In-depth reviews

Dacia Duster SUV - Engines, drive & performance

No Dacia Duster is a ball of fire, but handling is safe, responsive and enjoyable

Carbuyer Rating

3.5 out of 5

Engines, drive & performance Rating

3.5 out of 5

Very few SUVs – at any price – are geared towards thrilling their driver, and the Dacia Duster does little to quicken the pulse. Crucially, though, it offers barely less driving enjoyment, involvement or reward than many cars with far more intimidating price tags.

The Duster actually feels quite well balanced in corners and is responsive enough to give you confidence on twisty roads. The electric steering doesn't take any strength to use but is a bit heavy in the diesel version, while plenty of grip from those meaty-looking tyres without as much kickback as before over bumps. The brakes impress, too – shedding speed with little fuss even when an emergency stop is required. A sports-car driver will find little to get excited about, but few will find the Duster a chore to drive.

Every Duster has a manual gearbox as standard – five-speed on the TCe 100 petrol with front-wheel drive, or six-speed on the rest of the range. In the diesel model, the gear lever has a surprisingly short throw, which is handy because the narrow power band means you'll want to change gear frequently. The four-wheel-drive system makes for a relatively capable off-road package, and that opens the door to sales of Dacias as inexpensive, all-terrain workhorses. However, Dacia does charge around £2,000 extra for it, so we'd only recommend it for those who need the extra traction regularly. 

Dacia Duster diesel engines

Dacia has only announced one diesel engine for the Duster: a well proven 1.5-litre dCi 115 that's also found under the bonnet of Renault and Nissan models. With 113bhp, it has enough to allow the Duster to accelerate from 0-62mph in 10.5 seconds. This engine also feels well suited to towing and load-carrying.

A lack of much noise insulation in the Duster means it can sound rattly, not just when cold but any time it's left idling. There's also a rasp just as it gets going, which is a shame, as it's at the point that the punch kicks in that the engine is at its best. The 0-62mph time doesn't really do the engine justice because its pulling power and the Dacia's relatively light weight makes it feel plenty quick enough.

Petrol engines

The 1.0-litre TCe 90 is offered across the range, producing 89bhp, and capable of 0-62mph in 13.5 seconds. A TCe 100 Bi-Fuel petrol/LPG engine is also available, and uses the same engine. It does weigh more than the standard 1.0-litre model though, taking 14.4 seconds to reach 62mph from standing when running on petrol and 13.8 seconds when running on LPG. There's slightly more torque at lower revs when using LPG, which makes the Duster slightly more flexible and easy to drive, but most driver's will struggle to notice.

For Comfort trim and upwards, a 1.3-litre turbocharged engine becomes available. This is more powerful, offering either 128bhp or 148bhp. In these models, 0-62mph takes either 10.6 or 9.7 seconds. Perhaps showing how far Dacia has come in a few years, this new turbocharged engine is shared with lots of cars, including the Renault Kadjar, Nissan Micra and even the Mercedes A-Class.

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