Nissan Owes Us This Cheap Commercial Truck

Newdusteragain

One of the joys of going to the 24 Hours of Le Mans is seeing the rare-to-me European cars that usually inhabit my dreams; Cerberas, Meganes, Viasas, Tourneos! The car I took the most photos of on the trip? Commercial variations of the Dacia Duster, which is Romania’s curiously cheap and beloved (by me) [Editor’s Note: Not just you! – JT] crossover. It’s absolutely a vehicle Nissan should import if Nissan wants to make me happy.

First, look at this thing.

Daciadustercommercial(1)

This is the newly released Dacia Duster Commercial, which includes the brand’s new logo design. Would you believe me that for £13,995 pre-tax (about $16,950) you could have this magnificence? Check out the taillights, which look like mini flux capacitors:

Dacia Light

It’s substantially similar to the regular Dacia Duster anyone in the United Kingdom and Europe can buy, albeit with a few key differences. The rear windows are covered in an “opaque film” and the seats in the back are gone in favor of a flat-floor separated from the front with a large bulkhead.

Newdustercommercial(10)

This gives you, roughly, a hair over 57 cubic feet. This slots in between the approximately 35 cubic feet of the adorable, Pokeman-esque Ford Fiesta Cargo, and the 116+ cubic feet you’d get with a purpose-built van like a Kangoo.

The soft-sided cargo area with all of the lashing eyes makes this ideal for a florist or other delivery person who is moving a lot of smaller items as opposed to a few larger ones. It’s also a great platform for specific needs like the below Dacia Duster fire support vehicle:

Dacia Duster Fretruck

The purposefulness of this is just overwhelming and makes me delighted in ways I don’t feel comfortable discussing on the Internet. It’s also relatively efficient, which is good for businesses anywhere but especially in Europe where there are increasingly lucrative tax incentives to purchase cars with lower emissions and better mileage.

There are various engines and configurations available, from a turbocharged 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine pumping out a glorious 90 horsepower to a gargantuan 1.5-liter diesel mill.

Dacia, if you weren’t aware, is owned by Group Renault. Despite at least one executive fleeing the country in the case of a stringed instrument, Group Renault and Nissan are trying to patch things up and are both financially and strategically aligned.

Daciasecurity

Nissan, as you may know, dropped their NV200 van from the United States, leaving a hole in the lineup for a small commercial vehicle! In the United Kingdom, you’re paying $21,512 sawbucks for a fully registered base model. The top-end 4×4 diesel version is still short of $29,000, which is still $5,000 less than a much larger and less interesting Metris Cargo.

Given that the Nissan Kicks and Duster share a platform this isn’t as ridiculous as it sounded when I started writing this article. I am not of the belief that my genius as a product planner has been accepted by automakers (almost certainly to their benefit), but this makes sense to me. Get to it Nissan!

All images courtesy Dacia or author

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41 Responses

  1. This is not good. The Dacia Dokker was the workhorse and it was incredibly cheap. But of course Renault had to stop selling it under the Dacia brand – now they sell it as Renault Dokker and is more expensive.

  2. I drove a Duster while in Iceland last month, it is a suuuuper cheap feeling and appointed car. you will get what you pay for. If your expectations are low in just about every metric, why not – the perfect (cheap) commercial vehicle

    1. There are actually more than you think and they are more popular than you realize. I see them all the time but I also live in a densely populated area so that may skew my observations. They just blend into the world so much that you don’t see them. Ford (Transit Connect), Dodge (ProMaster City), and Chevy (Express Coty) all have small commercial offerings. The Transit Connect is the most popular by far.

      The HHR Panel was a flop because it was a personal vehicle adapted to commercial use and as such was largely a terrible commercial vehicle (low roofline and high load floors). Also the rear doors didn’t have handles and relied on an electronic pop latch which meant either a key fob was required (more $$) or you needed to push an interior button (inconvenient).

      1. The HHR (and HHR SS Panel Van) were a similar but, as the comment above notes, inferior execution of this concept. They’re kind of great in their own way, but no replacement for the kind of small vans I also see everywhere now. This is a bit more unique and is a bit of a compromise, but a fun one at least.

      2. This Duster is also a converted personal vehicle though, so that’s interesting. For what it’s worth the NV200/Express City was build on the same compact/subcompact passenger car platform as this Duster (possibly a different variant of it, but the same basic architecture) and it showed. It showed in the sense that the thing was not really suited for commercial duty. I drove NV200s for four years, and shit was constantly breaking on them even though they were practically brand new. From major stuff like warped brake rotors and burnt-out catalytic converters to minor things like a stuck HVAC blend door and busted airbag seat sensors, those vans always felt like they were crumbling apart even as I drove them. They were terrible.

    2. I seem to recall seeing a few 2 door PT cruiser pie wagons like this. I have seen town and country mini vans set up like this from the factory, no glass or seats basically. These are pretty specialized vehicles that do not seem to require the specialization in most cases. I kind of like the 2d PT cruiser ones though. I would say the lack of station wagon base units and the utility of a tall roof van like say a medium roof Ford Transit has really eaten into the market on pie wagons in general

    1. Lol, fair. I think when you’re served fancy all the time (overloaded press cars) you come to appreciate how special it is to make a good cheap car. It’s the same reason why so many chefs love greasy hamburgers from local dives if you hang out with them.

