The new Dacia Duster - available now to test drive at Cleary Motors, Loughtagalla, Thurles
The new Dacia Duster is a surprise, and a pleasant one at that.
Dacia, despite being a Johnny Come Lately to the Irish market, is actually quite an old brand from Romania and (fun fact) is Romania’s largest exporter.
The company was taken over by Renault several decades ago, even while the Iron Curtain still stood.
Initially that relationship involved making Renaults under license and under the Dacia badge, but then Dacia has also struck out on its own design-wise.
On the Irish market, Dacia is a value offering, which is marketing speak for cheap.
I never drove the original Dacia, and had allowed my lazy brain to assume that I knew what cheap would translate into.
On the outside there are subtle and telling differences. It is longer and wider, and some subtle changes make it, overall, look more rugged.
Inside is where I found myself thinking that the deceptively simplistic approach to this machine was its genius.
It’s downright ‘dinky’. While it may be more rugged and sporty on the outside, it’s quite refined on the inside.
The appearance of simplicity can be a virtue but it is an achievement you have to work very hard at and Dacia have managed it.
I particularly loved the way much of the digital trickery (of which there is much) required an analogue handle. And lovely, easy to find and use tactile handles.
I am happy to say that of all the cars I’ve driven, they’ve definitely done controls better than any other brand.
The thing to remember is that Dacia is linked to both Renault and Nissan, who have both, in their own way, perfected the art of the making mass market cars, such as the Qasqai and the Kadjar. It has much in common with them (such as the 1.5 diesel engine with 115bhp) although it’s smaller than both.
The engine will never win awards for speed, but that’s irrelevant. This was never intended for the performance or sporty market, although it is available in four wheel drive.
That being said, the cabin is so quiet, I mistakenly thought the engine was a petrol.
The new Dacia has all the usual stuff you get these days, like Bluetooth link to your phone, reversing cameras and sensors etc etc.
It’s comfortable for the driver and rear passengers of regular size, with an adequate boot.
It also has the Blindspot Warning Notification light that its stablemates in Nissan and Renault pioneered.
At €24,000 this is likely to be attractive, and the lads in Mallon Motors tell me that although they expected great interest in the new model, they’re blown away by the interest.
Expect to see many more on Irish roads in the coming years.