We tested the Dacia Duster 4×4 (2022), the strengths and weaknesses of the compact SUV

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Like the rest of the Dacia range, the Duster follows the brand’s new codes. Namely, a new “Dacia Link” logo representing a link with stylized letters “D” and “C”. It replaces the old one, which is too associated with a “low value” image from which it wants to detach itself in order to get closer to a spirit focused on nature and “outdoor” activities. It appears on the wheel hubs and grille, whose decorations have been modified according to this logo, in white. Branding is now inscribed on the tailgate and steering wheel with a new matching font, also in white. The Duster takes the opportunity to add electrically folding mirrors and rain sensors to its equipment. It moves the adjustment control of these electric mirrors to the left side of the driver’s armrest and replaces the round ventilation vents with elongated vents. For others, it relies on proven successes and specifically a 4×4 version that we used for our recent test in the Moroccan desert of Agafay. Here are three main strengths.

Gifted off the beaten track

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Dacia Duster (2022) | our Moroccan desert test photos
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Dacia Duster (2022)Credit Photo – AdrienCortesi Photography

The 4×4 version is required to go with the diesel engine in our market. A 115 horsepower 1.5 Blue dCi four-cylinder with a six-speed manual gearbox, with the gear ratio shortened. This is part of a logic of simple and cheap technical solutions to gain valuable off-road skills. There is no need for a transfer case with a dedicated lever thanks to these gears that quickly climb the revs, even if it means making more noise at the same speed with each of them and the sixth gear, equal to fifth of Duster two drive wheels, which are less noticeable on the highway. The transfer of power to the four wheels is carried out by a light electromagnetic multi-disc coupler system, in case of loss of grip of the front wheels, or when switching to “4×4” mode, thus restoring the range of use of disconnecting ESP, avoiding power loss in low-grip terrain above 80 km/h against 50 km/h otherwise. This addition as well as the specific multi-link rear suspension represents an increase of only 89 kg. Electronics take care of the remaining functions, with downhill speed control and hill start assistance. The ground clearance of 21.4 cm, the consequent angles of attack and departure and the protection of the engine cradle by a metal plate under the chassis, like flexible suspensions with long travel, ensure passages in delicate areas with complete confidence. The Duster can also use flood lanes up to 45 cm deep. There are even optional cameras to see around the vehicle what is going on there. The crossing requires some knowledge and skill to get out of it easily.

There are many uses back on the asphalt

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Dacia Duster (2022)Credit Photo – AdrienCortesi Photography

Adapted to dirt, sand or even muddy roads, the Duster 4×4 is also suitable for the safest roads. But also in cities. At 4.34 meters long, its compactness does not make it a pariah of the cities. Its cameras will be used instead for parking. Automatic air conditioning, integrated navigation, wireless connection to Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, cruise control, LED headlights, blind spot warning, everyday life is very easy. Going on a trip no longer causes problems, with a spacious and comfortable bench seat even in the middle, where only the central armrest may be missing. The 445-liter trunk is slightly reduced in the 4×4 version, but remains 411 liters.

Still a reassuring price

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Dacia Duster (2022)Credit Photo – AdrienCortesi Photography

Every use corresponds to a motorization and the Duster 4×4 will not be useful to everyone but whatever the case, the Pitesti SUV is at the right price. From €16,990, it costs a maximum of €26,890 in its most expensive version with options and penalties, which is exactly the same as the Duster 4×4. In view of the services offered, for a new car, it is a bargain.

What can doubt you

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Dacia Duster (2022)Credit Photo – AdrienCortesi Photography

The usual small imperfections of the Duster should not be an obstacle if you are interested in him, because his price is his first argument and imposes some concessions. Minimal however.

The seats could be more padded, the steering more consistent and precise, the gearbox more fluid in its handling. The Duster also exists with a double-clutch box to fix this last point, but not with all-wheel drive. The Duster 4×4 will be noisy on long journeys and its ultra-short first gear is sometimes annoying when starting, which encourages people to prefer starting in second gear, although it is slightly longer than conventional first gear of two-wheel-drive Dusters.

Her chest is also missing a bit, but if you focus on her, it’s because she fulfills a real need for you and few things can distract you from it. No competitor of this size will be as effective and affordable. Competition in any case is generally limited to four-wheel drive in segments close to its own.

to summarize

Two years before its replacement, the Dacia Duster changed its image on its grille with a new brand logo, accompanied by some minor changes. Less than innovative are the off-road capabilities of its 4×4 version. After the test in the desert, back to the three strengths of the Romanian SUV.

Quentin Cazergues

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