This newly electrified Dacia Duster still be priced at less than €20,000 (RM 102,000) in Europe.
While virtually unheard of in Malaysia, Dacia has actually become a rather big brand in Europe since its relatively recent popularisation in the early 2010s. Capitalising on its no-frills image, the low-cost Romanian brand under the Renault corporate umbrella is currently offering two of the most popular cars in Europe: the Sandero hatchback and the Duster compact SUV.
And it is recently the latter that has underwent a significant glow-up with its newly revealed third-generation, with the biggest change made to this Duster being that it now sits on the CMF-B platform that underpins Renault Clio and Nissan Juke. A move that brings to the table greater modernity and practicality over the prior B0 base that originally based its first two iterations since its inception in 2009, Dacia is claiming that this new base has enabled an increase of 6% to its cargo capacity and 30 mm more rear legroom, from only adding 14 cm to its predecessor’s overall length.
Aside from the aforementioned practicality enhancements too, this new platform brings with it for the first time a series of electrified powertrains to the Duster. The mild-hybrid option with this new Dacia is currently covered by a turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol-powered Miller cycle three-cylinder mated to a 48 V motor and a 0.9 kWh battery that makes a combined 128 hp, with drive being sent to either the front or to all four wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox.
Those who prefer greater electric drive on the other hand have the option of a self-charging hybrid powertrain that is lifted straight from the Dacia Jogger estate. Comprising of a 1.6-litre naturally four-cylinder, automatic transmission, a 1.2 kWh battery and dual electric motors (one as a 49 hp drive unit and another being an integrated starter generator), this configuration is touted by the Romanian automaker to output a combined 138 hp while reducing fuel consumption by an average of 40% during city driving.
Perhaps the most intriguing powertrain to come with the new Duster though is its turbocharged 99 hp 1.0-litre bi-fuel petrol/LPG four-cylinder option, which features a 50-litre LPG tank under the boot floor. Now according to Dacia, this setup supposedly allows travel up to 1,300 km between refuelling stops both petrol and LPG tanks are brimmed.
Turning towards the outside meanwhile, the new Duster’s exterior aesthetic has been based heavily on the previously seen Bigster concept. To that end therefore, its boxy body has been accented by a generous amount of black cladding made from what Dacia calls Starkle (20% recycled plastic) and angular LED lights at both ends.
Better-equipped variants of the Dacia also nets niceties like larger alloy wheels of up to 18-inches in diameter, in addition to other accoutrements within like a 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster and a 10.1-inch touchscreen. The Duster nevertheless retains its budget ethos inside though, as hard plastics and a polyurethane steering wheel are still to be the norm within this compact SUV.
Though credit where credit is due, Dacia has at least brought the Duster up to date on its safety specs with the standard availability of 6 airbags and a wealth of ADAS features. These include auto emergency braking, traffic sign recognition, speeding alert, rear parking assist, emergency stop signal, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, driver attention alert and automatic headlights.
Dacia has rather cleverly leaned heavily into the accessories market with this new Duster too, with it now being possible to even outfit this compact SUV with an optional Sleep Pack that comes with a fold-out double bed and is accompanied by a table and storage area. A new accessory system called Youclip has also since been introduced by the Romanian automaker with this new model, which in essence is a series of square-shaped mounts positioned throughout the car that owners can buy (or even 3D print themselves) compatible accessories that include a cupholder, bag hook, an induction-charging phone holder or even a portable torch.
Pricing for this new Duster has unfortunately yet to be disclosed, but Dacia promised that this compact SUV will have ‘the most affordable prices in its segment’. The company’s CEO Denis Le Vot has also stated that this new generation will start below the €20,000 (RM 102,000) mark in Europe.
More pertinently to Malaysians though is the hint that Renault may be intending to sell the Duster in markets where Dacia currently does not service. So there might be actually (an albeit minuscule) chance yet for this Romanian compact SUV to rival the Suzuki Jimny over here in the rugged 4×4 niche?