By on May 7, 2013

It's very round. Picture courtesy Hooniverse.

Readers of TTAC’s Facebook account know that our luxury-and-performance-car-scribe Alex Dykes currently has his hands on the newest Mercedes CLS63 AMG. One of Mr. Dykes’ current concerns is the fact that the $140,000 Mercedes has no “next track” button on the steering wheel. He has a real point there: that’s one of just six buttons that my 2009 Town Car does have on its steering wheel. Of course, the first thing I did when I took delivery of the Town Car was to swap the head unit for a all-in-one Pioneer thingy. So now that button doesn’t work.

But away from the world of six-digit Benzos and the most delightful cream-color-interior Panthers, there’s a little thing called the Real World. No, not the MTV show! The other Real World! And Hooniverse has its fingers on the pulse.

This week, Chris Haining reviewed the Dacia Duster 1.6 Access 4×2. This vehicle, as far as I can tell, is a sort of super-cheap Honda CR-V, retailing for the rough equivalent of $11,000 and offering more space than the aforementioned CR-V and more equipment that the Plymouth Horizon America. It has a high ground clearance for the unimproved roads you’re sure to encounter and there’s very little to go wrong:

It is a utility vehicle. It has acres of space in the cabin and the boot, the interior is easily cleaned- in fact I’d probably get rid of the carpets and fit rubber mats to facilitate interior detailing via jet-wash. It’s a car that makes itself useful in so many ways. Though it doesn’t have four wheel drive, it does have high ground clearance and good visibility for gentle off-road excursions. And, crucially, it’s cheap. Ridiculously cheap, in fact, at £8,995 on the road for the car you see before you.

It’s assembled in Mioveni, Romania, just a short trip through Hungary away from the place where they would prefer not to be bothered with the assembly of the super-prestigious Bentley “Catamite GT” SUV. It seems difficult to believe that in an era where we permit China to make lead-reinforced toys for our children to chew at their leisure that such a thing could not be snuck through the EPA/DOT foolishness somehow.

Such a vehicle might not impress anyone, but it might be just the ticket for the casualties-of-the-disappearing-middle-class, God-and-guns working families who are currently bearing their twin duties of producing the next generation of American-imperialism cannon fodder and greeting their neighbors at Wal-Mart with all the dignity and aplomb they can muster. This thing has to be a better bet than a six-year-old Odyssey with a smoking transmission, right?

Alternately, it could be marketed as the next Cross Lander. Romanian luxury for the discerning few who wear Hublot Big Bangs and Tommy Hilfiger clothing. I can see the TV commercial now:

Our scene starts in the California wine country. An attractive couple in tight focus is driving an SUV. SHE is behind the wheel, smiling through recently Invisaligned teeth. HE is in the passenger seat, gazing at her with beatific beta bliss and holding his IPhone lovingly in both hands. As the DACIA DUSTER PRESTIGE sweeps down the road, with the most recently-built Napa mansions visible in the distance…

VOICEOVER: The Dacia Duster SUV. If your parents didn’t get out of high school, you’ll easily confuse this with a 1970 Range Rover.


Well, it could work. In the meantime, check out the ‘Verse for the latest on this Romanian rat-trap, okay?

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30 Comments on “Steel Wheels: The Baser-Than-Base Dacia Duster Gets A Review...”

  • avatar

    I like the “baser than base” steel wheels on my 12 Honda Pilot LX and 12 Toyota Camry LE Hybrid. When hitting a curb, they don’t crack as easily as aluminum. And, if you do bend them, they are much cheaper to replace. Plus, they are not a theft target.

    My 12 Toyota Highlander has aluminum wheels … including the spare. On East 75th Street in Manhattan ( NYC ), someone stole the spare tire, which was aluminum. The new tire, wheel, and new mechanism cost nearly $1,000.00 … they cut the spare tire off the vehicle at night … in an exclusive east side hood. And, this just occurred just months after my wife hit a curb and wrecked the right front wheel … another expensive repair.

