As the elites gaze at yet another Dacia Duster drive by, they adopt the 36-year-old words of Queen. Sort of.
“Another one drives the Duster,” Dacia’s latest ad repeatedly says.
“Relax, you can drive one too,” the commercial ends. And if you live in one of Dacia’s mostly European markets, you surely can. The Dacia is priced from only £9,495 in the United Kingdom, less than half the price of Nissan UK’s Rogue twin, the X-Trail.
Romanian automaker Dacia is crafting limited-edition versions of its most popular models and wants its online fans to name them.
To mark the initiative, Dacia brought its first such model — the Swiss market-bound Duster Essential — to show off at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show.
Creature comforts like power windows and doors, alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity and a new specialty body color (which even covers the bumpers!) are what sets these versions apart from their entry-level brethren. It also puts greater distance between the brand and its crude Eastern Bloc origins.
Tim Cain’s article on how the Micra now accounts for 1 in 10 Nissans sold in Canada led me down the armchair product planner rabbit hole, though my conclusion was not the “Nismo Cube Diesel in Brown” that one might expect of an auto blogger. I think that there’s a strong case to be made for the Dacia Duster to be imported to Canada as an ultra-cheap Nissan crossover.
Top Gear and TTAC have been at the forefront of giving you your dose of Dacia developments for some time now, propelled by my strange obsession with this obscure Romanian brand of budget car. Now, Dacia is getting its 15 minutes of North American coverage, with a New York Times feature touting Dacia as “Europe’s Hottest Car”.
Renault launched the Duster in India last year and it immediately became a strong seller. The response to the Duster was so good that the compact SUV overtook India’s best selling SUV, Mahindra Scorpio, to become the segment’s best seller. All was well for Renault until Ford crashed the French automaker’s party with the launch of the EcoSport. Ford not only undercut the Duster’s price by a cool $3000 but also offered way more equipment, helping them to get 50,000 orders in a matter of just two months.
The Nissan Terrano, once a fairly rugged SUV, is now the nameplate by which Nissan will sell a rebadged Dacia Duster in India. How about some exports?
Nearly 9 years ago, a small car from an obscure, nearly-defunct Romanian brand was launched with little fanfare. The Dacia Logan was – and still is – a basic vehicle designed to be sold for very little money and provide honest, basic transportation for emerging markets. Few would have predicted that in nearly a decade of sales, it would spawn Renault’s top-selling nameplate while bringing in profit margins that were once reserved for premium marques.
For all of Hyundai’s successes in Europe, it is conspicuously absent in perhaps the lone major growth segment on the continent; small crossovers. We’re not talking “small” in the sense of the Hyundai Tucson either. Think more along the lines of the Opel Mokka (our Buick Encore), the Ford EcoSport and the Dacia Duste r. Even premium brands are getting into the fold, with the BMW X1, Audi Q3 and the upcoming Mercedes-Benz GLA vying for market share.
Despite being one of the most antiquated vehicles in Renault’s lineup (at least from a technology standpoint), the Dacia Duster is still its most popular. Through the first 5 months of the year, the Duster sold 155,729 units in Europe, besting the Clio (139,397 units) Megane (133,116 units) and Sandero (124,918).
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.
When the Renault Duster came out, I didn’t have to point it out to my wife. As soon as she saw one, she smiled and asked me what car was that. I explained to her that it was nothing more than our very own Logan, which is a sedan, on stilts. I explained how the handling would be worse, how it was less economic than our own car, how the trunk couldn’t hold as much luggage as our car did (but more than its hatch sister, the Sandero can). All to no avail. She listened, interested for once in cars, shook her head gravely, then said the damning words, “I want one.”
Despite being attacked in some circles as symbols of American decadance, the compact crossover is rapidly gaining in popularity. French business outlet La Tribune reports that sales of small crossovers are up 25 percent this year, with crossovers of all sizes now accounting for 10 percent of the car market.