IT was not so long ago that Dacia, with its bijou Duster, was championing the cause for a value 4x4.
Like those two well-known German supermarkets, the stripped back packaging and nofrills approach has won over many who are not prepared to raid the piggy-bank for a premium SUV.
However, in the 20 years since Renault acquired the Romanian car maker, it seems buyers’ tastes have changed too. And an increasing number are prepared to sacrifice a little value in favour of some frippery – despite the firm selling more than 120,000 cars in the UK since launching five years ago.
Which brings us to the latest diesel-burning top-shelf Duster model. It boasts a 4x4 driveline, Prestige trim and Blue DCi powertrain.
It will set you back £18,700, or £19,445 as tested here with metallic paint and an emergency spare wheel.
While it does shed a new light on the definition of value, it is perhaps, worth considering the key changes before taking your cash and investing it in a second-hand 4x4.
Dimensions remain unchanged, but every panel is now different, making it more visually appealing.
The range still starts at £9,995 for the 4x2 petrol model in Access trim. Choosing a 4x4 will cost you from £13,595, which gets you into a petrol-powered Essential variant.
If it is a 4x4 diesel you seek, then the Essential’s price drifts upwards to £15,695.
Inside, you find a revised interior and over-hauled dashboard, plus a host of additional technology and safety kit.
Depending on specification, automatic headlights, climate control, multi-view camera and blind-spot warnings are now included, and keyless entry features on this model too.
It will do your head in as you walk away from the car, though, as it locks the doors and emits a muffled peep-peep of the horn every time, to remind you it really is locked.
The 1.5-litre Blue dCi 115 engine is energetic, despite its 115hp and 260Nm of torque, but the delivery is far from linear.
A sharp prod of the pedal will get you see-sawing on a ridge-and-furrow of torque which is abruptly delivered and short-lived.
Low gearing serves to compound the delivery, and you will feel like a truck driver by the time you cross a road junction, having rapidly shuffled through four of its six ratios.
However, its low gearing will save on clutch wear, particularly when pulling away with a loaded trailer, and it is a manual-only driveline.
Prestige trim does bring sat-nav and diamond cut alloy wheels, and a 4x4 monitor incorporates a compass too.
Hill descent control and hill-start assist are also included, but there is a growing sense that such fripperies are included to help justify the Duster’s giddying price tag.
While this Duster is a handy tool for local trips, with comfortable and supportive seats, its compact cabin soon becomes much less relaxing on longer journeys.