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New Dacia Duster 2023 review

Is this newly updated Dacia Duster the biggest bargain on the car market at the moment?

The updated Dacia Duster

The updated Dacia Duster

When it comes to Dacia’s Duster, they always leave customers thinking the same thing.

Is it just hugely under-priced? Or is the rest of the automotive industry significantly overcharging car buyers?

And to highlight that point, the newly updated 2023 Duster range starts at just £17,295. A bargain or what?

And while the Duster has long been a good-looking vehicle, its appearance has become further enhanced with the incorporation of Dacia’s new brand identity. Out has gone the old shield-like logo, to be replaced by the current off-white ‘Dacia link’ logo. This new look on the front of the Dacia models sees the letters D and C merge in the middle, while at the rear the letters ‘D A C I A’ get the same smart finish. Oh, and there’s a new grille on which the updated badge proudly sits at the top.

Ok, but what about the 2023 Duster?

Not only has the new logo and branding uplifted the kerb appeal of the Duster, but Dacia has also rejigged the range. The entry-trim level is now the basic Essential, which starts at £17,295, followed by the Expression trim, priced from £18,295. Next up is the £19,795 Journey, with the range topped-out by the Extreme, which starts at £20,295.

The Expression spec looks like it ticks all the boxes when it comes to maximising price and kit. Standard bits and bobs include an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with smartphone connectivity, six speakers and DAB radio, plus there’s also front and rear electric windows, remote central locking, automatic air conditioning, rear parking sensors with a camera, plus 17-inch alloys.

The Duster Expression, with the base 0.9-litre three-cylinder engine, will cost you from £17,295. If you’d rather have the punchier — and my preferred — 1.3-litre unit, the price rises to £18,295.

Simplicity remains a core word when reviewing the revised line-up. Sticking with the Expression trim, the only options available are a spare wheel for £300, or the choice between five different colours, all costing £650. Stick with the standard white paint and you don’t pay anything extra.

What are the main changes in the facelift?

To be honest, they are very modest. Essentially, it’s all about the rebranding, because the engine line-up and technology are unchanged. That said, Dacia would rather we viewed the bigger picture, as simultaneously the Sandero and Jogger have also benefitted from the rebranding.

Right, so what’s the appeal of the Duster?

On sale now for 10 years in the UK, the Duster in many ways is, probably, the car you would choose to buy if you paid no attention to the badges on the actual car or SUV you currently own. Forget badge snobbery. It’s that simple.

And simplicity sums up the Duster. With its almost Tonka-toy exterior styling, the 2023 Duster retains the company’s familiar recipe of merging proven Renault engines and underpinnings with a chunky-looking body and rugged interior.

What’s not to like? Not much, it would appear. Since its launch, more than 2.2 million models of the chunkily designed Duster have been sold around the world. And Dacia has paid attention to feedback it has received from its customers. The result is better quality and equipment levels across the entire range.

What about engines?

There’s quite a choice. Three turbocharged petrols — the TCe 90, TCe 130 and TCe 150 — are available, plus a single turbodiesel (Blue dCi 115). Just for good measure, there’s also a Bi-Fuel TCe 100 version which uses LPG as well as regular petrol. The facelift sees it upgraded with a larger tank to extend the range by up to 155 miles.

The most powerful petrol model is now available with dual-clutch automatic transmission, while the diesel remains manual-only. It is though available with the option of four-wheel drive.

And while there’s no doubt the Duster is an SUV, it’s lightweight in the true sense of the word, with the entry-level petrol model tipping the scales at just 1189kg. Opt for the diesel and weight rises to 1,308kg, with the 4WD heavier still at 1,413kg.

But stick with the lighter models and you’ll benefit from the resulting friskier performance, nippier handling and lower fuel bills.

What’s the performance and handling like?

Pretty impressive. Ok, the entry-level TCe 90 with its 999cc three-cylinder engine develops just 89bhp, has a top speed of 103mph and takes 13.1 seconds to cover 0-62mph. But step up to the TCe 130 or 150 and things improve dramatically. Both use the 1.3-litre four-cylinder unit and deliver 128bhp (120mph/10.6s) or 148bhp (124mph/9.7s) respectively. Plus, the turbodiesel returns 53.8mpg.

Handling-wise, it can actually be fun. Being light for an SUV, not only is it keen to change direction, it can even be quite a delight to steer down a twisty road. That steering is precise and well-weighted, and with its generous ground clearance, the Duster is capable of tackling some off-road stuff. Worth remembering the 4x4 is only available with the diesel in Extreme trim.

But it’s the 1.3-litre inline-four petrol which most buyers will opt for. Only slightly less economical than the much less powerful three-cylinder, the 1.3-litre 128bhp, mated to a six-speed manual gearbox delivering power to the front wheels, returns 49.6mpg.

And what about the cabin?

If there’s one thing the Duster certainly doesn’t scrimp on, it’s cabin space, and even given the car’s modest footprint, there’s a good amount of rear legroom. Boot space? Starting at 467 litres, this rises to an impressive 1,623 litres when you drop the 60/40 split rear seats.

As for quality, it’s unlikely you’ll question what Dacia has achieved, especially at this price point. Everything is well-placed, plus the infotainment screen is clearly laid out and easy to use. It does the job just fine.


If ever there was a car which overdelivers at what is essentially an underpromising price, then look no further than the Dacia Duster. Cleverly sharing body parts from elsewhere across the Dacia range, plus utilising engines and platforms Renault has long-ago used in other models, the price has, thankfully, remained low. Standards, trims, performance and fuel figures in contrast have been raised.

Sure, some may suggest it’s a tad unrefined, a bit slow and lacking some available active-safety systems. But that’s only when set against rivals costing at least twice as much.

Remember, you can have a perfectly acceptable, well-performing, well-specced Duster for £18,295.

Yes, it’s cheap, but not in a way that insults your intelligence. Rather it makes you feel you’ve got one over the establishment. If you want to beat the system, try a Duster.

SPEC PANEL: Dacia Duster Expression 130 TCE 4x2

  • Price: £18,295
  • Powertrain: 1.3-litre 4cyl petrol
  • Power: 128bhp
  • Torque: 240Nm
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • Top speed / 0-62mph: 120mph / 10.6secs
  • Economy: 49.6mpg
  • CO2 emissions: 168g/km

About the Author

Jim McGill