In the TÜV statistics, the Dacia Duster is one of the worst with 125th place out of 130. But the Dacia customers are extremely satisfied and buy the compact SUV again and again. How can this contradiction be explained – and what is the Romanian bestseller really good for?
Dacia still has the reputation of being cheap and makes premium spoiled people wrinkle their noses. And according to official statistics such as that of the TÜV, we should even strictly advise against buying a used Duster. But take it easy, because every statistic can be interpreted differently and may reveal a completely different picture from a different perspective.
Body: Windy, but robust
But back to the smell: anyone who knows the first generation of the Duster will remember the typical vapors from the adhesive and plastics in the interior. Not a trace of it in the second edition, olfactory nothing speaks against it. What has remained, however, and can be felt the first time you open it: the doors appear extremely light, almost windy. There is no unnecessary material in it - no insulation either, as the somewhat squeaky closing noise underscores.
After all, the low price has to come from somewhere; where everything was designed at least handsomely. Stable also fixed. The test car shown here is largely free of disturbing background noise. Which, and we may speculate a little heretically, may also be covered by the overall increased noise level.
Interior: mostly good equipment, weak seats
Our photo duster is a first-hand 1.6 SCe 115, registered in May 2019, with almost 28,000 kilometers, which the Brunkhorst car dealership in Bremervörde made available to us. The condition is perfect, although the conditioner has not yet been turned. The equipment: full cabin including all-wheel drive, DAB radio and reversing camera, but - now comes the handicap - someone ordered the leather interior in the former configuration of the new car, but did not check the seat heating.
In real life, the individual extras can be found in a quite homely interior that is clearly and clearly designed and also cleanly finished. Admittedly, hard plastic predominates here, but it looks robust and at least easily washable. The seating comfort alone can be described as a weakness. The front seats are narrow, short, and not padded for Olympic driving distances. The rear bench seat is class-typical as such, but it is too close to the front seats, resulting in very little legroom.
Engines: Only a few cause problems
Let's get out of the interior and now finally into the technology. The TCe 90 doesn't have the best reputation. The engine with short-lived timing chains has been noticed in a number of Renault models, but the problems in the Duster are still limited.But the technology deniers, who are not so rare among Dacia customers, swear by the 1.6-liter test car that will be available until mid-2019.
The absence of a turbocharger and a stable timing chain should make it an insider tip, albeit a somewhat lethargic one. Because the speeds are high, the torque is rather low, and jerks when accelerating suggest a carelessly coordinated mixture formation. Would you prefer the 1.2 TCe 125, which took over smoothly from the beginning of 2018? However, it is not fully recommended either. With increasing mileage, it tends to jerk, which, according to Dacia, is due to deposits in the combustion chamber. A cleaner to be dosed into the fuel should provide a remedy.
So maybe it's better to add a few euros and take the 1.3 TCe 130, which came onto the market at the beginning of 2019 and has been the best-selling drive ever since. Do prestige reasons also play a role? After all, this engine was allegedly created under the leadership of Mercedes in cooperation with Dacia's mother Renault. It is used as the M282 in the Stuttgart transverse engine models A-Class, CLA, GLA and GLB, with outputs of up to 163 hp. In the Duster, however, 150 hp is the limit, which, depending on the equipment, enables a registered maximum speed of up to 202 km/h, believe it or not. Who would have thought, Dacia in the 200 club.
Unlike most SUVs, the proportion of diesels in used Dusters is low at around 16 percent. It will hardly be the engine, the K9 from Renault is a safe bet and is also installed by Mercedes.
By the way, the drive concepts are by no means exhausted; the Duster also has LPG versions typical of the brand. Their special attraction lies in the range: With 50 liters of petrol and 33.6 liters of LPG, you can travel up to 1,400 kilometers with standard consumption. But what probably didn't convince many new customers - the share of the gas drive is only half as large as that of the diesel drive.
Transmission: It's best to shift gears yourself
The manual five- and six-speed transmissions are certainly not among the haptic highlights when it comes to their shifting behavior, but they don't disappoint with failures or defects. The most that deserves attention is the clutch wear of overly battered forester cars. However, the six-speed dual-clutch transmission should be treated with caution, but it is reserved for the more powerful engines and is not very common overall. Here, actuator failure can cause gears to get stuck, and the double clutch is also prone to wear. By the way, anyone who thinks that a Dacia generally has few electronics on board will be taught a lesson, as numerous updates of all possible functions - including the switching software - prove.
