Renault is finally introducing its budget Dacia brand in the UK with the launch of the Duster, a handsome small-to-medium-sized SUV.
The entry-level version with basic Access trim is being pitched at what Renault describes as the “shockingly affordable” price of £8,995 and it’s impossible to disagree with the company’s description - most other models at that price level are stripped out versions of super-minis or even smaller cars that offer nothing like as much metal or space for the money. As Dacia’s UK marketing strapline, which threatens to become annoyingly familiar over the next few months, has it: “you do the maths”.
Closer scrutiny of the detailed spec sheets shows that the cheapest Duster is a two-wheel drive car, not a 4x4 - although even specialists Jeep and Land Rover are offering two-wheel drive SUVs these days – and also has a 1.6-litre petrol engine rather than the diesel that tends to be favoured for off-road cars. Air conditioning, once considered a luxury but increasingly viewed as a “must-have”, is not fitted. Even allowing for these limitations, though, the cheapest Duster still looks like a very good deal, and the price gradient through the range isn’t very steep. One step up from the basic 2WD Access is a four-wheel drive version of the same car at a still-keen £10,995. The next rung of the ladder is represented by the Ambiance model, which also gives buyers a diesel engine in place of the petrol, and a radio (not fitted to the Access). A two-wheel drive Ambiance will set you back £11,495, the all-wheel drive version £13,495. A third, top version, Lauréate, adds air conditioning, alloy wheels, a trip computer and more luxurious trim. The Lauréate costs £12,995, or £14,995 with four-wheel drive. All Dusters will have a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty as standard but that’s extendable to five years and 60,000 miles for £395, or seven years and 100,000 miles for £850.
Renault is opening the order books for the Duster range on 28 June, although the first cars won’t actually be delivered for several months. In the meantime, customers are being encouraged to sign up for news updates at Dacia’s UK website (www.dacia.co.uk) as well as Twitter and Facebook. A batch of left-hand drive Dusters is touring the 127 Dacia dealers that have so far been appointed in the UK, and the new car will also feature in this week’s Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Dacia, which has its origins as a maker of Renaults under licence in Romania, has already enjoyed huge success in continental European and other markets. Currency movements and a shortage of supply have previously delayed Dacia’s UK market entry but a new factory coming on stream in India building right-hand drive cars has finally made the launch possible. The Duster is expected to be joined in the UK by Dacia’s small Sandero hatchback at the beginning of next year.