How simple it would be to simply write off the Dacia brand as bargain basement; yes it may be outstanding value for money, but since it came into the Renault family it has benefited from technology etc.
The second generation Duster delivers to a surprisingly level; the already noted value for money, but there is much more to this compact, rugged SUV as I discovered on the press launch which afforded ample time for both on and off road driving. Dare I suggest that it is one of the motoring bargains of the year.
Available in four trim levels, Access, Essential, Comfort and Prestige in Northern Ireland. There will be three trim levels when it is launched in the Republic of Ireland in September. I spent some time with the French designer of the new Dacia, David Durand, and he explained how every body panel has been changed, yet it
maintains that sturdy butch look.
There is little sacrifice when it comes to equipment and core features include LED daytime running lights, height-adjustable front headrests and seat belts, ECO mode and Stop and Start, gearshift indicator, a Thatcham-approved engine immobiliser, automatic door lock, ABS and Emergency Brake Assist, ESC/ASR (Electronic
Stability Control and Traction Control), new full length curtain airbags and ISOFIX points in the rear.
The entry level Access has 16 inch steel wheels and you even get electric front windows. Step up a grade to Essential and there are 16 inch Fidji wheels, attractive body coloured front and rear bumpers, manual air con, heat adjustable driver’s seat, DAB radio accompanied by steering column mounted controls and Bluetooth connectivity.
With Comfort new 16 inch Cyclade alloy wheels, front-seat armrest, leather steering wheel, graphite cloth upholstery, rear parking camera and sensors, electric front and rear windows, heated and electrically adjustable door mirrors, a MediaNav 7 inch touch screen multimedia system (Satellite navigation, USB and AUX connection
points) and a 7 function on-board computer, all as standard. Right at the top of the new Duster range is the Prestige, which brings luxury to the range with new 17-inch Diamond-cut alloy wheels, multi-view camera, blind spot warning, climate control and keyless entry.
In my opinion the major focus has been the interior, totally revised for enhanced comfort and quality which will be noted no doubt current owners. Within the centre console a higher-positioned driver-focused MediaNav multimedia touch screen display for clear, easy access, with one of the shortest viewing distances.
The seats have been completely redesigned with denser foam for improved comfort and support and cabin noise has been halved by increasing the percentage of sound- absorbing surfaces and there are larger diameter 165 mm bicone speakers for music or news on the move.
One area that required improvement was sound levels and here again the goal has been achieved.
The range comprises two engines, one petrol and one diesel. The SCe 115 (two wheel drive and four wheel drive versions) and the Blue dCi 115 (two wheel drive). Both power units are allied to a manual transmission. Later this year the 4×4 version will receive the diesel engine.
The first Dacia was famed for it’s off road capabilities and he same goes for the new version. Measuring 4.3 metres long and 1.8 metres wide, close to the original version, ground clearance is 210mm with approach and departure angles of 30 and 33 degrees respectively, and when sloping terrain beckons you have Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist.
A very useful feature is a multi-view camera which incorporates four cameras, one at the front, one on either side and one at the rear, allows you to view the area around the Duster and manoeuvre in complete peace of mind when using off road. Also useful to help with parking and is activated automatically when reverse gear is engaged.
I tried the new Dacia off road and fitted with standard Bridgestone tyres it coped extremely well.
Safety and security and the range topper features keyless entry, you do not need to take their key out to start the vehicle thanks to the new start/stop button.
Blind Spot Warning is available, four ultrasound sensors located on either side of the vehicle both front and rear detect any other vehicles, including motorcycles and trucks, coming from the rear or the side. A warning light flashes in the door mirror housing if any danger is detected.
The new Duster is safer with a reinforced vehicle frame, new seat frames, curtain airbags and automatic headlight activation, all new to this SUV range.
So there you have it- the most affordable SUV on the market and it is sold in 44 countries.