The 2023 facelift Dacia Duster is an impressive and budget-friendly compact SUV that continues to uphold Dacia’s reputation for providing practical and reliable vehicles at a seriously attractive price. While it may not boast all the bells and whistles of top-end models in the crowded SUV market, it excels by offering a no-nonsense driving experience that will more than satisfy your day-to-day needs.
The Duster’s external styling is bold and outdoorsy, perfect for those who enjoy an adventurous lifestyle. Its prominent front grille, sleek LED headlights and flared wheel arches give it a robust distinctive appearance. It isn’t ripping up trees with its design language but it is a positive evolution on previous the look of previous models.
Interior comfort and features
Inside the Duster, you’ll find a surprisingly spacious and well-laid-out cabin. Again the build quality is much improved on the early Dacia models.
The recent Dacia-wide facelift isn’t restricted to externals, the interiors have also been upgraded. Indeed, the Duster delivers improved ergonomics to all driver and passenger features.
The slim profile of the headrests improve visibility for the driver and for rear-seated passengers.
The seats are comfortable and provide good support and height adjustment – yes, it is a manual action, but you get what you pay for. Legroom is decent for passengers, which takes the strain out of distance driving. The new dashboard is modern and unfussy offering utility over style and cosmetic appearance.
The responsive infotainment system with smartphone connectivity has grown to a more appealing 8 inches. So, while it may not offer the most cutting-edge cabin technology, the Duster fulfils your day-to-day driver needs.
Performance and handling
One of the Duster’s strongest points is its straightforward and reliable performance. It offers a range of engine options, including petrol and diesel variants, catering to different driving preferences and needs. The engines may not satisfy the cravings of petrol heads, but they provide adequate power for daily driving and will hold their own on rougher ground.
The Duster’s handling is stable and composed, making it easy to manoeuvre through city streets or tackle rough terrain. The suspension does a decent job of absorbing bumps and uneven road surfaces, enhancing overall comfort during drives.
Safety has long been a hallmark in Dacia vehicles and the 2023 Duster is no exception. It comes equipped with all the safety features you’d expect, such as airbags, stability control, anti-lock brakes and a rearview camera. Additionally, some higher trims offer more advanced safety options as well.
In addition to the cruise control and speed limiter, the Duster is equipped with the latest-generation Electronic Stability Control (ESC) as standard. There are also other key driver-assistance systems (ADAS) available.
Blind spot warning: Operating between 19mph and 87mph, the blind spot warning alerts the driver of a potential collision with another vehicle present in the blind spot. Four ultrasonic sensors (two fitted at the rear of the vehicle and two at the front) detect moving vehicles – including two-wheelers – in the blind spot. If there is a vehicle in this area, an LED indicator lights up on the appropriate door mirror. If the direction indicator is switched on when there is a vehicle in the blind spot, the LED on the mirror flashes.
Park assist: Ssensors fitted to the rear bumper activate an audible signal during manoeuvres. Depending on the model version, they can be accompanied by a display from a rear camera with dynamic guidelines on the central screen and visual warnings on the approach of an obstacle.
Hill start assist: When setting off again after stopping on a slope, this feature prevents the vehicle from rolling backwards for more than two seconds once the driver takes their foot off the brake pedal, thus giving them the time to press the accelerator pedal.
Adaptive hill descent control (4×4 version): Particularly useful when driving off-road or on steep descents, this system, which is controlled from the dashboard, operates the brakes to prevent the vehicle from running away and ensures an adaptive driving speed (matched to the driver’s requests) of 3 to 18mph. It works in first gear and in reverse. The driver only has to concentrate on the steering wheel and can forget the brake and accelerator pedals during hill descents.
Multiview camera: The multiview camera (MVC) system (four cameras: one at the front, one on each side and one at the rear of the vehicle) inform the driver about the environment around the vehicle. The side cameras, fitted below the door mirrors, also show the front wheels. This system is useful for parking manoeuvres or in tricky off-road situations. It activates instantly when reverse gear is engaged and manually via the MVC key on the piano control. The navigation screen displays one camera at a time. The camera changes angle automatically when a forward gear is engaged. The system is switched off when the vehicle’s speed exceeds 12mph or via the MVC key.
While it might lack the latest driver-assistance technologies found in premium models, it still ensures a safe driving experience and all this to boot.
- ABS and Emergency Brake Assist
- Airbags: driver’s, front side, passenger with deactivation function
- ASR (traction control) with ESC (electronic stability control)
- Front seat belt pretensioners
- Height-adjustable front and rear headrests
- Height-adjustable front seatbelts
- 3 x 3-point rear seatbelts
- Isofix points in both outer rear seats
- Tyre inflation kit
- Tyre Pressure Monitor
- Remote central locking
Under the bonnet
We drove a 1.3 litre Duster TCe 130 turbocharged petrol model and it was a delight. The engine is responsive and very nippy. The company blurb says this four-cylinder variant delivers 128bhp, which will get you to 0-62mph in 10.6sec, though it does feel a bit quicker when you are at the wheel.
It has no trouble achieving speed joining motorway traffic even with all seats occupied and it was a very easy cruise over distance.
The Duster owes a lot of its success to older Renault tech and maybe this is where, if you were a pedant, you could pick fault. You do get a degree of cabin noise from the tyres and it is a tad clunky over rough ground. But as a whole package and with its price point, these irritants are easily overlooked.
Value for money
The Dacia Duster has been synonymous with excellent value for money since launch. With its impressive fuel efficiency and low maintenance costs the 2023 model remains true to this philosophy. With a competitive starting price of £14,415, the Duster’s nearest rivals are approved used models of bigger brands.
Fuel economy is another trump card for Dacia and the Duster offers a very welcome 44-59 mpg across the range. Curb weight is a respectable 1342 kg and as we know lighter mass = lower fuel bills, more responsive acceleration and better handling on the road.
Dacia Duster verdict
In conclusion, the Duster has come a long way in a short time. Having reviewed a few of the Dacia range since their launch in the UK in January 2013, the difference is like night and day in terms of comfort and drivability – and the fuel economy remains right up there. It should come as no surprise that the Duster has hoovered up What Car magazine’s Best Small SUV Car of the Year award for 2023, which is a commendable achievement given the competition.
This is a versatile and capable compact SUV that is really growing into its skin; it is a model that exudes confidence in design and performance. From rugged exterior to its spacious interior, its advanced safety features and best-in-class economy, the Duster delivers the full package. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly SUV that gets the job done without breaking the bank, the Dacia Duster has a compelling sales pitch for you.
And there are two million owners worldwide who would agree.
See here for the full Dacia range.Last modified: August 15, 2023