Price keeps pushing Duster higher
ROADTEST DACIA DUSTER 1.5 DCI ALTERNATIVE:THERE WILL be a recurring theme, lurking in the background of this road test, which is “but it only costs €14,990.”
For whatever criticisms I may have of the Dacia Duster, and I do have a few, they have to be borne in the knowledge that here is a chunky, passably attractive, spacious compact SUV that you can pick up and carry home for the price of a supermini. In terms of its direct rivals, it’s a Nissan Qashqai for the same price as a Micra, a Skoda Yeti for the money you’d spend on a Fabia.
Needless to say, as with all deals that look too good to be true, it is, in some ways. But the essential fact of the price, and of Dacia Ireland’s introductory offer that will allow you to finance one for €149 a month (including a €4,000 deposit and a €6,000 final ‘bubble’ payment), is undoubtedly true.
So, how is Dacia able to do it for the money? A little history first. Dacia was for many years the Romanian national car company, producing vehicles under the rule of the much-reviled Communist leader Nicolae Ceaucescu. In that period, Dacia struck up a relationship with Renault, building a version of the old 12 saloon under licence – many of which can still be seen circulating the streets of Bucharest – a relationship that would eventually lead to Renault buying a majority stake in Dacia. The idea was, and is, that Dacia uses older Renault components whose investment has already been paid for, builds cars out of them in a low-cost environment and flog them to you and I at bargain prices, giving Renault a bulwark against the ever-encroaching Korean brands and the constant danger of the massed ranks of Chinese cheap car makers.
It’s a recipe that has worked rather wonderfully. Dacia and its various models have been well received in Europe and it’s currently the fourth best-selling brand in France. Its launch here has been somewhat delayed (the Duster itself has been on sale in Europe for two years already) but with that price tag, it could prove to be a canny move for Renault Ireland, catching buyers whose car purchasing power has been eroded by recession and cutbacks.
For your supermini money, you do genuinely get a large family car. Not so tall and wide as to be intimidating in tight car parks and urban manouvres, but large enough to allow one six-footer to sit comfortably behind another and with a spacious 475-litre boot (as long as you stick to the front-wheel-drive models).