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Dacia Duster – New Model

By autotech-nath on June 1, 2024

What technology do new car owners expect to feature within the lower end of the market? Rob Marshall looks at the forthcoming third-generation Dacia Duster to find out.

It cannot be denied that Dacia (‘Datcher’) has seen remarkable success, since it was lifted from its native Romania and expanded into a new range of models beyond rebadged Renault 12s. While the new models were restyled, they featured relatively old-tech Renault running gear but this did not impede their success. Budget-conscious new car buyers in Europe lapped them up to such an extent that UK sales were delayed initially.

Good news!

The Duster SUV has been a particular success for Dacia. It was unashamedly a tough, honest little car. Yet, it needed a sharp new suit. Projected to launch in the UK later this year, the third generation provides the budget car with sharper styling and upgraded mechanicals.

While its parent company, Renault, is focussing on providing affordable Battery Electric Vehicles, this does not preclude Dacia. The all-electric Dacia Spring is also scheduled for UK launch later this year, billed as Europe’s most affordable EV. Yet, the new Duster will not be all-electric but it will be electrified. To suppress costs, the new car will rely on existing Renault technology. There is much to commend for retaining well-proven engines and transmissions, especially from an aftermarket repair standpoint.

Even so, the running gear is not that old. The basic offering is a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol mild-hybrid, mounted transversely. The TCe 130 is turbocharged and employs

the Miller cycle to reduce pumping losses and enhance efficiency. A conventional 48-volt Belt Integrated Starter Generator (BISG) assists the engine during acceleration and provides the hot-start function. A 0.8kWh battery is employed with a conventional six-speed manual transmission on both two and four-wheel-drive versions.

A high-voltage series-parallel hybrid option is badged HYBRID 140 and utilises a tried-and-tested 4-cylinder, 1.6-litre, petrol engine that develops 94bhp. It also possesses two electric motors, one of which is a high-voltage BISG. The 230-volt battery is rated at 1.2 kWh and is shared with the current Renault Clio, although the higher capacity battery, used in larger plug-in Hybrid Renaults, is not available – at least for the time being. Dacia claims that its high energy recovery capacity makes it possible to drive in all-electric mode up to 80% of the time in urban conditions. HYBRID 140 is available only with an automatic gearbox, which is Renault’s unique E-Tech friction clutchless dog-clutch transmission. This possesses four ratios for the engine and two for the other high-voltage electric motor, which is situated within the transmission casing.

As is the current fashion, an LCD screen replaces dials in the new version.

A potential smear-fest of a touchscreen dominates the fascia but at least Dacia includes logical physical switchgear for the HVAC system.

The long-lived 1.5dCi diesel engine has gone, replaced with a 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine that runs on LPG. While Dacia claims to be the only carmaker to offer a dual- fuel option on all of its combustion-engined vehicles, under the ECO-G brand, it is unclear whether this option will be available in the UK. One reason is the fast-declining number of LPG stations in this country.

The e-tech automatic transmission houses the main high-voltage drive motor on the HYBRID 140 version. This transmission is unique to the Renault Alliance group and is protected by over 150 patents.

All change…

The old B0 platform has also been replaced for the first time in the Duster’s history. The new car has inherited the Common Module Family CMF-B, a five-year-old chassis that is shared with other recently-modernised Dacias, as well as various Renault and Nissans, Clio and Juke included.

On the outside, the plastic cladding is produced from a new product, called Starkle, a Dacia innovation. This includes the underbody shields, wheel-arch linings and bumper inserts. This material contains up to 20% reused polypropylene and is unpainted. While this keeps the environmentalists happy, the lack of paint means that, should the plastic get abraded, the resultant scratches are less obvious. Very practical. Very honest. Very Dacia.

Meeting expectations…

The interior has also evolved to match modern expectations. Gone are analogue dials, replaced with a pair of LCD screens, a change that is not necessarily for the better. As with most modern cars, software is a primary driver and the budget Dacia is configured for over-the-air updates.

Traditionalists will be happy that a manual gearbox and a physical handbrake lever are still available on the forthcoming Duster.

Not that long ago, ADAS equipment was relegated to only the most expensive vehicles. Yet, the new Duster boasts automatic emergency braking that can detect not just other cars but also bicycles and pedestrians. Traffic sign recognition and speeding alerts also feature, along with rear parking assist, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, driver attention alerts and the mandatory eCall emergency telephone system. As such a comprehensive safety suite features on a price-conscious mainstream vehicle, it emphasises that aftermarket garages should consider ADAS calibration training and equipment necessary for their survival.

However, much hangs on the price. New car inflation has risen considerably over the past few years but Dacia has been reported as stating that the third-generation Duster is “The best bargain on the market.” Although the pre-launch starting price of £17,500 appears high, consider that the Chinese-built MG ZS 1.5-litre petrol non-hybrid is priced at over £18,000. It is attracting interest, too. Almost 6,000 UK buyers registered interest in the new Duster, in a little over one month after it was announced.

Starkle is a paintless plastic cladding, used in various places on the Duster. It contains up to 20% reused polypropylene and is entirely paint-free, which helps to reduce the production process’s carbon footprint. For ecological reasons, Dacia has also avoided using leather and decorative chrome in all its models.


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