Dacia Duster Proves Haters Were Wrong All These Years, This Is Why

People throwing mud on the Dacia Duster in the world's first Mud Wash 27 photos
Photo: Dacia
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Earlier this week, we reported an impressive sales milestone for the Dacia Duster, which was sold in two million units on a global scale. I do not know about you, but I feel that a few things slipped under the radar here, and this article is meant to underline what I believe many people have missed.
First, the Duster has proved naysayers wrong, as it undeniably became a sales success. When it was first unveiled back in 2009 and launched at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, some critics on the Internet had their way in the comments section of many websites. I went back to articles from 2009 and 2010 about the Duster to have a laugh. I was not disappointed.

People complained about design, standard equipment, lack of availability of more powerful motors, and price. What many failed to realize then was that Renault has managed to offer the most affordable SUV in its class through its Dacia arm. The French marque can still pride itself on this fact even 12 years after the launch of the Duster, which is an impressive achievement.

It is ironic, to say the least, that some people felt the need to comment that the Duster was expensive when it first came out, even if it was the most affordable in its segment. What is incredible is that Dacia has managed to keep its price under control even after so many years and a generation change. It is genuinely impressive, as pricing has gone out of hand for most vehicles on the market.

While Dacia has adjusted pricing for its range each year, along with minor changes here and there occasionally, the Duster continues to be the most affordable SUV of its size.

Only the Suzuki Jimny is more capable in off-road conditions at around the same price as a Duster in 4WD trim, but it is no match for the Duster in interior space, practicality, and how it drives on the road.

It is fascinating to see that no other manufacturer has even bothered attempting to offer a more affordable SUV than the Dacia Duster. Many have tried to offer smaller crossovers at a lower price through various promotions, but no legacy manufacturer has managed to offer a more affordable SUV in this segment than the Duster. If the said model is more affordable, can it still drive off-road as well as the Duster?

Feel free to contradict me in the comments section, but be sure that the model you are about to mention offers five seats, is available with four-wheel drive, and is not smaller than the Duster. Feel free to use our car compare tool, as that is why it is there in the first place for car comparisons.

2021 Dacia Duster
Photo: Dacia
Sure, the Duster was not the most beautiful car on the road when it was launched, and that can be said about its second generation. It was nowhere near its concept's looks, but few production cars managed to do so.

Standard equipment was not fantastic, but it was enough to get things going. Ironically, most customers of the most affordable SUV offered in Europe at the time chose its most expensive version. This was true in its home market, but figures in the rest of the Old Continent were not far.

Despite criticism on the Internet, Dacia stayed strong and did not start offering a significantly larger-displacement motor, as many asked in the comments section. It would have been against the downsizing trend and would have made it even more expensive, which was a no-go for the brand, at least in Europe.

In other markets, such as Russia or the Middle East, the Duster got a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated gasoline motor that pumped out 140 horsepower and came with a torque-converter automatic transmission, which was a four-speed unit, though. Those engines would not gather too many customers in Western Europe, where Dacia gets most of its sales.

To be entirely fair, there are two things that Dacia has yet to do with the Duster. It is unclear when one will change and if the other will ever change. What are those things?

Well, the Dacia Duster does not have the best crash test safety rating in its class. The marque is focused on staying affordable and will only install the minimum mandated safety equipment while offering only what its customers "are willing to pay." That is not ideal, but the Duster did get sold in two million units in the last 12 years, so it was enough for those customers, it seems. It is alright if it is not okay for you, though.

The other thing that Dacia has yet to offer in this range is a desired configuration that includes four-wheel drive and a modern automatic gearbox, such as a twin-clutch unit. Customers have to choose between the EDC unit or 4WD, but both are not possible.

According to company engineers, it is a limitation linked to the EDC transmission, which is why it is not offered. Dacia thinks that the combination would make the vehicle too expensive, which is why development has not been considered.

It is clear that they know their way of estimating what most people want, so they might know what they are talking about there. Is the Duster perfect? No. It was good enough for two million people, which is what Renault wanted in the first place, so you can call it a success already.
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Editor's note:

For illustration purposes, the photo gallery shows various images of both generations of the Dacia Duster.

This article was not supported by a third party, and the views reflect the author's opionion.

About the author: Sebastian Toma
Sebastian Toma profile photo

Sebastian's love for cars began at a young age. Little did he know that a career would emerge from this passion (and that it would not, sadly, involve being a professional racecar driver). In over fourteen years, he got behind the wheel of several hundred vehicles and in the offices of the most important car publications in his homeland.
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