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Is the super cheap Dacia Duster safe?

The Dacia Duster is cheap – too cheap, some say. The ‘shockingly affordable’ SUV launched in the UK for a starting price of £8,995, but it’s come under fire from some quarters due to concerns about its safety.

According to Which, the Dacia Duster budget SUV is a potential accident waiting to happen.
According to Which, the Dacia Duster budget SUV is a potential accident waiting to happen.

Amongst the car’s most vocal critics is Which. The consumer looker-outers have slapped a “Don’t buy” warning on the Duster and have warned people in no uncertain terms to steer clear, insinuating in a recent article that the budget SUV is a potential accident waiting to happen.

The Renault-owned brand achieved a seemingly respectable 3 star industry-standard Euro NCAP crash test rating, but Which believes there are underlying issues – mainly its lack of active and passive safety tech – that make it a risk to passengers and pedestrians alike.

Which criticises the fact the Duster only comes with four airbags, when most modern cars come with six or more. It also raises concerns about the fact the Duster doesn’t come with electronic stability control (ESC) — technology that can detect and prevent a car skidding out of control — as standard. It also had something of a bee in its bonnet about the Duster’s front end, which doesn’t crumple as well as it might in the event of a collision with human flesh.

Which raises valid points, but it isn’t all doom and gloom for the Duster. 3 stars may look average, but a 3-star SUV is still likely to be far tougher than a 5-star supermini or hatchback, as Euro NCAP’s star ratings are only comparable across vehicles of a similar size.

The lack of airbags wouldn’t be a complete dealbreaker for us, either. According to Euro NCAP, the Duster offers good levels of protection for those riding on board, scoring 74 and 78 per cent for adult and child occupant protection, respectively – better than a Jeep Compass.

Getting run over by a Duster is going to sting, but according to Euro NCAP, the car’s bonnet provides good protection in most areas likely to be struck by a child’s head. It’s mainly taller, adult pedestrians that should worry – i.e. people that should know better than to leap in front of an oncoming SUV.

The lack of ESP is a potentially more serious issue, but the technology is available as an optional £350 extra for buyers that want it – but only on the more expensive diesel models. To get a Duster with ESC, you’ll need to splash out nearly £12,000. It’s a far cry from the headline grabbing £8,995 of the entry-level Access model, but it’s still a damn sight cheaper than its rivals.

So is the Dacia Duster dangerous? Well, that depends. If you buy the cheapest model and get into a spin, then you could be up a very smelly creek with a very small paddle. Likewise, if you’re hit by one, it’s pretty safe to say it’ll leave a mark. But if you happen to be riding in one, then you’ll be safe enough, particularly if you’ve spent a bit more on the Ambiance or Laureate versions and ticked the ESC box on the options list.

We’d have to disagree with our friends at Which on this matter. The Duster is cheap, drives well, and is safe enough. Do buy it.

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