There’s a new name in the car market: Dacia. The Renault-owned brand will shortly be launching the Duster SUV in the UK at a headline-grabbing price of £8,995.
However, Which? has concerns about the Dacia Duster’s safety performance and has given it a ‘Don’t Buy’ rating as a result.
Only three Euro NCAP stars
The safety testing organisation, Euro NCAP, awarded the Duster only three stars out of five when it crash-tested the car in 2011.
It was particularly critical of the Duster’s pedestrian protection, saying the front bumper and front edge of the bonnet offered ‘poor protection to pedestrians’ legs.’ The bonnet itself was also described as ‘poor in those areas where an adult head would hit.’
Euro NCAP concluded: ‘Scoring only 28% in pedestrian protection and 29% for safety assist, the Duster performs well below the latest level of safety performance demonstrated by other new cars on the European market. It is disappointing that a mother company like Renault does not give safety the same priority in Dacia cars as it does in cars sold under its own brand.’
ESC and airbags lacking
The Duster lacks the level of safety equipment that Which? testers expect of a modern car, especially for a sports utility vehicle (SUV). For example, only four airbags are fitted as standard – most modern cars come with six as standards – and there’s no option to add curtain airbags.
More importantly, neither electronic stability control (ESC) nor traction control is standard. Combined ESC and traction control is an optional extra costing £350 on diesel-engined models. However, ESC and traction control are not available at all, even as options, on petrol versions.
Why is ESC important?
ESC is a vital safety aid that uses sensors to detect if the car’s wheels are starting to skid. The system will intervene in such situations and brake individual wheels to bring the car back into line.
Department for Transport statistics show that cars fitted with ESC have 25% fewer accidents than those not fitted with it.
Which? thinks it is very important for cars to have stability control fitted, as our independent obstacle avoidance tests show that many cars are prone to instability in emergency manoeuvres.
Even with ESC fitted, Which? testers criticised the Duster’s performance: ‘It didn’t do very well in our hazard avoidance test, as the ESC system intervened late and very vehemently. Neither is the traction control system very effective.’
Here is a video of an ESC-equipped Duster being put through the Which? hazard avoidance test: