LET’S get two things straight before we carry on. Firstly, if it wasn’t for badge snobbery, the Dacia Duster would sell in far greater numbers. Secondly, having driven quite a few of them, especially the AWD versions, there’s nothing remotely wrong with them. Granted, if its luxury, prestige and power you’re looking for, then the Duster ain’t for you. But if you’re looking for an SUV, crossover or small, practical estate car at a price that appreciably undercuts the rest and, in AWD guise, exceeds all off-road expectations, then Dacia’s Duster ticks all the boxes. There’s even a two-seater commercial version.

Forestry Journal:

Now more refined both inside and out, a new grille and revised front end, a more obvious skid plate, faux side intakes and body protection, satin Duster scripted roof rails, more distinct LED lighting and bolder, more curvaceous lines have given the Duster a more pronounced presence, with 16” alloys and 215/65 tyres enhancing stance and roadholding. Although the 2WD as tested will rarely venture off road, it still benefits from the 210 mm ride height and the same MacPherson strut suspension that it shares with the AWD version along with the Logan and Sandero models. The difference is at the rear, Dacia’s BO platform allowing for an H-Beam that increases boot space.

The cabin reflects the Duster’s down-to-earth purpose in life, although this is far from detrimental. Simple textured surfaces make up most of the trim, although gloss black piano inserts have now found their way into certain areas. Soft fabrics upholster the seats and thicker carpets reduce road noise, adding to the cabin’s atmosphere.

Forestry Journal: New rear lights seem to have been inspired by the small Jeep.New rear lights seem to have been inspired by the small Jeep.

A thick leather-rimmed steering wheel sits in front of the basic but informative instrumentation and central seven-function readout, whilst the Medianav 7” multi-function central screen sits between the five large vents that stretch out along the dash. Rudimentary it might be, but the satnav works reasonably well, as do the Bluetooth and various other functions.

One point of note is the new, larger-speaker sound system; the quality is brilliant given the no-nonsense detailing of the Duster’s cabin. Head and shoulder room is spacious enough for five. General stowage is passable; a concealed drawer underneath the passenger seat plus a generous glovebox, although deeper cup holders would be an improvement. Cargo capacity varies between 445 litres rear seat up to 1,623 litres rear seats folded, with an additional 1,400 kg towing ability.

Forestry Journal: The new SCe petrol engine is cleaner and slightly livelier.The new SCe petrol engine is cleaner and slightly livelier.

The new Renault engines are evenly split between the SCe 1,598cc 4-cylinder petrol units and the 1,461cc 4-cylinder Blue dCI diesels all mated to 5 or 6-speed manual transmissions in either 2WD or AWD, the engine on test being the petrol driving the 5-speed gearbox. Drawing from a 50-litre fuel tank, 34 mpg was the average consumption extending to 40 mpg on extended motorway runs. Power is an adequate 115 hp with 156 Nm of torque, which translates into a steady-away 0–62 mph of 11.9 seconds and a 107 mph top speed.

Forestry Journal: The new interior is family friendly, easy to keep clean, fuss free and most importantly spacious and comfortable.The new interior is family friendly, easy to keep clean, fuss free and most importantly spacious and comfortable.

The Duster driving experience is relatively pleasant, the view clear and uninterrupted. Just over three electric power-assisted turns take the Duster from lock to lock and provide a 10.2 m turning circle. The ride is smooth, even over the now familiar potholed surfaces and the rougher tracks that are more or less the limit of the front-wheel drive’s adventurous excursions. Road noise and cabin intrusions are minimal to a level the Duster easily surpasses more expensive vehicles. And apart from slight body roll during tighter or faster cornering, the Duster remains neutral under most circumstances.

Forestry Journal: New exterior detailing, 16” alloys and 215 rubber give the Duster a new, beefier look.New exterior detailing, 16” alloys and 215 rubber give the Duster a new, beefier look.

Price-wise, the Duster range starts at £9,995 for the basic petrol-powered model, rising to £18,695 for the AWD, 6-speed diesel; the Comfort SCe 115 4x2 seen here, including metallic paint, full-sized spare wheel and a satnav that knows its way around Europe – all yours for £14,130. All prices are inclusive of Dacia’s three-year or 60,000-mile warranty. It also has to be remembered that, like all Dacias, the Duster enjoys full Renault backup, since inherently that’s what a Dacia actually is.

Free of the various boasts, often unneeded accessories and supposed must-haves – unless you can’t live without air suspension, leather trim, an SUV that’s fully self-aware, huge wheels with tyres that are next to no use away from smooth tarmac, preheat, seats that massage the driver and a price tag that gives your bank manager sleepless nights – the Duster is the most common-sense vehicle of its type. And I’ll say it again, I genuinely like them!