Motoring writer Ian Lamming finds who his real friends are in a Dacia Duster…

I’ve come to the conclusion that people are fickle – and this is why. During a happy week spent in the company of a purple Rolls-Royce everybody wanted to be my friend. My friends, my ‘new’ friends, random strangers, all and sundry approached to get close to the car carrying the Spirit of Ecstasy sculpture.

The following week? Nobody wanted to know as I travelled around in the latest Dacia Duster, in cheerful Arizona orange, to the point where people turned away, ignored my friendly waves and shunned my presence.

So piqued was I with one associate who ignored my advances that I parked right next to his brand-new Audi RS4 and hunted him down in the nearby café too admonish his discourtesy – he laughed.

Others seemed to delight in my fall from grace but let me tell you, they got it wrong.

If motoring journalism is a fine dining experience then the Rolls-Royce, of course, would be the main course. But the Duster plays and important role in the several course meal – it’s the sorbet. The Dacia SUV is the palate cleanser. It refreshes the appetite, resets the senses to zero, so you can fully enjoy the next course. So rather than being a disappointment in any way, it is an essential element to a balanced diet.

And, let’s be honest about it, you could buy 25 Dusters for the price of one Rolls-Royce.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Duster and the new one is better than ever thanks to a new petrol engine under the bonnet that is a little cracker. It is only 1.3 litres in capacity but thanks to a turbo offers a healthy lump of power and torque so feels willing and spirited. It can accelerate hard from rest, has impressive mid-range for overtaking and climbing hills and cruises as well as anything on the road at the legal limits. On my commute it dispatches the 62 miles in just over an hour – exactly the same as the Rolls-Royce in fact, but much more economically.

Handling and ride are surprisingly refined and sophisticated masking the very worst our ravaged roads can throw at us. It also handles nicely, leaving you feeling safe and secure through the bends and brimming with confidence.

In a motoring world of bewildering technology, where automotive interiors are more space shuttle than cars, Duster brings stark and welcome relief with the simplicity of its controls. Minimalist and functional it does everything a car interior should allowing the driver to actually look through the windscreen and watch where he is going, rather than scrabbling through myriad menus. It feels solid, honest and reliable and adds to the overall joy of driving this stalwart SUV.

At just over £17.5K the duster represents incredible value for money in a world of spiralling costs, in fact I didn’t know you could still buy a good size, new SUV for that amount of money.

When I showed the Rolls-Royce to one Duster owner she said she preferred her car, which was a shock at first. But now I can see why because it is endearing, easy to live with and you don’t worry about where you park it. It does the job with consummate ease and you don’t have to worry about being constantly stopped in your tracks by fickle friends.

Fact File
Dacia Duster Comfort TCe 130
Engine: 1.3 turbo petrol
Power: 129HP
0-62mph:10.6 secs
Top speed: 120mph
Combined MPG: 45.6
Transmission: six-speed manual
CO2 g/km: 141
Price: From £17,695.00