Why I Think I’d Like A Dacia

Following on from Sniff Petrol’s review of the Dacia Sandero a few days ago, I locked on to Richard Hammond’s reviews of both the Sandero and the Dacia Duster. The guy behind Sniff Petrol, Richard Porter, is a writer for Top Gear and I’m pleased to say that the charms of the Dacia duo rubbed off on his front-of-camera colleague, too.

DaciaSanderoHere’s Hammond’s review of the Dacia Duster. And here’s his review of the Dacia Sandero.

Neither car is available in Australia and I haven’t heard of any plans to bring Dacia here, either. But I have a feeling that I’d be charmed by one, too. I’m not sure I would ever buy one, but just from reading the reviews above, I feel like I get it when it comes to these vehicles.

I bought two cars last year – an Alfa Romeo GTV6 and a Subaru Brumby. The Alfa is for sale right now and there’s a good chance the Subaru will be on the market in a few months. I have to say, however, that I’ve really, really enjoyed my time in the Brumby and that I see the Dacia models as a modern day equivalent: cars built simply with a specific purpose in mind.

The Subaru Brumby, or Brat as it was known in some markets, is a no-nonsense small ute with a reputation for being able to get in and out of places other small utes would fear to tread. It was (and remains) rock-solid reliable, had no creature comforts as standard aside from a heater and a radio and was (under)powered by a small 1800cc boxer engine.

It’s the little-car-car-that-could.

Whilst my Alfa’s basically been a garage queen the whole time I’ve owned it, the Brumby has been my workhorse. It’s not fast. It doesn’t handle great. It’s certainly not an image-builder. But it does absolutely everything I ask of it and it never complains. It’s the honesty of the car that endears it to you.

DaciaDusterI think the Dacia siblings would be much the same. On the base model Sandero, you can have any color you want as long as it’s white…. and that comes with un-painted bumpers. There’s no radio. No aircon. Just a reasonable amount of room, good modern safety kit and an engine. It’s what the Tata Nano was supposed to be in India only the higher Euro-centric price means you get more car as well as getting a car that you can count on, and one you can actually use.

The Duster has the same simple approach but stump up an extra 2K for the 4WD model and you’ve got a modern day Brumby with a roof and a go-anywhere drivetrain. It’s basic nature and price means that you’re not going to have a heart attack if and when the car actually gets used for its intended purpose.

It’s very refreshing to see a manufacturer placing their pride on their simplicity and value. At a time when manufacturers are busy crafting contrived corporate images based on nothing more than a Don Draper wannabe pitch, Dacia’s basic “here’s a car” approach is more comforting than pants.

And if the Duster and Sandero prove to be reliable, I think they’re a good chance to go down in history with the likes of older VW’s and Subarus – cars that aren’t glamorous but compel you to love them because of their honesty. Cars that are built for a purpose and conduct themselves honestly and against the odds deserve our kudos.

Some people won’t understand that. But those that do will love them.


From the photo below, it looks like the Duster Cult is well underway…..


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  1. I’m beginning to wonder about you. A Dacia? An aging French design stamped out by the thousands in Romania? What ever happened to ‘uniqueness’ and ‘innovation’ and ‘responsible performance’?

    I see your point, however, and it’s the reason that Japanese pickups sell so well here in the US. They are vehicles, as simple or as fancy as you’d care to make them. If I were Hyundai, I’d start competing in that space — they would dominate yet another segment.

    I think that every owner of a performance-oriented car should have a second ‘beater’ like your Brumby or the Dacia (if you must). It makes life easier.

  2. Actually, to be fair to the Dacia Duster, it’s built on the Nissan B platform which is shared by, amongst others, the Nissan Juke.

    In Russia they’re badged as Renaults and are storming in popularity, due mostly to the ride height and relative cheapness and reliability.

    Not a car I would want myself, but I really understand those who do. 🙂

  3. “There’s no radio. No heater. Just a reasonable amount of room, good modern safety kit and an engine”

    Actually, even the basic models come with a heater. You probably meant air conditioning.

    On topic: You are absolutely right, nowadays we have thousands of electircal gadgets and bells and whistles, but do we really NEED them ?

  4. Here in South Africa, the Sandero is rebranded as a Renault and assembled locally by Nissan. They’ve built a UTE version of the Sandero as the Nissan NP200. It is rumoured that the Duster will be made available here as a Renault too, to compliment the Koleos.