      1. It’s a bit different than that though because normal people like cheap greasy food too.

        Whereas a century of history tells us that Americans rarely if ever go for a smaller, cheaper vehicle given the choice.

        It’s just such an consistently odd disconnect between what people who buy cars want and what people who write about cars want. Kind of like the brown manual diesel wagon but ever more so.

        1. A brown manual diesel base model wagon? I think it may be because automotive journalists are often also automotive enthusiasts. They don’t just like cars as a means of transportation or self-expression or whatever, they like them for themselves, as machines and designed objects. The base model is often the purest expression of a particular vehicle, and all the creature comforts can sometimes get in the way of that.

        2. considering door dash and Uber Eats, as well as package delivery, it might not be the worst thing if you could get one of these for under 18K new to use and abuse at will. the issue would be Nissan and the likely terrible CVT the thing would have.

          1. After Ford canceled the Ranger in 2012, there were several of the different auto parts retailers that were using hatchbacks converted into cargo delivery vehicles. They worked well as most deliveries didn’t involve a lot of boxes or heavy cargo (the heaviest thing was always the driver), were fuel efficient, etc. The US needs more of these small commercial vehicles.

      2. I love to cook and am quite good at it, so when I go out for a meal it is usually a burger joint (cheapish) or a fish fry. I hate paying 100 for a meal all the time thinking that I could have made it better at home, because I could have. So dives it is, or when I do come across cooking genius I really don’t mind the price tag.

      1. For what it’s worth the people at work (including myself) often call our Ford Transits trucks, as in, “Oh yeah, I think I have one of those in the truck, could you go grab it?” It’s just a more satisfying word to say, I guess. People know what you mean.

  3. You can pretty much do this to any one- or two-box car. You’d have to go to a commercial van upfitter, and there are some models they’ll be able to work with more easily than others, but it’s doable. We’re basically talking the commercial variant of the Dodge Caravan, which I’ve always thought was underrated as a light commercial vehicle.

    1. Can confirm. I worked as an auto parts delivery driver in the late ’90s. Our fleet consisted of a mixture of older and newer Rangers, S-10’s, and one short-wheelbase 1995 Caravan. For delivering short stacks of boxed brake rotors, lengths of rigid fuel line, radiator hoses, and the like, it was the most practical (and comfortable) of our delivery fleet.

  4. I like cheerfully cheap vehicles, but I’m willing to bet it would be a cvt if it made it over here. And that’s a complete deal-breaker for me. Nissan steadfastly denied that there was ANY way to change the fluid (“It’s Lifetime-Fill”) while their factory was >9 months< behind on supplying new transmissions to those lucky people who had their warranty claims approved. Nissan, go inhale a LARGE sack of phalluses!

  5. How is this any better than the Chevy Equinox I use for my business?

    It’s (subjectively) uglier, slower and likely poorly appointed by comparison. I wonder if that $21,000 UK price tag includes air conditioning, Apple CarPlay and other infotainment/navigation features we expect in the US. Not to mention stay in your lane driver aids. Also, there is the chicken tax to contend with, but I suppose Nissan could ship them over with seats like Ford does with the Transit Connect. (Or did…I think that one might be under review.)

    If Nissan wants to import the Dacia to replace the NV200, fine by me, but I doubt it will dominate or even dent the market. It will face competition from the Chevy Equinox, Ford Escape/Transit Connect and Ram Promaster City along with the Mercedes Metris. These competitors are all slightly larger, better appointed and priced comparably.

  6. I don’t really understand why small utility vehicles like these aren’t more popular in the US.
    They are very practical and the panel van versions can carry a considerable load.
    They also get relatively good MPG and are easy to park, about 2/3rd of the length of a Frontier or a Ranger. And they don’t ride too bad as unibody vehicles.
    The US only gets the Promaster City and the Transit Connect in this category. Maybe because of the “chicken tax”?
    The other vehicle category that seems to be almost completely absent from the US market is the “Mixto”-style vans, where you have a cargo van, but still have a 2nd row seat for passengers.
    They are out there, but really hard to find.
    Oh and by the way, why are there no small cargo trucks in the US with a tarp, like the Toyota Dyna?
    I’ve seen a few Isuzu NPRs and Mitsubishi Fusos but always with a box or a fully open bed.

  7. I absolutely adored the Duster I rented in France a few years ago. It was a total joy on and off road. It has to be one of the best automobile bargains there is. I would gladly buy one if it was offered in the States.

    1. Wait til you see the new Jogger! I never really liked modern Dacia, but when I recently checked out the Jogger, I was surprised about all the practical solutions and how good it looked. They really made some progress.

    2. We returned from France after a 3 week visit in May and have to say that the cars were part of why it is so much fun going somewhere else. Also rented a 5 speed Fiat 500 Hybrid and even though I’m a bigger person (6’2″ and over 200) it fit and was more fun than a roller coaster. Of course French B roads helped.

  8. Nissan already tried it, and it failed so dismally you’ve never even heard of it. For a brief moment in time you could order a Cube with a van package which included a rear seat delete and a flat floor. Nobody bought one, near as I can tell.

    1. The Chevy HHR panel was another attempt too. And if you needed faster deliveries, the panel version was available in 2009 with the SS equipment. I did at least see some HHR panels, but I don’t know that they were very popular either.

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