Dusted off

The Dacia Duster slams the door on a first time French fantasy for IAN MALLON

YOU all remember your first time. Your first kiss, your first car, your first day at school and the first time your test car had to be taken from your drive on the back of a recovery truck.

One of the great things in life is to experience wonderful situations for the first time and to be able to nostalgically recall and relive those very experiences as we journey through our years.

That's why I will never forget my first Dacia Duster experience -- even though there's very little to remember.

Unlike that long lingering kiss with Fanny Fagbreath behind the bike shed, my debut with the Duster was instantly forgettable for its long list of firsts.


You see, the first part of the problem is that I was expecting a rather Gallic frolic through a Languedoc field of sunflowers, with a nymphet called Natalie, since the Duster is owned by French car maker Renault.

But my Franco fantasy ended with a swift knee in the soft spot by a moustachioed monster called Anca, who let me know with one bellow that there was not going to be any first time joie de vivre.

What followed during my Dacia test week was a Halloween rampage through a Romanian house of horrors, more Transylvanian than Trouville.

This particular pipe dream ended with my Duster being hoisted aloft a recovery truck and driven back to whatever fictional faraway place it came from.

Actually this one came from Bucharest, via Luxembourg -- where it had been registered by Renault, for some unknown reason.

It was also a left hand drive car, another first for me on an Irish road. Now I've driven right hand drive on left handed roads and left hand drive on right hand roads but this was the first time I drove left hand drive on left handed road.

So there I am, driving a Luxembourg-sourced, Romanian-built, French-owned 4x4 ... what possibly could go wrong?

Well, a simple trip to the school bus stop with the kids put paid to all that.

Upon returning to the car, I leapt back into the driver seat, after first going around to the right hand side to get in to find that the steering wheel was over the other side of the car.

Then, satisfied that I was indeed sitting on the right side, or in this case the left, I closed the door, ready to tootle back home for a Franco-Romania breakfast of croissants and donkey meat sausages.

But then disaster struck -- the door would not close. Another first for me.

No matter how much I tweaked and pulled and tried to unlock and free up the offending blockage I was forced to drive back to the house,

changing gears with my right hand, steering with my knees and holding onto the door handle with the left hand.

The result of all this tomfoolery was the car being returned to Renault on the back a truck, presumably to be brought back to Romania where a door engineer called Georghi would be tied to the back and dragged across the Carpathian mountain range.

Look, it's not the end of the world to have a car that has a malfunction, but to be asked to drive a left hand drive car on an Irish road while clinging onto the door for dear life is not my idea of 'safe'.

So, it's really on that basis, that for the first time ever in my career as a motor writer, I am unable to complete my review, based on the principle that I have no idea what it's like to drive a Dacia Duster -- because I really cannot offer a fair appraisal, based on the principle that I barely drove it. Now that is a first.

The Duster SUV costs from €14,999 and is available in both two- and four-wheel drive.