The Renault-Nissan Group can do wonders with platform sharing when the company's engineers are being controlled by its financial advisers, with cutting costs being the Number One priority.
When we drove the Nissan Juke, we couldn't believe that it was based on a, albeit modified, Micra platform, especially when talking about off-road handling. Well, in the Duster's case, the gap between it and the donor vehicle of its platform, the previous generation Renault Clio, is even bigger.
A few chapters ago, we said that the Duster is the Dacia's most advanced vehicle and by that we didn't mean that it's got features like adaptive cruise control or direct petrol injection. What we wanted to say is that, for example, this is the first Dacia to ride on independent all-round suspension and use a six-speed manual gearbox.
While the platform does its job really well, we can't say the same thing about the engine. The 1.5-liter dCi diesel unit delivers 110 hp at 4,000 rpm and a peak torque of 177 lb-ft (240 Nm) at 1,750 rpm.
The unit itself has a good specific output, and the Duster itself can be considered a pretty light crossover at 2,822 lbs (1,280 kg), but put them together and the result will be a slightly underpowered car.
So, the 1.5 dCi should be a bit more powerful, but what about its other assets, does it compensate through efficiency or refinement? No and no. This is one of the least refined modern diesels we've driven, with the unit being an audio exhibitionist. As for the fuel efficiency, we would've expected more from the combination of a relatively light body, a short-ratio six-speed manual and a downsized diesel engine.
While the city fuel consumption is just a little higher than the one we thought we'd get, the highway one is larger by larger margin, and we think that in the lack of a more potent engine, which wouldn't have to be pushed so hard for open road driving, the car could at least use longer ratios for fifth and sixth gears.
However, since this engine is also present on a number of Renault and Nissan models that are both heavier and more pretentious, we can't really complain. As for its gearbox, this takes some time getting used to, due to its extremely short ratios, but apart from that and the highway efficiency suggestion we made earlier, it works great.
First gear is extremely short, as Dacia wanted this to be used for off-road driving - the vehicle wasn't fitted with a low-range due to the financial and weight disadvantages that would've brought.
Further down the power line, we find a non-permanent four-wheel drive system. Borrowed from Nissan, this can be controlled via a knob in the cabin and offers three modes: "2WD", which means that only the front axle handles the power, "Auto", where up to 50 percent of the power is sent to the rear when this is necessary and "4WD Lock", which means that you get full-time all-wheel drive.
While it's best to leave the system in "Auto", if things get really serious, you can use the permanent AWD function, which turns the car into a really fun one. This allows you to perfectly balance the vehicle and you can even use the throttle to let the back slide in certain situations, if you turn off the ESP, of course. All in all, the system works brilliant in any conditions and can be considered the most advanced part of the car.
Speaking of the ESP, we have to tell you that it's fully disengageable ,so you can play off-road and when it's on it's extremely eager to keep the car on track, which means that you'll have no trouble getting over the most difficult driving conditions without having to fear that the car slides. There's just one thing that's wrong wit it: the poor ergonomics of the controller place it in a spot that's difficult to access for the driver, somewhere in the right lower extremity of the center console.
We tested the car during one of the harshest winters the last few decades has ever brought and experienced the most extreme snowfall this season, one the closed many roads and left a lot of people isolated, but each time, whether we're talking about snow-covered tram lines in the city or icy roads, the system kept the car on track despite our violent efforts to trick it, efforts that came at dangerous speeds. For this kind of car, this is one of the nicest tech toys to have.Continue reading
DACIA Duster technical data summary
Engine: L4 cc 1461 cm3 diesel
Dimensions: 169.9 in/ 4315 mm length / 71.7 in/ 1821 mm width / 64 in/ 1626 mm height
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