For the second year in succession Dacia’s Duster Commercial has driven off with What Van?’s 4x4 Van of the Year Award.
Competitive pricing, a high standard of equipment, support by a comprehensive network that also represents Renault, plus an ability to keep going in mud and snow, all help its case. It is exactly what you want if you need to tackle rural lanes that have not been gritted in the depths of winter, or if you have to venture into a muddy paddock.
Fitted with selectable four-wheel drive that uses Renault-Nissan Alliance technology, the Duster Commercial is based on the five-door Duster SUV. Power comes courtesy of a 109hp 1.5-litre Euro6 dCi 110 diesel and you can also order the vehicle as a front-wheel drive 4x2.
Two levels of specification are listed: Ambiance and the more upmarket Laureate. All models come with
remote central locking, electric front windows, roof bars, a driver’s seat and steering
wheel that are both height-adjustable, and a MP3-compatible radio/CD player with steering column-mounted remote controls and Bluetooth connectivity. The deal includes front fog lights and a tyre pressure monitoring system.
Opt for Ambiance specification and you get plenty of black trim plus 16-inch steel wheels.
Specify Laureate instead and the vehicle comes with 16-inch alloys, manual air-conditioning, cruise control, electrically heated and adjustable exterior mirrors, a speed-limiter, and leather trim for the steering wheel. To all that can be added a seven-function onboard computer as well as satin chrome side sills plus front and rear scuff plates.
Access to the 1.6m3 cargo bay is by means of a rear hatch and a hinged door on each side of the body shell. Both the side doors are opaque – the windows are fixed in place and blacked out with film – but the hatch is glazed and equipped with a heater and a wash/wipe system.
The doors open to reveal a purpose-built toughened-plastic load bed. A lip at the driver’s end of the tray should help prevent unsecured items from sliding into the cab, and a mesh bulkhead is listed as an optional extra.
Payload capacity is 550kg; maximum braked towing weight is 1,500kg. Employing a particulate filter, the four-cylinder, eight-valve, turbocharged, common-rail, direct-injection diesel engine produces maximum power at 4,000rpm. Top torque of 260Nm bites at 1,750rpm.
All derivatives come with a six-speed manual gearbox. However, the one installed in the 4x4 differs from that fitted to the 4x2 because it has a shorter first gear ratio that is better suited to off-road work.
The 4x4 model offers 2WD, 4WD and Auto settings.
The last-named automatically distributes torque between the front and rear axles according to the prevailing road conditions – if you hit a stretch of highway covered in snow or by mud deposited by agricultural vehicles, for example. It uses an electromagnetic torque converter sourced from Renault’s partner Nissan.
ABS is fitted along with Electronic Stability Control (which can be switched off), Emergency Brake Assist and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution.
Push the Eco Mode button on ordinary highways and you can potentially cut fuel usage by up to 10%. The button alters the throttle pedal’s response and reduces engine power.
Service intervals are set at one-year/12,000 miles, and the Dacia Duster Commercial is protected by a three-year/60,000-mile warranty with emergency roadside assistance on tap for the entire duration. Extra protection for the light commercial comes in the form of a two-year paintwork warranty and a six-year anti-corrosion warranty.
Highly Commended: Ford Transit All-Wheel-Drive
This year’s Highly Commended prize goes to the all-wheel drive version of the Ford Transit, marketed under the AWD banner. While it will not cross deeply rutted terrain, the additional traction it offers will help keep it going along an icy rural lane or up a muddy farm track.
Under normal conditions power from the 2.0-litre Ecoblue TDCi diesel – offered at either 130hp or 170hp in the AWD model – goes to the rear wheels. When conditions get slippery, however, the 4x4 system automatically increases engine torque to the wheels with the most grip. Sensors working with the vehicle’s Electronic Stability Control programme have a key role to play here as they constantly evaluate data to identify low-friction surfaces such as ice and wet leaves.
In addition to the van, Ford produces AWD variants of the Transit Double Cab-In-Van and the Transit chassis cab.
Highly Commended: Ssangyong Korando CSE 4X4
Ssangyong’s little car-derived off-roader the Korando CSE 4x4 now comes with a new 2.2-litre Euro6 engine offering power of 178hp coupled with torque of 400Nm – uplifts of 19.4% and 11% respectively compared to the outgoing 2.0-litre Euro5 engine.
A practical workhorse, the Korando combines a 433kg payload with a 1.3m3 load volume and has a towing capacity of 2.0-tonnes.