The final countdown: Ultra-budget brand Dacia almost here...


Dacia, Renault's budget brand, is 100 days away from launching in the UK. It's a timely reminder, given yesterday's budget, that cheap French motoring is very close at hand.

And we do mean cheap: buyers will be able to bag a Duster 4x4 from £12,500. For comparison, the cheapest four-wheel drive version of the Ford Kuga is the 2.0-litre diesel Zetec, at £23,000.

We don't know a lot about Dacia here in the UK, but here's what a confident Renault press release says:

'At a time when new car prices just keep on rising and value brands are moving further and further upmarket, wouldn't it be refreshing if an affordable, yet still good quality, alternative suddenly came along? Well, dear UK car buyers, that time has come.'

That honesty may go some way to endearing the brand to UK buyers. It's also a true statement: Skoda, Kia and Hyundai have all drifted towards the middle ground, leaving a nice gap at the bottom.

Chevrolet is trying to fill it, with some success, but even it is pretending to be more upmarket than it actually is; by nature of its knowingly parsimonious functionality, owning a Dacia might become cool like wearing a pair of plimsolls is.

June 28 will see the Duster SUV unveiled in full UK spec and pricing details revealed, ahead of the company's official entry into the market in January 2013, when the first lot of cars will be delivered.

Two cars will go on sale later this year: the Duster, and the Sandero - the five-door supermini set to become one of the UK's cheapest cars, with prices starting well below £7,000. A two-wheel drive Duster will cost less than £10,000.

Of the Duster, Renault says that "quite simply, no other car in the country will offer the same space, price and equipment for the money."

So let's just hope it isn't utterly, utterly rubbish. Which is a distinct possibility.

Dacia was due to launch in the UK a couple of years ago, but it was delayed because the company was selling so many left-hand drive cars globally that Renault couldn't accommodate a move to right-hand drive production.

It is France's fourth best selling brand, and Romania and Morocco's first; the Duster is France's best selling 4x4.

The UK's Duster will be built in India, and Renault promises quality and reliability courtesy of "extensive use of proven and honed technology from within the Renault-Nissan alliance."

The 'Renault' part of that statement is scant comfort when it comes to quality and reliability, if we're honest, but the fact Dacia came second in Germany's 2010 JD Power customer survey - ahead of BMW - bodes well.

James May is a fan too, as the video below confirms...