We love value for money purchases at AROnline, and no new car sums-up this philosophy so well as Dacia. John O’Sullivan tries one for size in Ireland, and comes away impressed…
…and questioning whether Chinese-owned MG should be attacking our market in the same way.
For anyone who has been on holiday in Europe over the past few years, the Dacia brand will be very familiar. It’s Renault’s cut-price marque, which has been steadily carving out a loyal following over the past number of years. The company’s USP simple – to offer customers who value good pricing, reliability and a back-to-basics motoring a viable new car to put on their drive way.
Now the time has come for Renault to introduce Britain and Ireland to Dacia. And to spearhead its launch into right-hand drive markets Dacia will be using the facelifted Duster and Sanderos. Currently the Sandero is unavailable to test drive, but I did manage to bag a long drive in a LHD pre-facelift Duster at Blackstone Motors Drogheda in County Louth.
There’s always a certain excitement when a new marque (or a familiar friend comes back – MG) enters the price lists, and the Dacia Duster is no exception. It’s also justified, as the Duster is the perfect car for today’s buyers in today’s climate of austerity. To say it offers a bang for your buck is an understatement.
The Duster is a solid-looking car, but not at all imposing. It’s also very functional, and gives you a confidence that the bargain price doesn’t reflect the quality of the car. All doors open wide, providing easy access, while the boot is a nice square size and shape. It’s perfect for families who will be in and out of the car on a regular basis throughout the day.
There will be a few changes for RHD models, such as an integrated stereo, window switches on the doors and improved interior plastics. The seats are comfortable and offer support, and in fact I have a sneaking suspicion that they are lifted straight from a 2001 Megane – including the dashboard plastics. There’s oodles of space for both front seat and rear seat passengers, too. Handling is also more than acceptable. The car drove well over a mix of roads, from winding B-Roads to motorways, and bumps and dips are dealt with easily by the Duster. This isn’t surprising given it’s raised ride height.
At this point you might be asking why I’m writing about this on a British car website. Well there are a number of reasons – a very successful competitor and relative – the Nissan Qashqai – is built in Britain for starters, and I reckon the Duster is going to tap into it’s success. I don’t think it will harm it however but it will certainly compliment it very well.
More importantly I started out my Dacia odyssey with a little race: I requested a brochure and test drive for a Duster and an MG6 at the same time. And I was sitting in a Duster within 24 hours, but I’m still awaiting an acknowledgement from MG. In fact Dacia went out of its way to help – I test drove the very first Duster available to any dealership. Even the salesman hadn’t test driven it before me, but he still ensured everything was right. And it was.
It’s the first pleasant experience I’ve had in a long time at a main dealer. I personally think the Duster is showing up the failings of the MG clearer than ever now. Both use old school technology, both are from ‘developing’ markets and both have cheaper interior plastics than we would like. But here’s the important difference – the Duster comes with a price tag which makes all of this acceptable – and sadly the MG doesn’t. In fact, the Romanian car shows just how overpriced the MG is.
I can confirm dealers have very tight margins on the Duster but I can also confirm they are very eager to do business.
So overall what are my thoughts about the Duster? I think it’s the perfect car at the perfect time with a very attractive price tag. So much so I’m considering selling my Rover 75 and purchasing my very first brand new car. I’d encourage everyone to go and have a look and see what you think of the Duster. It’s not perfect but it’s very easy to forgive with the price tag.
It’s back to basics motoring, and giving private buyers what they need.
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
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