Just as optional as the double coupler, but available for all four-cylinder models: all-wheel drive. He struck again with 2.600 euros to book. This enables remarkable off-road performance as well as the very short first gear. This allows you to climb gently without damaging the clutch. The second one is therefore also suitable for starting an unloaded Duster on level ground.
Suspension: Made for rough things
The only question is whether you want to drive it. In any case, the test car is rather spongy and often needs corrections with the indirect, less sensitive steering, even on straights. From lock to lock you crank more than three revolutions, but still penetrate bumps on uneven roads to the steering wheel. However, it should be added that precisely those sections of track that cause other cars to stumble are downright fun with the Duster. The Dacia hovers like a magic carpet especially over the undulating moor roads north of Bremervörde and rolls over loosely paved dirt roads with pleasure.
However, you shouldn't overdo it with off-road escapades, because the underside of the Duster is largely unprotected. A thin sheet of metal in front of the oil pan, nothing more. In return, there are long suspension travels and an impressive 21 centimeters of ground clearance.
Deficiencies: Individual problem areas spoil the statistics
Thrift doesn't seem to be the main goal of Duster customers. Apparently they buy more according to the motto "If it's Dacia, then it's". Just under eleven percent are modest with two-digit horsepower numbers, but half choose 131 hp or more. Savings are then more likely to be made in maintenance, which brings us back to the question asked at the beginning about the interpretation of the TÜV statistics. Because if you look at the defects found there, almost all of them can be eliminated through careful maintenance. Like the too often poor or uneven action of the rear brakes compared to other vehicles. To explain: The Duster has drums there that have to be cleaned every 80,000 kilometers in the 2018 model. From 2019, this interval was even increased to 120,000 kilometers, which should drive the defect rate similarly. And at the front, the old Renault evil of the missing splash guard plates not only causes a lot of rust and high wear on the brake discs, but also fat red bars in the statistics.
Duster pilots who drive up to the main inspection with defective lamps can also take a look at their own noses. Because the requirements there have been tightened in recent years, now a defective license plate light is enough to fail.
Small stuff? Not only: because one of the points complained about more frequently than usual is the steering, both the steering gear and the tie rods. In both points, the complaint rates are relevantly high, so used buyers should keep an eye on them. The same goes for the fittings: the yellow engine lamp lights up there all too often, indicating emissions-related errors.In the case of petrol engines, this is often only due to defective lambda sensors, but in the case of diesel engines, it may also be due to an inactive AdBlue injection due to a defective metering pump.
There were also a few callbacks. In very early models from 2017, for example, pressing the horn could trigger the airbag! But much more frequently there are software errors and corresponding updates, for example in the event of a power steering failure, a malfunctioning navigation system or a lack of connectivity. So nothing that doesn't exist with premium brands and that is reserved for the price range of the Duster. This is more noticeable in everyday use, in the grinding gear noise or the rattling all-wheel drive mechanism under the car, which makes sensitive natures fear a defect. If you don't mind such trifles, you can also have fun with this cheap Romanian SUV.
Prices: Inexpensive and stable in value
The price tag of our photo car is almost 18,000 euros, which at the same time reveals the typical Dacia dilemma: the small difference between the used and the new price.
If you are a little modest, you can get a new one for 16,400 euros. A TCe 90 Essential, after the recent facelift with standard LED low beam, as an extras media package with cell phone connection and air conditioning. Or, if you can't do without aluminum wheels and metallic paint, a TCe 130 Expression with navigation system and rear camera for 19,950 euros.
Duster II are rare; up to a price limit of 25,000 euros only about 2,300 pieces are listed in the online stock exchanges. Although the offer starts at just under 10,000 euros, these are often company cars with an off-road past - although all-wheel drive is rather rare; only 14 percent of used cars are equipped with it.
First of all: The Duster is better than its reputation. The malaise during the general inspection is rarely dramatic, and the car club's breakdown services don't have much work to do with the Romanian SUV. That's good. What is less inspiring: The Duster is not only a cheap car, it drives itself that way. The money for the fine tuning has probably been saved, the mechanics are correspondingly rustic. So no car for fine spirits.