  • avatar

    The Duster actually is very small car compared to the 2013 CR-V. It’s more like a Nissan Versa SUV (similar platform).

    • 0 avatar

      It’s not that small. Don’t know about the CRv (is the CRv built on the Civic’s platform?), but the wheelbase of the Duster is just a couple of inches shorter than a Civic’s. THe upright windows also help in the interior dimensions. It’s a wide car but not too long. It’s smaller than the CRv, but not by much, while bigger than a Ford EcoSport for example.

      • 0 avatar

        The Duster is about the size of 2nd or 3rd gen CR-V (probably closer to the 2nd, BTW).The new one (as with any new Hondas) have ballooned to ridiculous size, that looks even bigger due to its blob-like styling.

        I saw a pair of Dusters when I visited my Nissan dealer a while back (don’t know why they’re there, Renault has its own distributors here), and when it’s started and backed up, I’m amazed at how quiet it was (it’s the diesel version). We’ll see how it would do here soon, it’s all depend on the price vs what you get ratio, of course.

  • avatar

    Jack, if you want your OEM steering wheel audio buttons to work with your Pioneer head unit, go to PAC audio and get a SWI-PS module….great solution!

    • 0 avatar

      This ^

      Also, you can track advance on the cls by setting the gauge cluster display to audio mode and using the up/down arrows on the left of the steering wheel. Due to the fact they are multifunction buttons, there isn’t a dedicated track advance only button.

  • avatar

    Thank you jack! The Duster, and Logan, ARE just what America needs–cheap reliable transportation! It’s been legislated out of existence. Lower income people have no choice but to buy used, and pay more in the long run on repairs.

    The ONLY govt regulation should be of tailpipe emissions–becuase we all breathe the air. If you can afford a new Malibu or Benz or Camry with 10 or 20 airbags, great! If not, you should have a choice of a new Logan (or ‘clean’ 75-85 Rabbit/Chevette/Corolla/Valiant/Fairmont) or a used Malibu or Camry.

    And I bet the Logan/Duster is more fun to drive!

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah why should the gummint concern itself with safety standards such as exploding gas tanks or exploding tires or seat belts on the driver and passenger door that explode open with the door in a crash. Heck, lets go back to the lovely heyday of men and women impaling themselves upon the non-collapsable steering column, right leg crushed by the big-block V8 that was shoe-horned in without thought of it slamming back through the firewall in a crash, and passenger’s head bashed upon the metal, matched-to-color dashboard with the non-safety glass…you get the picture.

      I love the early Rabbits, Capris, Corollas, etc, but you also knew that in a crash with something else, you were going to lose. There just wasn’t anything there to protect you other than its maneuverability and seat belts. In comparison, my still-affordable ’08 Astra has a thick safety cage with crash points, seven airbags, and a host of Gov’t regulated and GM added safety gear that I’m glad to have and was willing to pay for.

      • 0 avatar

        Because the need for something to do next year combined with absolute separation and immunity from the costs they impose means gummint regulators are fundamentally incapable of leaving well enough alone.

        Opening that door one inch, even for something as reasonable as shoulder belts or steering columns without barbs on them, and what you’ve really done is signed away your right to buy a new car that costs less than $16,000 ever again.

        Negotiating with busy bodies is every bit the suicide of negotiating with terrorists.

        • 0 avatar

          And negotiating with people with small minds who relate two unlike things to prop up their strawman tends to be tedious as well. You see barbs attached to something like seat belts but most do not. Gov’t regulations improperly written let automakers for year claim SUVs and truck as not cars, and able to skirt the regulations you are so afraid of. Given the rate of inflation, my Astra cost about the same as a well equipped VW Rabbit twenty years earlier.

      • 0 avatar

        Just exactly how many safety technologies has any part of the government outside the military invented? One could say the same about the EPA and pollution control technology.

        It’d be nice if even a fraction of the EPA and DOT budgets went towards practical research, sort of how NASA worked back in the 1960s or how some of the government labs like Livermore do indeed foster new technologies.

        So tell me, were the founding fathers concerned about tyranny or not?

