In an era marked by diminishing natural resources, the Dacia Duster SUV stands as a testament to the emerging idea that a product can be deemed ‘sufficient’—even when consumers possess the means for more extravagant choices.
Unveiled in the latter part of 2023, the third generation of the Dacia Duster serves as a prime automotive example of this concept of ‘enough.’ It presents a pragmatic, sturdy, and utilitarian design at an exceptionally reasonable price, all while maintaining its allure as a captivating piece of automotive art suitable for both urban and rural environments.
The Duster’s remarkable success represents uncharted territory for Dacia. Originating with a modest presence in 2010, this compact yet robust model has achieved sales of 2.2 million units, positioning itself to become an icon within the Renault Group, which has owned the Romanian brand since 1999. Over two model generations, the Duster has evolved from being perceived merely as an economical option to a versatile choice suitable for any adventure, reminiscent of a modern-day Fiat Panda 4×4.
While the Mk3 Duster retains a similar length (4.34m) as its predecessor, it boasts a slightly wider track and lower roofline. The ceiling height above first-row passengers has decreased by 10mm, and at the rear by 50mm. According to Durand, this contributes to a slight reduction in rearward driver vision but significantly enhances aerodynamics, reducing fuel consumption, and simultaneously expanding the boot capacity (up 6% to 472 liters).
The vastly improved interior aligns visually with the exterior, featuring repeated Y shapes for a cohesive design. It introduces an innovative fixing point system named YouClip, adaptable in various locations within the Duster. This system facilitates securing a phone cradle near the central screen, attaching a bag to the passenger side of the center console, or even hanging a coat on the open tailgate edge—particularly useful after an outdoor adventure.
The Duster incorporates more sustainable and conspicuous elements, such as the ‘Starkle’ material, speckled and composed of 20% recycled plastic. Remaining unpainted, it showcases its eco-friendly composition and serves as another embodiment of the ‘enough’ philosophy.
David Durand, Dacia’s French design director, notes, ‘We are attracting new customers accustomed to higher-end cars, individuals capable of affording more expensive vehicles. They are turning to us because they question the wisdom of investing substantial sums in a car that might simply get stuck in traffic. Despite their willingness to embrace a more “essential” approach, certain comforts, details, textiles, and finishes remain essential. It’s a new paradigm for us.’
The third-generation Duster, situated on new underpinnings capable of accommodating petrol-electric hybrid engines, undergoes subtle proportional adjustments to maintain a ‘fresh enough’ design for another generation. Durand emphasizes, ‘In conversations with customers, they conveyed, “Don’t alter it too much!” With the [larger] Bigster model arriving next year, it was straightforward for us not to follow the trend of increasing size and proportions with each model replacement. We opted to generally maintain the dimensions of the previous generation, striking a perfect compromise between spaciousness, ample boot space, and practicality.’
The two-wheel drive model sees an 8mm reduction in ground clearance, coupled with energy-saving tires to enhance CO2 efficiency. In contrast, the four-wheel drive version features increased approach and departure angles underneath to enhance the vehicle’s capability in navigating rough terrains. Durand firmly asserts, ‘The Duster is not a crossover; it’s a bona fide SUV.’
Although it may not possess a low-ratio gearbox typically associated with the most serious off-roaders, the Duster remains a versatile vehicle and, in its Mk3 iteration, is more aesthetically pleasing than ever. The model exhibits a more horizontal and visually elongated bonnet, a higher beltline for a robust and well-balanced appearance, and a more vertically oriented front face compared to the Mk2, aiding the driver in better perceiving the vehicle’s edges while driving.
Anticipated to be available for purchase from early 2024, the Duster is expected to have a starting price of approximately €20,400.