We all love a car which is a faithful companion to all places you want to go in this magnificent world. A car which fulfills your dream of mobility no matter where or what. Without costing you an arm and a leg, giving you rather the freedom to spend your money on those long voyages and travels you always wanted to do, of course with your four wheeled companion.
Well, such a car is the Duster, now in its second generation, aptly named Duster 2. It now comes in a most attractive package, as it has been expertly restyled, undergoing also a state of the art makeover of the mechanics. We took it through its paces for you here. Just read on…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
Your companion with style…
The designers have dusted out the cobwebs in the styling department. Quite frankly, the Duster now looks the part, and this from any angle. The front end has been rejuvenated, and has decidedly a more upmarket stance now. At the rear we really love the newly shaped rear lights, giving this latest generation Duster ever more character.
The interior also got a makeover, and is now gracefully adorned with good looking large dials for speed and revs. The vents for heating and ventilation have an upmarket rocket engine intake shape, and all the knobs and handles are found in exactly the right places.
… and a keen eye for ergonomics
We truly applaud the ergonomically ideal commands for audio, so typical for Renault cars and first introduced if we are not mistaken in the Renault 25, now already decades ago. A stroke of genius indeed, where all the controls are centered on a stalk at the right side of the steering column, just beneath the steering wheel rim, so that you can control volume, station search and (wave length) mode with the fingertips of your right hand. All this without having to lift your right hand off the steering wheel. So clever!
The controls for heating/airco/ventilation are blissfully simple and self explaining, and the same can be said of the touchscreen mounted on the centre console. All its functions can be activated and managed with a few touches of your index finger, so anyone even with very little digital talents feels immediately at home when using the infotainment and navigation functions. Hooking up your phone or enjoying your favored music is the proverbial breeze.
Again a word of praise is fitting here too for the excellent navigation system on this Duster, understandably if one knows that it has been developed together with TomTom.
The knobs for speed control are centered on the central console, with further controls on the steering wheel. Its use is also self explaining and very smooth and gradual indeed.
We were also quite pleased with the high level of finish and the good workmanship and build quality throughout. The experience of the Alliance truly tells…
A smooth and frugal performer
We tested the 1,2 liter petrol engined version, coupled to a six speed manual transmission. One of its hallmarks is its mechanical smoothness and refinement, which make this Duster truly stand out and makes its (daily) use truly endearing to us.
The engine note is quite subdued, its elasticity is excellent, the gear changes are slick and smooth. Vibrations are completely filtered out from the cabin, and this adds greatly to the driving pleasure, both in the city as on the open road. This state of the art engine develops 92 kW or 125 HP at 5300 rpm, and it has a healthy torque of 205 Nm at merely 2000 rpm. Indeed, pulling power is quite sufficient even at lower revs, say from 1500 rpm onwards. Performance of this 2WD version is quite creditable with a 0 to 100 acceleration time of 10,4 seconds, and a top speed of 177 km/h. This excellent liveliness is of course also the result of the relatively low curb weight of 1175 kg. Never forget, the power to weight ratio of 9,4 kg/hp therefore comes close to a vintage classic 911 T 110 HP Porsche, seen to be a very fast car in the sixties…and now a very coveted and iconic classic.
Considering the power and performance of this turbo powered unit, its thermal efficiency is really state of the art, as the consumption figures clearly show. It proved no trouble at all to achieve urban consumption figures of around 7 liters/100 km and lower, with anything between 6 and 6,5 liters as an average consumption.
Of course, a smooth, anticipative driving style was adopted, much in tune with the mechanical refinement of this Duster.
Comfort and off road panache
French car builders are experts in designing suspensions which marry a comfortable ride with excellent handling, and this Duster proves this point again. Technical buffs will tell you that elements of this platform and suspension is also found on other models within the Renault Nissan alliance, and the economies of scale resulting from this state of affairs are of course good news for the buyer of this Duster.
Mc Phersons are mounted at the front, and at the rear we have independent cross bars and coil springs. The Duster is lively and surefooted in corners, has excellent high speed stability.
It stands high on its wheels, resulting in excellent ground clearance. Add to this the very adequate attack angles fore and aft and you understand that this Duster will tackle many off road situations with ease, even in two wheel drive form. Needless to say that all this adds to the everyday practicality of this Dacia.
And very practical this Duster truly is. Boot space is quite generous with standard 478 liters, and the rear backrests can be folded down in a split manner to create a maximum space of 1623 liter. When taking the goods home from your Ikea trip, it is also good to know that the backrest of the front passenger seat can also be folded quite far forward, giving you those precious extra inches of longitudinal space which lets you close the boot lid safely!
The cabin is also quite roomy, with very adequate head- and legroom at the rear.
Driving assistance systems at the rendez-vous…
Our test car came also with a few driving assistance systems like blind spot assist, and even sported not only a rear view camera, but also a front one, making safe parking in tight spaces a breeze.
What we appreciated also because of its practicality is the “smart key” function of this Duster test car. It allows you both approach and leave the Duster without the need to take the key out of our pocket or handbag, which is certainly a boon when you are carrying babies or full shopping bags. When you step away from the car, it gives you a friendly salute with two short bursts on the car horn, ever so endearing…
This Duster more than fulfilled our high strung expectations. It is eminently practical, surprised us with its uncanny mechanical refinement and frugality, proved very comfortable, roomy and stylish too. In terms finish and workmanship, it also earned high marks.
It feels very well at home in town as well as on the open road or motorway, and holds very well its own offload, where it also showed distinct talents, even in the 2 wheel drive version we tested.
Add to all this the excellent value for money, and you agree with us that this is a very strong contender in its class…
Hans Knol ten Bensel