Dacia has blossomed underneath Renault's corporate umbrella considering the low-cost Romanian brand has two of the most popular cars in Europe. Through October, the Sandero supermini was the best-selling vehicle on the Old Continent while the Duster made it to the top 15. The back-to-basics SUV is entering its third generation, which adds some sophistication but focuses on the essentials to remain cheap and undercut its fancier, more expensive rivals.

Should the styling look familiar, there's a good reason for that considering the 2024 Duster takes after the awkwardly named Bigster unveiled in early 2021. It's almost a spitting image of that concept, which will evolve into a larger model positioned above the Duster. Looking more rugged than its predecessor, the no-frills SUV has extra plastic body cladding and beefier skid plates to enhance its outdoorsy nature. It adopts a "Y" motif for the lights and has the rear door handles integrated into the C-pillars.

2024 Dacia Duster

At 171 inches (4,343 millimetres) long, the new Duster is almost the same length as its predecessor. However, this is a true next-generation model since it uses different underpinnings by switching to the more sophisticated CMF-B platform. Courtesy of the more modern architecture adapted from parent company Renault, packaging has been improved to increase the cargo capacity by six percent to 472 litres (16.6 cu ft). In addition, rear passengers get more legroom than before. For extra practicality, the optional roof rack can support up to 80 kilograms (176 pounds).

The interior does away with fancy materials and keeps it simple with hard plastics that should withstand the test of time. These don't necessarily look pretty but Dacia's intent is to develop a durable cabin while keeping costs low. We wouldn't go as far as to say the interior is spartan since you do get a seven-inch digital instrument cluster and a 10.1-inch touchscreen slightly tilted toward the driver. There are also up to four illuminated USB ports, wireless smartphone charging, a six-speaker sound system, and support for wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

We're glad to see there are still conventional buttons for the climate settings while the steering wheel also has numerous old-school controls. Flanked by the two screens, the smartphone holder is a common Dacia trait nowadays. In the back, an optional Sleep Pack comes with a fold-out double bed and is accompanied by a table and a storage area. Dacia says it takes less than two minutes to set everything up.

2024 Dacia Duster
2024 Dacia Duster

You won't find a diesel engine since Renault's tried-and-tested 1.5-litre dCi is gone. Instead, the 2024 Duster will be offered with a TCe 130 unit as a turbocharged 1.2-litre engine. This three-cylinder unit runs on the Miller cycle and adopts a mild-hybrid setup. It can be had with either front- or all-wheel drive with a six-speed manual transmission. Dacia says fuel consumption is down by 10 percent compared to the non-electrified version of the same engine while performance is also better now.

An ECO-G 100 engine runs on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and can cover as much as 808 miles (1,300 kilometres) with the 50-litre petrol tank and the 50-litre LPG tank filled to the brim. The former is located underneath the rear bench while the latter sits under the cargo floor, so the luggage capacity remains unchanged. It's not just that LPG is significantly cheaper than petrol as Dacia claims CO2 emissions are down by 10 percent compared to an equivalent petrol-only engine.

The most important novelty in terms of powertrains is the adoption of a hybrid setup inherited from the Jogger wagon. It combines a naturally aspirated 1.6-litre engine with two electric motors, a 1.2-kWh battery, and an automatic transmission. One of the e-motors delivers 49 bhp while the other serves as a starter/generator. The Duster Hybrid 140 supports regenerative braking and its powertrain always starts in electric mode. Dacia claims fuel consumption is reduced by 20 percent on average and by up to 40 percent in city driving. The Romanian marque estimates you'll be driving in EV mode for 80 percent of the time in the city.

2024 Dacia Duster
2024 Dacia Duster

The new Duster remains competent off the beaten path by offering 217 mm (8.5 in) of ground clearance for the AWD model. It offers a 31-degree approach angle and a 36-degree departure angle. It even has a downhill speed control system that will automatically adjust speed to enable a smooth descent. It works between 0 to 17 mph (30 km/h) and can be activated even when reversing. There are also five driving modes to choose from: Auto, Snow, Mud/Sand, Off-Road, and Eco.

The third-generation model is scheduled to go on sale next year and will have some big shoes to fill. Since the original Duster was launched 13 years ago, Dacia has managed to sell more than 2.2 million units. Since 2018, the Duster has been the best-selling SUV to individuals in Europe. To get an idea of how successful the SUV is across Europe, almost 1,000 units are produced each day at the factory in Pitești, Romania. That works out to one vehicle each minute.

We're expecting Renault to sell its own version in markets where Dacia is not present. As of 2023, Dacias are sold in 44 countries.