We get behind the wheel of the petrol-engined Duster to see how it compares to the diesel version reviewed previously.

THE current Dacia Duster is the second iteration of the vehicle and will be replaced by the all-new Mark 3 later in 2024. For now, Dacia has pared back the model range, taking the diesel 4x4 version off the market, leaving a choice of two petrol engines with three power outputs and either manual or automatic gearboxes and the option of a bi-fuel gas facility. There are three levels of equipment available (Expression, Journey and Extreme) and a van version too. The 1.5 dci 111 hp diesel is available in the van version, linked to 2WD and a manual gearbox.

The 90 hp petrol engine version tested here is a gutsy three-cylinder 999 cc unit.

The larger 130 hp and 150 hp versions are based on a four-cylinder 1332 cc engine.

Forestry Journal: Good sized boot, but as with most cars the rear seats do not fold down flat.Good sized boot, but as with most cars the rear seats do not fold down flat. (Image: FJ/EW)

Prices for the Duster span £18,295 to £23,695. A more basic Essential at £17,995 used to be available. Two van versions are also available, the diesel at £18,845 plus VAT, and a 150 hp petrol automatic at £20,145 plus VAT.

I was keen to test the 90 hp petrol version just to see how well this wee engine performed in powering the Duster. Shorn of its 4x4 hardware and heavier diesel engine, this version weighs in at 1,191 kg, so this helps the wee turbo engine propel the Duster with plenty of gusto. Three-cylinder engines make a lovely turbine-like sound and are usually keen to rev out. This one is no different, and you have to use the gearbox a lot to keep the engine in its power zone where the turbo is spinning, giving the engine its real power. 


Linked to a six-speed gearbox, this 90 hp Journey version was a pleasure to drive. It cruised happily at high motorway speeds, as the sixth gear is rather tall. And this does in itself become an issue on country roads where the traffic is usually 50–60 mph, in that you are constantly hovering between fifth and sixth gears. Sixth really needs to be doing 60 mph. Also, as the engine is so happy to rev, you often find that is has revved all the way to max where the power runs out, so you have to be handy with the gear changing to keep steady accelerative progress.

The gearbox is a bit notchy and noisy and in many ways I prefer five-speed manual gearboxes if I’m doing a lot of country road driving – like, for example, from Dollar to Lochgilphead. If you do a lot of motorway work then an automatic gearbox is a better bet, providing high-top gearing for motorway bashing and comfy country road cruising, with automatic gear changing letting you enjoy the country road and not having to change gears constantly.

Forestry Journal: Mark 2 Duster – showing new Dacia livery.Mark 2 Duster – showing new Dacia livery. (Image: FJ/EW)

I had a Freelander Mark 2 manual for a couple of years and it was frustrating to drive smoothly on the above-mentioned road. Its engine was noisy until in top gear too.

The Discovery 4 replacement, with its smooth V6 diesel engine, linked to the lovely ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox, is a fantastic alternative for smooth, quiet driving, both on motorways and byways.

The Duster’s gearbox does not need to be so noisy, and when I drive the five-speed Abarth 500 I am reminded how quiet and precise this Fiat gearbox is. It is actually one of the best gearboxes out there. However, apart from that, this Duster is a fine car. I was surprised how nippy it is, though with five people on board and all their baggage it would have to work hard. Also, for towing the larger 130 hp engine would no doubt be better, but it costs £1,500 more and has the same 1,100 kg limit for towing a braked trailer.

The 90 hp Journey version reviewed here is priced at £19,795, with an additional £650 for the lovely orange paint which looks great. The list of standard equipment is extensive and includes auto door locking. On approaching the vehicle, the doors unlock just in time and light up. It locks just as you walk away, too. The engine stop/start was a bit intrusive, and the horn beeped when I got out to open a gate, which was not always appreciated by the neighbours early in the mornings.

Other standard equipment includes Hill Start Assist, which uses the brakes to hold the car stationary a few seconds. Most cars now have this and it is a great addition.

There is also electronic stability and traction control, driver and passenger airbags, front side bags, rear parking sensors and reverse camera, tyre pressure monitoring and inflating kit, outside temperature gauge, cruise control, sat nav, auto aircon, heated front seats/wing mirrors/front and rear windows, auto wipers, illuminated glove box, 17-inch wheels and a soft-feel leather steering wheel. I must say I was surprised how well this Duster was equipped. It has everything you need.

A more expensive Extreme version is available, but is really only a design exercise with black wheels and some plastic moulding. It does however have the unique option of a lovely Cedar Green paint option. It is only available with the larger engines, but costs just £500 extra. A spare wheel for all models is a £300 option which is annoying – who does not want a spare wheel?

The rear seats split 60/40 and the boot is a good size at 478 litres with seats up and 1,623 litres with seats down. It is such a shame when down that they do not fold to provide a fully flat surface. I remember early Subarus had a great interior, as the rear seat bottom tilted forward and the back rests then fell flat onto the lower floor, giving a flat surface and a bulkhead behind the front seats. The fuel tank holds 50 litres.

This lighter Duster does not ride as smoothly as the heavier diesel version, but is fine and handles well. The brakes are good, as are the lights. The doors do not feel that heavy duty, but I suppose the lightness and efficiency has to come from somewhere.

I got around 40 mpg and the official figure is 45 mpg combined and, as with most petrol engines, this figure can vary a lot depending on your speed. The diesels do about 50 mpg but do blow their injectors with age.

Forestry Journal: Dashboard well laid out – heated seat switch hidden down the side of the seats.Dashboard well laid out – heated seat switch hidden down the side of the seats. (Image: FJ/EW)

The Duster is a useful size, being plenty large enough for most purposes but not too big, being 4.3 m long, 2.05 m wide from mirror tips, and 1.69 m high. Ground clearance is a very useful 210 mm, while the 4x4 was 117 mm.

Later in the year, when the all-new Mark 3 model arrives, it will have the option of a petrol 4x4 version. I have seen pictures of the new model and it is very similar in dimensions and looks. With a good set of tyres this 2WD version would still be a useful country car. If it were not for the noisy/notchy gearbox, I would give the Duster 10 out of 10.

So there you have it, the Duster is a likeable, very well designed and useful vehicle for us forestry folk.