If you want to brave the cold on a tight budget, look no further than the Dacia Duster. With its bargain-basement price and low running costs, the rugged Romanian model has created a real stir since arriving in the UK at the start of the year.
Yet don’t make the mistake of thinking that the value manufacturer has scrimped on the Duster’s SUV credentials. Under the no-nonsense exterior styling is a Nissan-developed, selectable four-wheel-drive system. For most driving conditions you can leave it in efficient front-wheel-drive mode. Yet when the weather turns you can engage a total traction set-up with a simple flick of the chunky, dashboard-mounted rotary switch. Finally, there’s a locking centre differential for when the going gets really tough.
Direct steering and a soft ride ensure the Duster is relaxing to drive on tarmac, while the 108bhp 1.5-litre dCi diesel is a surprisingly punchy performer – although it’s a little gruff, particularly when extended.
And even if the interior is full of hard plastics, it’s robustly built and very roomy. Access and Ambience versions are sparsely equipped, but the Laureate gets all the essentials, including air-conditioning, electric windows, Bluetooth and a USB connection. Better still, even in this range-topping trim the Duster only costs just over £15,000. It’s enough to give you a warm glow inside.