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First Drive: Dacia Duster dCi 110 EDC

Dacia moves to meet growing demand for C-segment automatics with Duster EDC, says Dan Gilkes.

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SECTOR: Crossover PRICE: £14,995-£15,895 FUEL: 62.8mpg CO2: 116g/km

Among a host of trim and specification upgrades across its car range, Dacia has made its Efficient Dual Clutch (EDC) automatic gearbox available on Duster. This makes Duster the lowest priced automatic in the compact crossover market, with an entry price of just £14,995 on-the-road.

According to UK brand manager Louise O’Sullivan, automatic transmissions accounted for just 10% of this sector of the market in 2010, but that share had risen to 23% last year, making an auto option an essential part of the offer. Parent company Renault already offers the EDC box with the 1.5-litre diesel engine in a number of its own models, making this an easy fit for Dacia.

The EDC box is being offered in combination with the dCi 110 S&S engine in 4×2 models only. There is no 4×4 option and it won’t be offered on the Duster commercial for the time being. The six-speed transmission is said to offer similar fuel consumption and emissions as the manual, at 62.8mpg and 116g/km.

The EDC uses two clutches, one to control the odd gears and one for the even ratios plus reverse. Electric actuators make the gear changes, with the appropriate gear being determined in reaction to driver input. The system also incorporates a hill start assist function to prevent the car rolling back when moving off on an incline.

The transmission moves swiftly and smoothly through the gears, going up and down the box. The driver can change gears manually, by knocking the gear lever to the left and then nudging it forwards and backwards to select gears. However, unless you are tackling hilly terrain with plenty of corners and want the engine braking that a lower gear offers, there is little benefit to shifting ratios yourself.

The EDC transmission is only available on the higher Laureate and Prestige trim levels and it commands a £1,000 premium over the manual box. However, despite Dacia’s reputation for value for money car pricing, the company has found that the majority of buyers will opt for the higher trim levels in Duster, as prices remain well below competitor models.

Laureate trim brings alloy wheels, satin chrome styling bars and skid plates, cruise control, manual air conditioning and heated electrically adjustable door mirrors, while the range-topping Prestige specification includes MediaNav, a reversing camera and rear parking sensors.

Dacia is not a big player in the UK fleet market, though Duster is perhaps its most attractive offering to fleet buyers. A well-equipped Duster with an automatic transmission, for less than £16,000 with 20% BiK and the potential for more than 60mpg, is a fairly convincing argument to put to a fleet manager.

Duster has been such a success that the company has been struggling to keep up with demand. Dacia recently moved production of some other models to Morocco, to expand Duster volumes at its Romanian site.

Duster won’t be at the top of every choice list, but the option of an automatic transmission will certainly add to its appeal.

What we think

With automatic transmissions becoming an increasingly popular option in many sectors of the market adoption of the EDC box in Duster is a positive move.

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Dan Gilkes

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