Dacia Duster: You see a lot of those about don’t you?

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Much like the excitement of the cinema going public back in 1998 when Armageddon and Deep Impact were both released in the summer blockbuster season with the same theme of a global killer asteroid racing toward the Earth, MotorMartin has followed up the FIAT Panda 4×4 1.3 MultiJet Diesel test http://motormartin.com/2016/01/30/fiat-panda-1-3-multijet-4×4/ with the Dacia Duster 4×4 Laureate. Much like the two movies, the Laureate 4×4 is Dacia’s idea of a budget, family motor just as FIAT’s focus is similar for their Panda. So then, Armageddon or Deep Impact? Bruce Willis or Robert Duvall? Read on and find out.

But first, it wouldn’t be MotorMartin without a little bit of history thrown in for free, would it? The Kingdom of Dacia was formed in the second century BC, in about 86 BC. The capital city of the kingdom was Sarmizegetusa, a city in modern-day Romania, Yet, Most of our information about the Kingdom of Dacia comes from the records of Greek historians such as Strabo, Ptolemy, and Herodotus. Written records show that Dacia was ruled by King Burebista from 82 BC to 44 BC and that he conquered all the land from the Adriatic to the Black Sea.

Now fast forward a few years and we see that Dacia is a Romanian car maker that managed to stay afloat whilst others, such as Aro did not however, Dacia’s origins are as recent 1968 when their first factory was opened Colibasi, near Pitesti, Arges County. Dacia’s first car could be described as having a challenging aesthetic and, rather coincidentally, were heavily based on the Renault Model 12. Yet to MotorMartin’s eyes there is something rather charming about the Dacia 1300’s Eastern European lines and rather utilitarian styling.

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Dacia were building a reputation for reliability and affordability from the very beginning, traits still celebrated by the brand today. To no-ones surprise, Renault and Dacia formalised their partnership in 1999 when Renault took Dacia over and started to invest money, time, energy, expertise and most importantly, car platforms and equipment in a bid to create something quite unique.

And then, on Tuesday 30 September 2014 at the Technical Centre in Titu, more than 250 guests participated in the anniversary event. “Renault and Dacia, for 15 years in prime-time.” The guests included Călin Popescu Tăriceanu, president of the Romanian Senate, Mircea Drăghici, honorific counsellor of the Romanian Prime Minister, Ion Georgescu, mayor of Mioveni, Tudor Pendiuc, mayor of Piteşti, Senator Ecaterina Andronescu, journalists, central and local authorities, representatives of the business and university environment, partners, suppliers, dealers, former and current Dacia employees.

In other words, those who wrote, watched or created the news about Renault and Dacia celebrated the 15 years since the privatisation success and lived again the journey of the company with the highest turnover in the country. Seriously impressive and an indication of how important Dacia has become to both Renault and Romania.

The final piece of the modern Dacia jigsaw fell into place in 2012 when Renault finally introduced its budget Dacia brand into the UK with the launch of the Duster, a handsome small-to-medium-sized SUV which Renault described in the launch literature as “shockingly affordable.” and at a launch price of £8,995, they weren’t joking. So where are we now that Dacia and especially the Duster, are becoming a familiar site on the road?

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All of which brings us neatly to the present. For those on a budget and in the market for a sensibly priced 4×4 then the choice is rather limited. We may, or may not, aspire to owning a Range Rover, Evoque or BMW X Series or similar, but with costs starting with a purchase price upwards of £40,000 and similarly eye watering running costs, an SUV could be seen as out of reach for most consumers. ‘Real life’ motoring though is MotorMartin’s focus and a family sized 4×4 with decent economy, emissions and equipment and all for a price that’s realistic, would appear to fit the mould perfectly. So does it?

MotorMartin has been following the Dacia Duster story since the SUVs introduction, as previously stated, to the UK in 2012 and with the recent facelift, it seems like the perfect time to assess how good the Duster is to drive and own in today’s economically conscious times.

One of the first things that draw people to the Duster in the first place is the headline grabbing price, complimented perfectly by Dacia’s tag line, “Shockingly affordable.” There must be more to it than that but what else is there to tempt the cost conscious buyer into parting with there hard earned cash?

What catches your attention when you get up close to the Duster is how mature it looks. The £495 optional metallic paint provides a look that perfectly compliments the cars muscular standing and in MotorMartin’s eyes, the Duster is a handsome beast. Dacia’s own website http://m.dacia.co.uk/vehicles/duster/default.aspx states that “its muscular design, including extended wheel arches and a raised ride height, makes Duster every inch a robust and protective off-roader. Yet its imposing chrome front grille and double-optic headlamps are graceful around town. In top-of-the range Lauréate trim, standard 16″ alloy wheels, satin chrome roof bars, side sills and front and rear scuff plates give Duster effortless SUV style.” And you know what? MotorMartin thinks that Dacia have cracked it.

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The front end of the Duster is particularly imposing in my eyes, the revamped grill area giving a far more aggressive look than the previous incarnation and perfectly compliments the rugged off road styling. Moving around the car there are more delights to be had, the alloy wheels, available as standard on the Lauréate edition, are the correct size and don’t appear lost on the Duster whilst the wheel arches bulge rather beautifully around them. The running boards have been picked out with satin chrome side sills which works well and the newly redesigned roof rails, proudly proclaiming the Duster moniker across them, are another visual highpoint of the overall design. It’s clear that form over function and practical design touches do not have to mean uninspired and bland styling if you don’t want them too. The overall look of the Duster is impressive and should remain so until it is time for another refresh.

To keep things simple, there are three levels of trim to choose from when buying a Duster, with each new level adding new features to the mix. The range starts appropriately enough with the Access, followed by the Ambience with the top of the range being the Lauréate edition as tested. A number of features are unique to this Lauréate edition Dacia Duster and make for a difficult decision when in the dealership deciding on which model to go for as the  16’’ ‘Tyrol’ alloy wheels, dark metal door mirrors, body-coloured door handles, satin chrome roof bars with ‘Duster’ inscription, satin chrome side sills and satin chrome scuff plates for the front and rear of the vehicle. It has to be said that MotorMartin is extremely impressed with the quality of finish with the Dacia and it’s even more surprising when you consider that this, the top of the range model, could be sitting on your drive for £15,495.00 for the 4×4 or just £13,495.00 for the 2×4, this is, of course, before any additional options are added.

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Surely this must go down as being one of the bargains of the century and when looked at against the FIAT Panda 4×4 1.3 MultiJet Diesel which has a list price of £16,475, ouch! The comparison becomes more interesting when you look at the amount of metal that you’re getting for your money as the Duster is longer and wider than the Panda whilst both claim 60mpg and a VED band D. So what are we to conclude?

I’ll leave it to you for the time being as Part 2 will be looking at the interior fixtures andd fittings and technology present in the Duster. There may even be time to discuss the driving experience but that really depends if MotorMartin can spend enough time out of the Dacia and more time at the keyboard. Spoiler alert. It’s great.

For more information about the Dacia Duster don’t forget to checkout previous news features on MotorMartin re. http://motormartin.com/2016/02/15/news-up-to-750-more-reasons-to-buy-a-new-dacia/

Where will you go?

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