Kiss. No, not the long-lived glam-rock ensemble. We’re talking Keep It Simple, Stupid, which is precisely the ethos that Dacia has adopted for its vehicles, with the Dacia Duster SUV a prime example.
However, what some tow car drivers would describe as ‘simple’, others might call ‘unsophisticated’ or ‘cheap’.
After all, when new, some versions had no radio, nor even paint on the bumpers. All very 1970s. But less stuff also means fewer things to go wrong.
What’s it like inside?
Jumping into the Duster isn’t the driving equivalent of donning a hair shirt. Yes, the budget origins are clear, but it feels like a car you could comfortably do miles in.
It’s reasonably spacious in the front, with good headroom, but a little more legroom would be appreciated.
The story is much the same in the rear seats, where you can sit upright without getting near the rooflining, but your knees will touch the backs of the front seats.
The boot capacity varies depending on the model you choose. There’s more if you go for a two-wheel-drive example instead of a four-wheel-drive model, and space is further compromised if the original owner chose to have a full-size spare wheel.
However, even a four-wheel drive with a spare has 376 litres, rising to 1623 litres in a two-wheel drive with the seats down. Bear in mind that in a bi-fuel car, the LPG tank sits in the well for the spare wheel, so you’ll have a puncture repair kit.
Early entry-level Access models had no audio, but this version was dropped in 2021. Its place was taken by Essential, offering DAB radio with USB, electric front windows and air-con. Moving up the range brings a touchscreen audio system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, electric rear windows and cruise control.
However, a three-star Euro NCAP crash result is something to be aware of.
How does it drive?
There are a few petrol options, with the 130bhp 1.3-litre model the best all-rounder. If you tow regularly you’d be wise to look at a four-wheel drive, in which case the better choice is the 1.5-litre 115bhp diesel engine. Pacey it is not, but it is reasonably strong, and not too thirsty.
The Duster has soft suspension and high-profile tyres, which give it a good ride. The downside is that on twisty roads it’s as vague as a badly briefed politician.
This is a capable tow car, too, winning its class in our 2019 Tow Car of the Year Awards. It’s unfazed by hill starts and stable in lane changes, but that suspension does cause it to wobble a bit in side winds.
If you’re in the market for an inexpensive tow car that will cope well with a smaller caravan or trailer, then the Dacia Duster is a fine choice. So long as you avoid early Access models, it isn’t a no-frills model, either, although it is undeniably a ‘few frills’ option. It should still give your towing experience the kiss of life!
If you’d like to find some more pre-owned towing vehicle inspiration, take a look at our guide to the best used tow cars.
What will it tow?
- Kerbweight: 1480kg
- Towing limit: 1500kg
- Noseweight limit: 75kg
- 85% match: 1258kg
- 1.5 dCi 4×4 Essential
- Insurance group: 14
- Annual VED: £165
- Average economy: 60.1mpg
- Interim/full service: £98/£136
- Servicing prices supplied by Servicing Stop, 0844 324 5262
A full list of recalls for any vehicle can be found at www.check-vehicle-recalls.service.gov.uk, but you will really have no need to look for the second-generation Dacia Duster, because it has been the subject of precisely zero recalls.
This is doubtless partly due to the fact that it uses tried and tested mechanicals, which have already put in long service in other Renault models, added to the fact that the Duster has few systems to actually go wrong in the first place.
What to pay for a used Dacia Duster (2018-present)
- High: Price: £21,500; Model 2018 1.6 SCe Essential; Miles: 2700
- Sweet spot: Price: £16,500; Model: 2019 1.5 dCi Prestige; Miles: 21,800
- Low: Price: £7500; Model: 2018 1.6 SCe Essential; Miles: 84,000
Or you could try…
Suzuki Vitara (2015-present)
Suzuki has a long history of rugged 4x4s (think Jimny), but the Vitara is a rugged 4×4 with a family-friendly, luxury edge. Four-wheel drive was an option when new, and diesel was available on cars before a 2019 facelift. It’s enjoyable to drive, and that square shape offers good interior space.
Standard kit includes air-con and cruise control. Higher models have sat-nav and LED headlights. We included the Suzuki Vitara Hybrid Allgrip in our guide to the best cars to tow a caravan, where we were impressed by the all-weather touring that the vehicle provides.
Citroën C4 Cactus (2014-2021)
The Duster isn’t the only bargain-priced off-the-wall car. The Citroën C4 Cactus is a good choice so long as you tow nothing heavier than a trailer tent. Like the Duster, it has soft suspension, reasonable kit – and a few quirks, such as the ‘Airbump’ panels to stop car park dents. But performance is leisurely, and the 55kg towball weight isn’t as good as the Duster’s.
Kia Sportage (2016-2021)
The Kia is a capable rival for the Dacia. Spacious and great to look at, it also comes with a range of punchy and frugal engines and the sort of kit that Duster owners can only dream of, including auto lights and wipers, dual-zone climate control, and ventilated seats in some models. The Kia had a seven-year warranty when new, so some of this cover will likely remain, too.
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If you tow regularly you’d be wise to look at a four-wheel drive, in which case the better choice is the 1.5-litre 115bhp diesel