DACIA has just become the fastest-growing car brand in Europe – and after a week with the 2019 Duster it is not hard to see why.

Cruise control, touchscreen sat-nav, DAB radio, rear camera, reversing sensors – all in a family-size SUV which drives well and looks suitably rugged and all for a shade under £15 grand.

Other car makers’ SUVs with a similar spec are several thousand pounds more so Dacia have nailed the USP that others have now moved away from.

There was a time when some cars made in the Far East undercut rivals by big margins and they quickly made an impact on the market here – now they have decided to move up in price (and quality) that bargain basement area has pretty much been left for Dacia to exploit.

And, together with some great marketing campaigns, it is clearly working as sales of their cars are booming while others struggle to fight it out further up the automotive food chain.

So what’s not to like about the latest Duster? Well not a lot really, yes the interior is very dark with ‘robust’ plastic finishes – but you could argue that fits with the rugged SUV image and is ‘hard wearing’ rather than ‘cheap’.

Our test version was the mid-range Comfort TCe 130 with front wheel drive (Dusters start from around £10,000 for the very basic entry level model which does not even have a radio) and as you can see from the above it came very well equipped for the £14,995 price tag – even the range topping 150 4×4 version is a very reasonable £18,500.

The Duster crossover SUV was the car with which Dacia chose to relaunch itself here a few years ago and along with its Sandero, Sandero Stepway and Logan MCV stablemates it got off to a flying start sales wise.

This latest ‘all new’ version has almost identical dimensions but key styling and structural changes and a new interior with more space, comfort and equipment than its predecessor.

Cabin noise has also been greatly reduced and the Duster can now be had with equipment not seen on a Dacia before including that multi-view reversing camera, keyless entry, a blind-spot warning active safety system, leather seats and climate control.

Dacia says every body panel is new, although the styling changes are hard to spot at first. The headlight clusters have been changed and moved further apart, there’s a new grille and at the back new tail-lights are very similar to those on a Jeep Renegade.

Our test car had the 1,333cc petrol engine with 130bhp and two wheel drive, which returns up to 41mpg, but the 1.5-litre diesel can hit 64mpg. All wheel drive is available on petrol versions.

Even though ours was a 2WD it had a six speed gearbox, a step up from the old model, although drum brakes are still to be found on the rear axle.

The second-generation Duster also has electric power steering which is light and easy to use, blind-spot warning is available for the first time, but only on top-spec Prestige models, while ABS, emergency brake assist, electronic stability control and traction control are standard across the range.

Despite the Duster’s bargain-basement image there is a touchscreen infotainment system which is easier to use that some more expensive cars and has satellite navigation with traffic information, Bluetooth and DAB radio. The rear parking camera’s view is also displayed here plus there are USB slots for smartphone charging and MP3 players.

So performance, comfort and equipment on all but the most basic versions are good but yet again the latest Duster scores big in terms of value for money – quite simply no other SUV offers so much for so little.

More info at www.dacia.co.uk

By Motoring Editor Steve Howarth

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