        • 0 avatar

          DOE has probably done quite a bit of research that has led to safety advances. DOE has also sponsored a ton of research within universities. LLNL which you refer to is overseen by DOE.

          I suspect something like NIH probably has too.

    • 0 avatar

      “The ONLY govt regulation should be of tailpipe emissions–becuase we all breathe the air.”

      Add in all the lights work, are aligned, the tires aren’t bald and the brakes work and I’m right there with you. I’ll even overlook gaping rust holes if the important bits are functional.

  • avatar

    The only stripped out Duster I’d consider:

  • avatar

    Average durability is a problem for this proposition. Suppose we replace the “six-year-old Odyssey with a smoking transmission” with a Caravan. Or RAV4. The value is not there, which is what poor people figured out. They are not quite as dumb as oikophobic NYT readers think.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    There must be a huge market for this kind of vehicle in the US – anyone from Millennial hipsters to retirees looking for something useful to haul grandkids and gardening crap would be interested, with one very big IF – the few parts it has are high quality and it is reliable. Not just class average, but 1991-1996 Toyota Camry grade quality and reliability.

    I try and point out a VX10 Camry if a non-car person asks me about what to buy. I’ll ask ‘how old do you think ‘that’ car is?’ Typical responses are 5-8 years. Correct answers are 17 to 22 years old.

  • avatar

    The Duster has sold well in every country it goes to market, every single one.
    Now that does not mean it will sell in the US, but that does not mean it’s a bad car, does it?
    There is nothing like it in the US market though, a little vacuum to be filled?

  • avatar
    7th Frog

    Nissan could replace the Xterra with this, which I am betting will never seen another redesign. I like it.

  • avatar

    In Brazil the base version comes with those wheels, unpainted bumpers (black) and no roof racks. I think it looks pretty handsome in an industrial kind of way. Here, the value proposition is not so good. I think it comes in at around US$25,000. Doesn’t sell all that well as for that value people are looking for some flash. The resale probably won’t be as easy as for the other models either (for the same reason), but I can say I get it.

    • 0 avatar

      Do they have the rust reputation there that they have in Europe? Hooniverse tested a 4×4 Duster a while ago, and it was rusty with 623 kilometers on the odometer. On another board I saw a story about one with structural rust issues in Austria, and there are others if you look.

      The idea of a lower quality Renault doesn’t excite me.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey CJ! No, never heard of rust issues, of course there’s no salt on roads here. There are coastal cities though… As far as I can tell, a recurrent complaint is noise from the steering system when maneuvering depending on road surface.

  • avatar

    I don’t mind the Duster in other colors its available in, but appliance white makes it look a bit like a meat freezer with wheels. Blue, silver, or gray would be better.

    I also like how they call it a Duster. Likely not in reference to the Plymouth, but to the light, durable, loose-fitting long coat worn by horsemen.

  • avatar

    I think this could come through. I’m curious weather it would be subject to chicken tax. That would take all the value right out. At least not until the EU, US free trade stuff goes through.

    On a side note i love steel wheels. I Just wish the hub caps now adays didn’t have such horrible designs. Oh well it looks better without them.

    I have steelies on my pickup. I love the utilitarian look to them. Plus i can pick up another set on craigslist for 100 any day.

  • avatar

    I’d drive one of these with 4×4. I am just waiting for this sort of thing to be sold in the US. While I wait, I buy used.

    • 0 avatar

      I hate steel wheels.
      My civic has them – and everyday I think I should have got the ex even though the factory alloys where pretty fugly.

  • avatar

    You should get an Axxess – ASWC for your towncar… very easy to get your steering wheel controls to work again…

  • avatar

    Jack: your article was funny, sad and true… all at the same time. After retiring from state service, I got a job at Walmart.

    So, your observation rang oh-so-true to me: “casualties-of-the-disappearing-middle-class, God-and-guns working families who are currently bearing their twin duties of producing the next generation of American-imperialism cannon fodder and greeting their neighbors at Wal-Mart with all the dignity and aplomb they can muster…”

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