New Duster set to pass muster

DAVE MOORE
Last updated 07:25 19/10/2014

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Spotted in Austria on test recently is this Dacia product, giving yet another reason why Renault's Romanian sub-brand should be made available in New Zealand.

Using Nissan and Renault parts and hard points, the Dacia concern has made such a great name for itself building no-nonsense, but safe flexible and reliable cars and wagons, that it's starting to export them to some non-European markets while its continental take-up also expands.

Now, along with its Duster 4x4 wagon, Lodgy people-carrier and Sandero and Logan family cars, Dacia has launched a neat-looking Duster ute, which is to be built in limited numbers for the Romanian market.

What's appealing about the new pick-up is that it isn't huge. It seems that if you want a pick-up truck these days the smallest you can buy is often too big for your purpose, with machines as big as a HiLux or Ranger being the equivalent in normal motoring terms of a big sedan when all you really want is a small hatch.

Demand in some parts of the world for smaller utes has been very strong particularly in South America which is enjoying a supply of pint-sized flatdecks and well-decks from VW, Ford, GM Chevrolet/Opel, Fiat and Peugeot, some of which even supply extended cab and double cab versions.

Meanwhile, Australia takes a small ute from Proton, in Malaysia, which seems to be struggling to supply.

In New Zealand, the last small ute in our market appears to have been the Datsun 1200-based Star ute of the late 70s and early 80s. But it has to be said that in the light of the burgeoning demand for lightweight B and C segment crossovers this year, with the Trax, EcoBoost, HR-V II, 2008 and Yeti soaring in sales, it's not too much of a stretch to see some demand soon for similarly-sized utes and pickups.

Punters' decisions on small SUVs were based on not needing the weight, size and financial commitment of larger models, and those smallholders and the like who don't want to carry three-quarters of a tonne of drive system and several square metres of never-used sheet metal with them, currently have nowhere to go and the Romanian concept could be a cracker for the future.

Dacia officially unveiled what could be our ideal family/commuter ute, the Duster Pick-Up, in Romania. It's the result of a joint venture with local coachbuilder Romturingia, which has been responsible for the assembly of the machine.

It seems that Dacia is merely testing the water when it comes to this new ute, as it plans to supply just 500 units and only for a single company, unless demand suggests that it should go into more serious production at the Dacia plant.

The company that commissioned the Pick-Up is OMV Petrom, the largest oil and gas company in Romania and the first were handed over to the customer at the main Dacia plant in Mioveni, with the rest of the fleet to be delivered before the end of 2015.

Built specifically for OMV Petrom's needs at Romturingia's workshop in Campulung Muscel, Romania, the Dacia Duster Pick-Up is based on the current 4x4 production Duster SUV and is powered by Renault's trusty and flexible 1.5 dCi diesel engine good for about 88kW.

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The model features a standard cab with two seats and a rear window protected by a jailhouse-like grille. The cabin also features added exterior reinforcements. The bed is a useful 1700mm long and can carry loads of up to 450 kg. The project began at the end of 2012, with a series of prototypes being built before the model was homologated by the Renault Group and the RAR (Romanian Auto Registry).

Unfortunately for those who would like a Duster Pick-Up, Dacia and Renault managing director for Romania, Nicolas Maure, said there are no plans for a customer version. However, most journalists in Europe have been sufficiently impressed with the car to call for its mass production for Romanian domestic use and export.

As often happens with good sensible cars, the market usually finds a way, and we'd be awfully disappointed if this useful little gem didn't do its bit for its country's exports with some of them preferably with right hand drive.

The Romanian concern already has right hand drive versions of all its other products, so it's not out of the question that the Duster ute may get a ‘Commonwealth' version while with the Duster already getting a 4x4 variant, such a transmission might also be included.

Already several hundred orders and enquiries have been directed to Romturingia from interested parties who'd be keen to take all that the company can make after it completes that 500 units OMV Petrom order. It's said that the conversion costs are estimated at around $4500, which sounds like a lot, but put into serious production for developing markets and built in Dacia/Nissan/Renault outposts in all parts of the world, it could be quite a money spinner.

- The Press

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