Dacia Duster SUV (2012-2018) - Interior & comfort
The entry-level Dacia Duster is spartan – you really do get what you pay for
With contemporary, even striking looks on the outside, it’s inside the Dacia Duster that you see where your money actually goes, or more specifically, where it doesn’t go. All models in the range, from the bargain-priced entry-level Access to the range-topping Nav+, use the same fixtures and fittings. They vary only in the level of standard equipment. This means that even the most expensive Duster uses the same low-grade materials for its dashboard and trim as the cheapest.
And we reckon this is perfectly forgivable. While none of the surfaces will delight in the same way as the equivalent places in a Volkswagen Tiguan, they are at least solid and robust. There may be little in the way of tactile pleasure to be derived from time spent inside a Duster, but there isn’t the creeping fear of it all falling apart, either. It fulfils its design brief – to get the job done – to the fullest.
If you’re looking to be cosseted, the Duster isn’t the car for you. Even cars like the Hyundai Santa Fe and previous-generation Nissan Qashqai offer nicer interior appointments. However, there’s no forgetting the excellent ride quality, nor the comfortable seats. And, though there’s little in the way of design flair anywhere to be seen, everything is laid out in a user-friendly manner.
Dacia Duster dashboard
The entry-level Access model doesn’t even have a radio as standard. However, the main controls and instrumentation will be familiar to anyone who’s driven a Renault Clio over the last few years, and as a result feel reasonably solid and well placed. The dials are easy to read, too.
The Access model doesn’t have a height-adjustable driver’s seat and the steering wheel doesn’t adjust in and out – only up and down. That means some drivers might struggle to get comfortable. The driver’s seat does adjust for height on Air models and above, though. The top-of-the-range Nav+ model has a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system, but it’s not positioned in the most ergonomically sound location, sitting too low and not in your line of sight.
The Dacia Duster Access achieves its astonishingly low price by only having the bare minimum of standard equipment and by only offering the 1.6-litre SCe 115 petrol engine. While safety features like airbags, anti-lock brakes and ISOFIX mounts aren’t compromised, hunting for interior luxuries is a futile search. You won’t find air-conditioning, but electric front windows and remote central locking are provided, as is the facility for a stereo to be fitted later on.
The Duster Air is far more civilised, with air-conditioning and a stereo that boasts DAB radio, USB and auxiliary inputs and Bluetooth connectivity. Comfort is improved by its height-adjustable driver's seat, while body-coloured front and rear bumpers, foglamps and smarter 16-inch wheels lend the exterior a less bargain-basement air.
The range-topping Duster Nav+ offers a seven-inch MediaNav Evolution infotainment system that packs sat nav and a reversing camera. There are rear parking sensors, too, plus electric windows and heated, adjustable mirrors. An economy computer, upgraded upholstery and a leather steering wheel finish off a well equipped package. The Nav+ is also the only trim level that offers the 123bhp, 1.2-litre petrol engine.
Despite not featuring much equipment as standard, the Duster doesn’t exactly have an extensive options list. Air-con isn’t available as an option, you'll need an Air or above for that. Metallic paint isn’t available on the Access trim either, so your colour choices are white – or white!
But you can choose from a number of accessory packs regardless of which Duster you buy. The £645 Protection Pack, which provides rear parking sensors, floor mats, an alarm, mudguards and a boot liner is a must-have, while the £555 Touring Pack provides the answer for anyone looking to tow a trailer.
The EDC automatic gearbox is available optionally on two-wheel-drive dCi 110 diesel and TCe 125 petrol models and will be a worthwhile choice for many. It does add somewhat to the purchase price, though, and increases running costs a little.
Dacia is a budget brand, but that doesn't mean the company hasn't tried to keep the Duster up to date. Nav+ models feature a touchscreen system that's quite basic, but it's actually pretty easy to use because of this.
However, it's located quite far down the car's centre console, and it's not the brightest, so you have to take your eyes off the road to use it. This is particularly annoying when you're using the sat-nav system. Otherwise, the navigation is actually pretty good to use. Finding a destination is easy and the spoken instructions are clear, which is important, because you'd have to take your eyes off the road to glance at the screen otherwise.