A brand new light commercial vehicle is a pretty scarce occurrence nowadays – but the arrival of a whole new marque is a rarity indeed.
Dacia, part of the mighty Renault conglomerate, has been making substantial waves in the car market since its arrival in the UK in 2013. And with budget pricing and reasonable build quality, the manufacturer is now hoping to start making inroads into the burgeoning LCV sector too.
The Duster has been available as a car since 2013, so it has been a fairly simple step to remove the rear seats, block out the rear windows and make a van – meaning fleet buyers will be able to reclaim VAT.
On the face of it, the figures are astounding. The Duster starts at £10,090, although this model is two-wheel drive only. But the meatier Laureate four-wheel drive version on test here still weighs in at only £12,545.
A typical fleet rival is the Mitsubishi Outlander Commercial, which starts at £20,895, a massive £8,350 more. To be fair the Outlander is a bigger vehicle, with a larger cargo area and more power. Wholelife costs stack up well for the Duster too. Over four years/100,000 miles, the Duster costs 23.76ppm, while the rival Outlander comes in at 35.55ppm. The closest model in terms of budget is the SsangYong Korando, at £15,720, with running costs at 29.24ppm. It still makes the Duster look good value.
But the big questions remain. Have the corners been cut? And is this bargain-basement contender really up to the job of satisfying Britain’s fleet buyers? If corners have been cut, it’s not easy to see where. Maybe build quality isn’t quite up to the Mitsubishi and ride and handling are somewhat last generation but, to put things in perspective, fleets could buy two Duster variants for the price of one Outlander.
Our test van certainly looks the part with its macho exterior, but the alloy wheels, air-con and satin chrome side sills all turn out to be added extras, boosting the vehicle’s price to £13,207. Having said that, standard spec isn’t bad, with body-coloured bumpers, ‘Duster’ inscribed roof bars, electronic stability control, tyre pressure monitors, remote central locking and electric windows all in the basic price.
One thing fleet buyers certainly won’t have to worry about is the reliability of the powerplant – it’s Renault’s tried and trusted 1.5-litre dCi diesel unit. And the Duster is slated to return a healthy 54mpg on the combined cycle.
Meanwhile, at the business end, there’s a hefty plastic load tray (wipeable) allowing for a load volume of one cubic metre – exactly half of that of the Outlander. The Duster’s payload is lower too, at 550kg against the Outlander’s 705kg.
All the fixtures and fittings on the Duster feel solid, while the seats have plenty of side support. A central screen displays various pieces of information and a sat-nav unit in our test model, which again turned out to be an added extra at a reasonable £250. The 107hp powerplant produces plenty of oomph, although the elongated gear lever’s action somehow felt both notchy and rubbery at the same time.