NOT that long ago Dacia was the car equivalent of supermarket own-brand beans.
As cheap as they come. Not much thought put into the packaging. But essentially it would do the job.
These days Dacia is climbing the shelves by injecting a bit of style and finesse into its cars. Take the all-new Sandero supermini from £10k.
We’ve already pointed out that it has Y-shaped lights, like a Lambo, and the same engines and tech as a Renault Clio. Everything about that car is better than before.
Now Duster, the £14k SUV, has adopted the same look. Not only that, all future Dacias will be designed by the same guy who gave us the drop-dead Aston Martin Valkyrie and DBX.
Yes, you read that correctly. Brit Miles Nurnberger has just joined Renault’s budget brand from Aston bleedin’ Martin. Oysters to onion rings.
Nurnberger said: “Whether a car costs £15,000 or £150,000, the design thinking is the same. You are still looking for proportions, details, clever solutions.”
And I don’t know about you but I reckon the new Dacia badge and DC emblem, look ace. Edgy. Cool. Tough. You’ll see them on cars from this time next year.
Key facts: DACIA DUSTER
- Price: £18,845
- Engine: 1.3-litre turbo petrol
- Power: 150hp
- 0-62mph: 9.7 secs
- Top speed: 124mph
- Economy: 44mpg
- CO2: 142g/km
- Out: Now
I’m surprised Dacia didn’t get any aggro from DC Comics or DC shoes.
Now let’s talk Duster. Strong, safe, same petrol engine as a Merc, and now with the option of a six-speed auto for the first time. Dacia heard you.
Aside from the Y-shaped lights, you’ll need to be a proper nerd to spot the other exterior tweaks (new alloys, new 3D chromed front grille, black roof rails).
Inside, there’s a new 8in touchscreen, new seat fabrics, slimmer headrests and a high-centre console with sliding armrest, storage bin and two USB ports for kiddlywinks in the back. Again, Dacia heard you.
But the biggest thing to shout about is the monthly finance from £154.
You what? That’s unbelievable. Scrap your posh health club membership and go for a jog around the block instead. You can have a brand-spanking SUV.
At this point, I should perhaps explain the £14k Duster Essential is front-wheel drive, petrol, with a six-speed manual. If you want 4WD, you’ll need the 1.5-litre diesel. If you want comically low running costs, the new Bi-Fuel model (petrol/LPG combo) does 767 miles non-stop. London to John O’ Groats and a bit more.
The LPG tank is fitted beneath the boot floor, in place of the spare wheel, so it doesn’t eat into boot space. And if you want that easy-peasy auto gearbox, you’ll need the higher-powered 150hp 1.3-litre petrol engine.
That’s the one we tried, in mid-spec Comfort trim, and why the sticker price is nudging £19k.
Comfort trim unlocks Apple Car Play, reversing camera, hill descent control, height-adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support, heated door mirrors and more. It’s a lot of car for not a lot of money.
CLIMB IN TO THE ALPINE
RENAULT Group is unique as far as “bookends” go.
At one side, there’s the UK’s cheapest car, the Dacia Sandero. At the other, there’s this rare and wonderful sports car. The Alpine A110.
All sorts of Renault cars and vans, hybrid and electric, fill the space in between.
The car pictured here is the limited-edition A110 Legende GT: 292 horses, rear-drive and as light as a caramel wafer. It likes to dance.
If you can afford one at £62k, get in quick because this is the first and last modern-day Alpine with a petrol engine.
Everything from here on out will be pure electric.
FORD gave the Fiesta a new haircut last month. And now the Focus has had its ears lowered.
Just the usual trim, really: More technical headlights with integrated fogs; individual bumper designs for each spec; and the Ford badge has shifted from the bonnet lip down to the grille. Ford has also smoked the tail lights.
But the big news is inside . . . literally. At 13.2in, that touchscreen is as big as a MacBook Pro.
Best in class and blessed with the latest SYNC 4 software. My Focus is SYNC 3, so I’ll be interested to see what the upgrade brings.
Good to see the ST has had a bit of love too. All-new Ford Performance bucket seats, Hulk paint job, tasty new 18in alloys. No changes to the engine and chassis because it didn’t need it. Plenty fast enough and bob-on handling.
Prices from £22k for Focus Trend. ST from £34k.