► Budget SUV gains a dual-clutch ’box
► Available only on 2WD diesel
► Is it better than a manual version?
The Dacia Duster. A no-nonsense mountain goat of a car that you can throw pretty much anything at and it’ll get on with it with little fuss.
It’s got loads of character and genuine rugged appeal, but for the first time you can now get it with an automatic gearbox – as long as you want the two-wheel drive diesel.
Why can I now choose an auto Dacia Duster?
More people want them – including current Duster owners. In fact, we hear it’s the number one thing customers ask for, so Dacia has obliged by raiding the Renault parts bin for this six-speed EDC dual-clutch transmission.
Makes sense to us; listening to what your existing customers would change about your cars and giving them what they want is the route to loyalty and repeat purchase, we reckon.
That’s why there are no extra Dacia Duster engines or models in the 2017 model year – the current range is merely honed, while they build up that loyal customer base.
Why only a two-wheel-drive version?
It’ll cost more to engineer the gearbox to work with the all-wheel-drive system, we're told. The majority of Duster buyers go for the 2wd diesel anyway – so they’re simply giving extra choice to those going for the most popular model.
At £1000 more than the equivalent manual, the Duster auto accounts for a good chunk of the car’s total £15k value - especially when you consider it’s only available in top-spec Laureate and Prestige models.
If you want a bargain-basement Duster, you’ll have to stick with the entry-level engine and gearbox combination and change gears yourself.
Is the Dacia Duster dCi 110 EDC any good?
It feels well suited to the Duster. It’s not fancy and it’s not the most responsive dual-clutch set-up we've tested – especially when you need to pick up the pace (which is where the diesel makes itself heard) – but take a relaxed approach and it’s just fine.
Come to a bend and the Duster’s body rolls thanks to its soft suspension, but you’ll be thankful for that when you encounter a series of bumps and undulations: it rides very well.
The squishy seats make it even more comfortable, soaking up the worst road acne Britain's bobbliest black-top can serve up. It’s just a shame the Duster's steering lacks any kind of feel.
It's a likeable thing, the newly fettled for 2017 Dacia Duster. It’s got old-school ruggedness and an honest approach to the ever-popular SUV/crossover class, and it’s refreshing to drive something without any airs and graces.
An automatic offering widens its appeal to the rapidly-growing number of Dacia fans, made all the more impressive that it’s just as economical, spacious and affordable when compared with its peers – and it arguably has more rugged charm than any of them.
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