Dacia describes its new Duster as ‘shockingly affordable’ – and with prices starting at just £8,995, that's fairly accurate, too. The Dacia brand appears to have come from nowhere, but, in fact, it's been thriving on the continent for more than seven years. New for 2013, it hopes to continue this success in the UK, starting with the outstanding Duster SUV.
For less than the price of a base-spec Ford Fiesta, you can get behind the wheel of a rugged-looking SUV, with a robust interior and enough room for the whole family. By using proven Renault technology, Dacia has wrapped up the Duster into what should prove a reliable, comfortable and spacious family car. It has the option of two and four-wheel drive, and can be specified with either smooth petrol or economical diesel engines.
There's a 475-litre boot that expands to 1,636 litres when you fold the back seats, while up front there's plenty of head and legroom for front and rear passengers. The hardwearing interior should stand the test of time, and the three-year/60,000-mile warranty will help keep a lid on costs in the long run.
As a firm believer in function over frivolity, Dacia lives by the philosophy that the customer should only pay for what they need. This means base-spec cars are extrememly sparsely equipped – even a radio is optional – but good value packages and low list prices make the Duster incredibly good value. Even the flagship Laureate model undercuts a similarly equipped Nissan Qashqai by around £3,000.
The Dacia Duster is a true game changer. There's no other car on sale in the UK that can match it for sheer value (and other manufacturers are now looking into how), and for that reason alone there was no question when deciding what should be awarded CarBuyer Car of the Year 2013.