Dacia Duster I, the mythical SUV is ready to enter the AlmostCars arena. It’s just that it’s not that much of a SUV. And not so ready.

Like the first time at many things, the first generation Duster wasn’t so shiny either. The Dacia Duster I looked very different from that famous concept and turned out to be a decent car. Not good or great, but decent. The major issue was that Renault didn’t allow the Duster to receive even remotely new technology and had to make due with just an old Renault Clio platform, a tube of Vaseline, and a lot of imagination.

Why did people flock to buy the Dacia Duster I like Sasha Grey tapes?

A lot of people want an SUV. Or at least a crossover or something with higher ground clearance. Wether we’re talking about climbing curbs or looking down on traffic, the idea of a slightly taller but still cheap car like that is more appealing than a night of gaffing 5 minutes at the escorts. In fact, a Dacia Duster I was such a good idea that a lot of people have moved on from the mirage of the German brand. Even Romanians who never buy Dacia have flocked to buy the SUV. Obviously, there are still the real Romanians who have cars with steering wheels on the trench side of the road and Bulgarian plates, but those are without salvation. “Why should I buy a new Dacia when I can buy an Audi from 1845?”


What made the Dacia Duster I so good?

The price was so low that even the romanians could afford it. Every country has a certain standard of living and buying power. If you want to see the buying power of a nation, look at the cars on the road. And there, most of the Romanians are in the 17-20,000 euro range. And the Dacia Duster I is right in the price range for them. For that kind of money, if you want to buy another SUV you go to the dealership and get a tire, a kick in the ass, and a complementary sign that says “Poor”. A Duster these days starts at 13,000 euros in the Patrick Stewart version. A VW Polo starts at 12,750 euros. Not to be a hater, a Suzuki Vitara starts at 14,000 euros. A Renault Captur? 13,350 euros. The guy in the 7 series may be still laughing at the poor guy with the Duster, while being carried on the AA platform, but the Duster just keeps on going. Dacia Duster I, a beer can in a pint world.

On top of the low price, you get the option of 4×2. It’s far too big a discussion for a review so I’ll keep it simple. A lot of people have realized that they don’t need a 4×4 to drive over a pond on the way to the barbecue, nor do they need a 4×4 all year round just to stay stress-free for 3 weeks a year while it snows. If you’re the kind of person who wants an SUV just for looks and driving position, but you rarely go out of town, then a Dacia Duster I 4×2 is a very good choice. The guy in the Range Rover bought from Germany with “original miles” laughs at you while on the AA platform, because his differential broke.


Dacia Duster I Engines


  • 1.2 TCe of 125 horsepower – Coming on the facelift version of the Duster, the turbocharged 1.2 is that chiseled city boy that transforms into a professional runner. What was the word? Ah yes, metrosexual. It doesn’t stand up to stress, it runs on direct injection so it doesn’t go along with LPG…If you need an engine to get around town and the occasional trip outside, it’s a decent engine but that’s it.
  • 1.6 MPI of 105 horsepower  – An antique stolen from the Renault dumpster, the old K4M used to carry the likes of the Renault Clio and Megane. An engine that occasionally eats coil packs but is generally reliable. LPG compatible, if you want to get serious mileage out of it. In my village, there are a few Dacia Duster I’s used as taxis, so it’s possible.
  • 2.0 of 16v of 135 and 140 horsepower – I mentioned this engine out of spite rather. By far the best engine on the Dacia Duster I and should the petrol consumption scares you then there is the LPG option. Like the old 1.6 MPI, it suffers from an acute hunger for coil packs. Why did I list it? Because it’s available in Russia, Asia and South Africa only, and if you want a seriously good Dacia Duster I you can go and import one.


1.5 dci 85 or 110 horsepower – I won’t even consider the 85 one. The 110 horsepower had issues until 2011 with soot build-up due to dubious quality diesel. Great care with the injectors and diesel quality, so you can enjoy the legendary K9K, one of the best modern diesel engines.


Dacia Duster I General Issues

  • As Ceausescu said “No meal without fish”, Dacia says “No car without rust”. Dacia Duster I also suffers from rust everywhere, especially in the trunk area. And as bonus points, it also got a paint job thinner than the morality of a young girl on the couch of a club waiting for her “chosen one”, the chosen one who is usually called Antonio and is 68 years old.
  • The Dacia Duster I is not the safest car possible. The most serious issue is the lack of ESP, ESP which became standard in 2011. ESP is meant to slow the car down if you take a corner too enthusiastically and are likely to roll over, which is even more true of the Dacia Duster I which is tall and light. Sort of like Christopher Judge but in reverse. Oh yes, the Dacia Duster I scores poorly overall in NCAP tests because it has low pedestrian crash protection scores and because the most basic units come without ABS or ESP. For the pedestrian it may not be the best car to be hit by, but you’re safe.
  • There are some features I have some doubts about. I have to complain about those window buttons that have been glued to the center console, but I will also complain about the quality of the eco-leather upholstery. If you’ve ever ridden in a Logan taxi that had an eco-leather seat, you know what I mean. The speed at which that eco-leather makes you sweat is worthy of Star Wars movies. Not to mention that the base versions come with no radio, no air conditioning, no seats, and no windows. 


Dacia Duster I Verdict

The Dacia Duster I is a decent car. Not good, but decent. It does its job admirably and is a very good choice if you appreciate the car and not the brand. It’s not an SUV that will conquer mountains, but it’s an excellent family car that can be all the car you’ll ever need. Dacia Duster I – the 320d of the balkans.

Which engine do I recommend? Clearly, off the top of my head, 2.0 16v 140hp. But since it’s not available in EU, then I recommend the 1.5 dci if you’re going to put it to work, and the 1.6 MPI if you’re just going to drive it around.