495. We drove the Comfort TCe 130 4X2 front-wheel drive variant powered by a 129hp 1,332cc turbo-charged petrol engine, linked to a six-speed manual gearbox, priced at £18,240

In keeping with Dacia's back-to basics philosophy, there were no 'options' fitted to our test car, save metallic paint at £595 and a proper spare wheel at £300

In keeping with Dacia’s back-to basics philosophy, there were no ‘options’ fitted to our test car, save metallic paint at £595 and a proper spare wheel at £300

The Duster includes anti-lock braking, emergency brake assist, hill-start assist, electronic stability and traction control

The Duster includes anti-lock braking, emergency brake assist, hill-start assist, electronic stability and traction control

The boot is extremely large and practical
As you can see, it can swallow camping equipment for two people with ease

The boot is extremely large and practical. As you can see, it can swallow camping equipment for two people with ease

It’s a great drive for the money, accelerating from rest to 62mph in 10.6 seconds up to a top speed of 120mph, and offering 45.6 mpg fuel efficiency. CO2 emissions are 141g/km. That’s helped by the ‘­Start-Stop’ fuel-saving ECO mode. It’s fully stocked with tinted rear windows and an 8in media display. 

Will it fit in my garage? New Dacia Duster 

Model driven: Comfort TCe 130 4 X 2 front-wheel drive

Length: 4341m

Width: 1804m

Height: 1693mm

Price as driven: £18,240 (inc metallic paint £595, spare wheel £300)

Range price: from £14,495

Engine: 1,332cc turbo-charged petrol engine

Power: 129horse-power (hp)

Transmission: 6-speed manual gearbox

0-62mph: 10.6 seconds

Top speed: 120mph

Fuel efficiency: 45.6mpg

CO2 emissions: 141g/km

Wheels: 16 inch 

The Duster includes anti-lock braking, emergency brake assist, hill-start assist, electronic stability and traction control. 

Now here’s the rub. In the Euro NCAP crash tests it scored three stars out of five, scoring adequately for occupant protection (71 per cent) and child protection (66 per cent), but marked down for pedestrian protection (56 per cent) and ‘safety assist’ (37 per cent). 

The Duster fared better than its two Dacia siblings tested last year, the Sandero Stepway and Logan, which scored just two stars each, and the Renault Zoe which scored zero stars. It doesn’t mean the cars aren’t safe. They’re just not the safest, as judged by Euro NCAP.

Nevertheless, that Sandero Stepway’s poor score cost it its crown as WhatCar? ‘Car of the Year,’ of which it was subsequently stripped.

And safety standards will only get tougher, and top five-star scores harder to achieve, as EuroNCAP constantly tightens the safety screw. See for yourself at www.euroncap.com.

The new Dacia Duster is available in a range of petrol, diesel and bi-fuel engine options, with a choice of two- and four-wheel drive and 6-speed manual and automatic transmission.

And if the five-seater Duster’s not big enough for you, Dacia is currently launching the new seven-seater Jogger priced from £14,995.

Going green: The Skoda ENYAQ Coupé iV vRS will be available to order from February 17

Going green: The Skoda ENYAQ Coupé iV vRS will be available to order from February 17

Sizzling sporty new electric Skoda on way 

Hang on to your hats. A sizzling sporty new electric Skoda is on its way. 

Following its world premiere last month, the Skoda ENYAQ Coupé iV vRS will be available to order from February 17, priced from £51,885, with first UK deliveries from July. 

It is the first all-electric Skoda model to wear the firm’s race-performance oriented vRS badge. 

The new vRS is equipped with twin motors — one on either axle — that produce a combined 299hp (PS) allowing it to accelerate from rest to 62 mph in just 6.5 seconds up to a top speed of 111 mph. 

Its 82kWh battery pack gives it a driving range of 309 miles. An 80 per cent charge can be achieved in 36minutes on a 150kW charger. 

A panoramic glass roof comes as standard.

Fully stocked: The 'home in a box' is a range of modular units, above, that fit into the luggage compartments

Fully stocked: The ‘home in a box’ is a range of modular units, above, that fit into the luggage compartments

Volkswagen caters for ‘staycationers’

With ‘staycations’ booming due to Covid, consider this for a range of add-on camping accessories from Volkswagen. 

The ‘home in a box’ is a range of modular units, above, that fit into the luggage compartments. 

The unit provides a kitchen, bed and water supply and is compatible with the Volkswagen Caravelle, California Beach Tour or Caddy models. 

The range-topping BusBox, costing £3,340, is compatible with the VW Caravelle and includes a bed, mattress, kitchen area, storage and water supply. 

The BusBox is also available without the mattress, priced at £2,555. The KombiBox for the Caddy has a kitchen, water supply and storage, from £2,760. 

A comfort mattress is also available, priced at £495. n For more details, see volkswagen-vans.co.uk. 

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