Third-generation Dacia Duster gets more rugged while staying cheap


Released in 2010 as a cheap, no-frills off-roader, the original Dacia Duster helped launch the crossover craze in Europe. It has moved slightly upmarket since, and the third-generation model makes its debut with an outdoorsy look and more tech while staying true to its roots.

The new crossover stretches about 171 inches long, 71 inches wide and 65 inches tall, so it’s almost exactly the same size as the outgoing model. Dacia borrowed the CMF-B platform from parent company Renault for the third-generation Duster. It’s a unibody architecture that also underpins small hatchbacks like the Renault Clio and the Dacia Logan, but the Duster remains available with four-wheel drive.

While the overall proportions haven’t changed much, the new Duster stands out with a more rugged-looking exterior design characterized by a tall, upright front end, a generous serving of plastic cladding, and punched-out wheel arches. Some of the trim pieces are made using a material called Starkle that Dacia developed in-house with help from chemical company LyondellBasell; these bits are intentionally left unpainted. Out back, the C-shaped lights are pushed out to the edges of each quarter panel to emphasize the crossover’s sense of width.

Many owners use their Duster as a pair of hiking boots on wheels, so Dacia wisely resisted the urge to pack the cabin with posh features that add cost and complexity. The third-generation model remains highly functional, but it’s not nearly basic as the original. The driver sits in front of a tall, flat dashboard, a three-spoke steering wheel and an available 10.1-inch touchscreen angled to the left by 10 degrees. One of the new additions to the list of options is a Sleep Pack, which includes a big, removable bed platform that turns the Duster into a camper.

At launch, buyers will have three powertrains to choose from. The entry-level engine is a 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine turbocharged to 130 horsepower. Working with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system, the triple spins the front wheels via a six-speed manual transmission; four-wheel drive is optional on this version. Next up is a 143-horsepower hybrid system that consists of a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, two electric motors and an automatic transmission. Finally, an undetailed engine that’s capable of burning either LPG or gasoline will be offered as well.

While the Duster isn’t available with a two-speed transfer case, the four-wheel-drive variant should be more capable off-road than the average crossover. It offers 8.5 inches of ground clearance and approach, breakover and departure angles of 31, 24 and 36 degrees, respectively. As a side note, the Duster also tends to spend more time off-road than the average crossover. In many parts of Europe, these are bought by folks seeking a bigger alternative to models like the Suzuki Jimny, a more modern alternative to the Lada Niva and a cheaper and smaller alternative to the Toyota Land Cruiser. Many countries, like France, use the Duster as fire-fighting and law enforcement cars.

Built in Pitesti, Romania, the third-generation Dacia Duster will go on sale across Europe and in numerous other global markets in the not-too-distant future. Pricing information hasn’t been released, but we’re told it “will continue to fulfill Dacia’s value-for-money pledge.” For context, the current-generation Duster carries a base price of €17,990, which represents around $19,800 at the current conversion rate.

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