  5. Believe it or not kids…not everyone on the planet can afford a serious 5 figure automobile. There are folks who need vehicles like this, and it is nice to see that need being met…albeit if only in a few select markets.

    The point is that if you want/need a NEW vehicle to get you around to work and other places, and you have a limited budget, then you should have choices. Others should not look down their noses at such vehicles, because you just might find youeself in a similar situation some day.

    And at the same time, there are also folks who just do not care about most fancy things on cars, regardless of what they cost, or what their income is. And I am a case in point.

    I leased a 2013 Audi S5 last Fall, and custom ordered it with exactly 3 paid options. One for my auditory senses…and no…not REALLY needed. And two that imporve the overall handling and performance of a performance car.

    1) A Bang & Olufsen sound system…because I travel a lot, and like to listen to good sounding music.

    2) 19″ wheels & Summer Tires…because I want the car to handle to its full potential.

    3) A “Sports Differential” that vastly improves the handling of the car. (see link below)


    I do not care about the keyless entry systems, built-in NAV systems, automatic transmissions, collision avoidance devices, rear cameras, adaptive cruise control, etc., etc.

    None of that stuff improves the handling or performance of a car…just “fluff” that wieghs it down…and takes the driver even further away from having full control of a vehicle.

    Would I own a Dacia? Sure, if I was in the market for an inexpensive vehicle, and if they were available in the US. But for now, my two 1990 900 SPGs fill the “beater” roll quite nicely, thank you. 😉

  6. Sounds like the old ’72 Plymouth Valiant I had back in college with the slant-6 engine. My parents bought it used in 1980 with about 40,000 miles and I drove it for 4 years, then gave it to my brother who drove it for at least 8 years. It only had radio, heat, and automatic transmission. It was not much to look at or drive, but it just ran and ran and hardly ever broke down. And when you did have to replace something in the engine compartment, you could practically crawl in there as there was so much empty space around the engine itself.

  7. I totally agree with you Swade on Dacia. There’s lots of people who could not care less the looks, or fancy gadgets or the brand and especially anything to do with sporty driveability.
    Like my dad. All he wants is reasonably prised all purpose vehicle.
    Dacia is really on to something.

  8. Seems like Dacia are in better shape than the some EV makers.


    First Fisker…now Coda. Coda? They sold a whopping 100 cars. And this was basically an EV Dacia. Who is next?

    Good luck NEVS…Watched an interesting piece on Bloomberg television last week from their Asia bureau, regarding EVs, and other vehicles, that are at the current Shanghai auto show.

    Not very complimentary on EVs at all, and not from Bloomberg, but from the manufacturers themselves. EVs are apparently not in great favor in China these days, but SUVs now are. The companies can’t produce enough of them for the demand in China, and virtually every manufacturer had an SUV on its stand.

    They had brief interviews with most all of the auto company representatives, and to a person, they said that EVs were not ready for the mass market, and would not be for quite a while to come. And that they were not concentrating their resources on them for mass devcelopment.

    Does not bode well for NEVS/SAAB at all. But Dacia will probably prosper.

    1. Coda was aiming for the non-existent downmarket EV customer. Their car looks like something you would reluctantly settle for, given a lack of funds. Unfortunately, their selling price is (was) much too high for something that looks like a used Sentra.
      This just goes to show that Tesla have the right strategy: make an electric car that people actually want, even if it costs more.

      I wouldn’t put much trust in the Bloomberg article. According to bestsellingcarsblog.com, there are only five SUVs in China’s top 50 for Q1/13. It looks like a demand-constrained market rather than supply-constrained. I suspect that the percentage of SUVs will go up eventually, although China seems to be a sedan market for now.

  9. Dong! Went the nail, as Swade hits it on the head again. This is what made the Beetle and the Mini legends. I am intrigued by how certain cars start out as unequivocally utilitarian and mass-market – it’s only a ruddy car, mate, get a life, etc – and then, over time, precisely because of their no-nonsense loveability, they gain kudos. Before you know it, they get turned into an absurdly overpriced post-modern lifestyle accessory for the chronically vapid 21st-century consumer. Anyway, until NEVS make something new – and my inner shallow materialistic Saab-obsessed saddo manchild is sufficiently motivated to buy one – then I would get a Sandero or a Duster as the next car for sure, or a Kia Ceed …

    … except a late 90s 9-5 estate is still a lot cheaper 😉