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Dacia Duster SE Summit Review

‘Shockingly affordable’ was the tag Dacia first burst on to the scene with in 2013 with the Duster. The premise was simple – a spacious, no frills SUV which cost about the same as a super mini. It was a no-brainer, and we bought into it in a big way, with almost 1,000 sold in its first year here.
Naturally, there were a few sacrifices to be made to be able to offer a car the size of a Qashqai, at a fraction of the price. The basic model was exactly that, with steel wheels and windy down windows in the back. The interior was what you’d politely call ‘functional’, and despite being a decent-looking car, it was never going to be able to offer any sort of badge appeal. Then again, we might have said the same of Kia ten years ago.
Times are changing and so too is Dacia’s image. Five years on, and the Duster is in a different place entirely. There are over 8,000 owners out there now and they seem, overall, a satisfied bunch. There has been very little to complain about in terms of reliability and it ranks consistently high in consumer satisfaction surveys, proving those who scoffed at the idea of a car made from bargain basement Renault and Nissan parts gleefully wrong.
As this fanbase grows, so too have the ‘frills’ available and you can now get the Duster with as many bells and whistles as its competitors, and still save yourself a lot of money.
I’ve just spent a week with the Special Edition Summit model, and am genuinely shocked at how good it is. Shocked because, for a starting price of €21,590 you’ll get as much kit as you’d have to shell out for on the top spec of a more mainstream rival.
This includes a touchscreen infotainment system complete with Satellite Navigation, cruise control, parking sensors, and a reversing camera. It looks seriously smart in the new limited edition Nordic grey, comes with 16 inch diamond cut alloy wheels, extra mouldings on the body and some splashes of orange around the upholstery and air vents which really serve to brighten up that aforementioned ‘functional’ cabin.
It’s still a little hard and scratchy around the dashboard, but this is where you have to keep the price in mind. It’s comfortable. It’s spacious. It’s got a big old boot at 475 litres and plenty of room in the back. It runs off the same well-tested engine 1.5l DCi engine you’ll find in a Qashqai, and costs just €200 a year to tax. It comes with a three year warranty. There’s really not a whole lot to give out about on paper, although it’s poor three star Euro NCAP safety rating remains a disappointing chink in its armour.
On the road, sure, you feel its price a little more. It’s not as refined as rivals. It’s a little louder. The steering is a bit woolly and it’s easily unsettled on a bumpy road. But it’s comfortable, capable, and fuel efficient – especially in the standard front wheel drive guise of our test car. Dacia claim 4.4l/100km, although that’s closer to 6.0l/100km in real life, and still pretty decent. It’s also a totally different experience to the four wheel drive model, which may well be a great value option 4X4 if you really need it, but seems to endlessly scream to change gears. This one makes for a much more relaxing experience behind the wheel.
I wasn’t exactly excited to get in to it, but after spending a week in it with the price constantly in mind, I got out of it feeling completely corrected. For a family on a budget after a bit of space, I can come up with very few reasons not to recommend it. The Dacia Duster continues to represent good value, no-nonsense motoring at its finest, but now the frills are there if you want them. There’s a new model due to be revealed before the end of the year, and if this Summit version is a sign of things to come, we can expect more shockingly good things from it.

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Taxi driver celebrates 1 million kilometres … or 25 times around the world

JAMES Foley is saying ‘thanks a million’ to his hard-working taxi. No wonder.
It has just put up a million kilometres.
And, with his trusty Ford Tourneo Connect motor still going strong, James, from Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow jokes: “There’s no reason it won’t go for another million.”
So far, he has driven the vehicle the equivalent of:
• 25 times around the world.
• More than two trips to the moon
• 100,000km a year.
• Nearly 9,000km a month.
James bought the 2007-reg seven-seater second-hand in 2008 and the kilometres have been racking up ever since.
Naturally, most of his taxi work has been in the Carlow-Kilkenny area but he does the occasional longer run to Dublin.
The thing is there is nothing unusual about the Tourneo Connect.
The engine, for example, is a standard, straightforward Ford 1.8-litre TDCi turbo diesel.
According to James, it hasn’t given an ounce of trouble over all the years.
He makes no bones about why it has been running so well for so long.
“In my business, regular servicing is an absolute must and I religiously stick to the service schedule – never more than 12,000km between service actions.”
In that respect, he has huge praise for local mechanic Francis Kavanagh, who helps so much in keeping the car in tip-top condition.
James’ rate of mileage means that he has to have the car serviced every six weeks or so.
As you may know, the Tourneo Connect is the passenger version of the Transit Connect van and smaller brother of the famous Transit (a new version of the Transit Connect is due in Irish showrooms in May, by the way).
Ciarán McMahon, chairman and managing director of Ford Ireland, told us: “It just shows what can be achieved when you look after a vehicle’s engine properly.
“I’m sure we will continue to see well-serviced models displaying such impressive mileage milestones.”
However, James faced a unique problem when the car’s odometer reached the 999,999km mark.
The early format digital display on the dash could not cope with the 1,000,000 figure – the newer ones can – so it stuck on 999,999 because the older format did not automatically reset to zero.
How many people ever have the pleasure of having to worry about that sort of detail?
Into the breach stepped main Ford dealer Boland’s of Wexford, to help reset the dials – for free.
It’s back to zero as James goes about his business with a million kilometres under his Tourneo Connect.
Here’s to another 25 trips around the world.
* How many miles/kms have you on your car/van? Let us know: ecunningham@independent.ie

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