In a week where we’ve been subjected to further SUV-related atrocities, we seek comfort in a UK debutante from Romania.
This week’s new offerings from Ingolstadt and the Petuelring are both in their way equally disgusting, each vying with one another to out-pummel and preen, their decadence only matched by a barrenness of spirit as depthless as it is vain. But confronted by a seemingly unending series of vulgar behemoths to emerge from their rocking cradles to slouch towards Bethlehem, where is the hapless commentator to turn?
Is ‘the ceremony of innocence’ drowned or merely drowning? Do we, horrifying as it seems, by mere mention of these heaving monstrosities in some way dignify them? It’s an appalling thought so let us therefore turn our horrified gaze away and seek solace where we can.
In a market of ever-widening polarities, Romania’s Dacia illustrates the virtue and dignity of modesty, having ploughed a quiet, if increasingly fruitful path on the fringes of the motoring landscape since it became part of the Renault-Nissan alliance in 2004. Having suffered a brief tail-off in fortune during 2015, the value brand has since belied forecasters, posting combined European sales this year of 176,098 to the end of April, a rise of 18.5% over the same period last year.
With worldwide sales of 655,235 vehicles in 2017 (up 12.2%), 460,891 of which were sold across Europe, Dacia has subtly become an automotive force to be reckoned with. Dacia’s main export market is France, where over 120,000 were sold in 2017, followed by Germany, with 64,918, and Italy, with 63,374 delivered.
Offering a small, mechanically related range of compact hatchbacks, estates and utility vehicles, Dacia offers a riposte to the likes of FCA’s Sergio Marchionne who claims to see no future in not only building, but selling inexpensive mainstream cars in mainland Europe.
With Audi and BMW having simultaneously revealed their monstrous Q8 and X5 offerings respectively, it is perhaps fitting that this week also sees the UK introduction of what has become the defining Dacia model. More of a raised estate than a pure SUV, the Duster, first introduced in its current form in 2009 has to a large extent fulfilled a similar role to that of the lamented Renault 4.
Combining a no-frills, mechanically tough functionality with an honest charm, the Duster has demonstrated itself to be a sum which has belied its humble parts, posting a European sales gain in the year to April of almost 30%, even with a new model roll-out still ongoing.
The 2009 Duster was created at Dacia’s own Romanian studios by designer, Erde Tungaa, a graduate from the esteemed ‘école de le Quément’. Tungaa, a cultured Mongolian with an academic background in history and psychology and who speaks five languages, created a vehicle rooted in solidity, robustness and versatility.
Also responsible for the reskinned 2018 model, Tungaa’s 2018 Duster combines the outgoing model’s virtues, while broadening its appeal beyond pure functionality into the sort of product landscape once ably served by Mladá Boleslav’s missing in action Yeti.
While today’s Duster starts at a shade below £10,000 for the entry-level model, it’s possible to specify it in bells and whistles Prestige form at £14,395, which, according to Autocar, still comes in at only slightly more than an entry-level Ford Fiesta. The UK weekly cite Duster sales as making up around a third of Dacia’s UK total and given most UK buyers appetite for austerity, is expected to be predominantly weighted towards the petrol-powered top-line model.
Regardless of flavour or hue however, the new Duster represents an awful lot of abundantly useful vehicle for the outlay. It’s also a profoundly welcome antidote to the sordid confections which masquerade as utility vehicles from the increasingly panic-riven, out-of-touch ateliers of the prestige marques, as they turn in their ever-widening gyre.
Sales data: Dacia / carsalesbase.com
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