The Dacia brand has come such a long way from the Renault low cost clone it started out in life as, with the carmaker now having a pretty good image throughout Europe.
Back in the late 60s', Renault had a love affair with the Romanian automotive industry, but the French didn't go too far past the "Don Juan" stage and after a rather brief development phase, the Eastern Europeans were abandoned. While the French carmaker, just like any other important car company in the world, kept refreshing its range with new models, Dacia, which was now developing on its own, kept trying to revamp the same 1300 model (a rebadged Renault 12) for a few decades.
The brand because an extremely important part of the Romanian culture, with most of the vehicles from the country belonging to it, and people being forced to live with cars that were not only designed generations ago, but also built with equipment that would have been sent to recycling by any Western European carmaker.
The years went by and capitalism took over Eastern Europe - people were no longer forced to choose Dacia, they could go for new or second hand imports, but many of them still drove it. A decade after the Western lifestyle invaded Romania, Renault considered that the political and economical climate had settled and came back to the lover it had left.
Now, more than another decade after the two sides reunited, Dacia has grown to be a low cost brand that offers decent propositions, with the success of its cars spreading far over the borders of Romania.
If we take a look at the German or British markets, some of the most important in Europe, we'll notice that the Romanian carmaker's products have their reserved place, with customers appreciating them for the honesty and value for money.
Dacia's most advanced vehicle is the Duster, a compact crossover that has proven the new Dacia has absolutely nothing to do with the old one and which has received positive reviews, including from us.
We're now back in the driver seat of the Duster, this time using the range-topping 110 hp 1.5-liter diesel engine. The appearance of our test car brings mixed emotions, makes us think about the tons of popular culture created around the brand and how almost none of it is now relevant.