It works just fine and feels nicer to the touch, and the touch-sensitive shortcut icons on its border are a welcome addition, although it would be even better if they were physical buttons. (Thankfully, Dacia has kept this type of control for the simple dials below that control the air conditioning.)
The software is easy to navigate and even includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (albeit only when your phone is plugged into one of the two USB ports fore of the gearstick – an infinitely better location than above the screen, as previously). And the screen displays couldn’t be simpler; just take the music player, which presents the track and artist names in large white writing against a black background, above skip and pause buttons. By contrast, the touchscreens in some modern cars make you feel like you’re sitting at a NASA ground control terminal.
Other improvements to the cabin include a centre console with a retracting armrest, which is a real boon for long-distance driving, and new upholstery, which is, er, still black cloth.
The steering wheel is wrapped in a pleasantly smooth material (Dacia lists it as ‘soft feel’, whatever that means) but the dashboard plastic looks about as nice as it is to touch, which is to say not particularly. It’s very 2005 Renault Clio in here, which is perhaps unsurprising, seeing as that’s precisely to where you can trace the Duster’s fundamental mechanical origins.
Therefore it’s entirely inoffensive to drive. The ride is much softer and comfortable than you can expect from most cars today. The suspension (MacPherson struts up front and an old-school torsion beam at the rear) combines with tall tyre sidewalls on the 16in alloys to produce a very relaxed demeanour at any speed, although it can get a bit unsettled over scruffy surfaces.
The light steering is just about accurate enough and not as vague as you might expect, and you would have to be behaving like a bit of a spanner to test the limits of grip – signalled to you by the considerable roll allowed by the soft springing.
The 1.3-litre engine gives an unexpected turn of a pace, ready to sprint past slow-moving traffic if you shift through the gears quickly enough, and fairly flexible as well, not wanting for torque up high. It makes more sense when you learn that this same unit is also deployed in the Mercedes-Benz A-Class (yes, really).