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Barely three weeks ago, Renault-owned Romanian automaker Dacia showed off a pickup-bodied version of its Duster SUV. A special job for Romania's OMV Petrom Group, the Duster pickup isn't available to the European public. The new Duster Oroch, however, could be.

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The Dacia brand from Romania is probably best known in the US as a curious obsession of James May from Top Gear, but the company is a growing force. Its inexpensive models just keeping selling better, and the business represents a healthy portion of parent Renault's sales in Western Europe.

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If you've ever seen a Dacia up close, it'd probably strike you as one of the least likely vehicles to take racing. The Romanian-made vehicles (also sold as Renault models in certain markets) typically drive around a hundred horsepower to the front wheels through a five-speed gearbox and offer little more. Nor should they, really, because they're budget-oriented forms of transportation, but neither should they be taken racing. Or so you might assume, but apparently nobody has told that to the eng

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Of all the international auto shows we report from and keep our eye on, Johannesburg's is not among them. And of all the social media sites we monitor for car news, Pinterest isn't usually one of them, either. But those are the venues which Renault chose to unveil the concept you see here.

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Despite riding on a unibody and being more of a softroader than a proper 4x4, the Dacia Duster has always sort of reminded us of the Nissan XTerra. In other words, it's basic, hard-wearing, handsome and affordable in a really compelling way. In the US market, that hasn't worked out to big sales for the Nissan, but globally that formula has chalked up some big sales – 400,000 units in 3 years – for Renault's Romanian bargain brand. In fact, it's worked so well that Nissan has cribbed

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Dacia is preparing an updated Duster for next week's Frankfurt Motor Show according to parent company Renault. The facelifted version of this popular SUV features a refreshed front fascia, with a different grille and lower intake, as well as revised "double-optic" headlights. Strangely, the Duster, which is from Renault's budget-minded, Romanian sub-brand, looks thoroughly high class with its new face. 16-inch wheels and roof rails, which are emblazoned with the vehicle's name add a bit of rough

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The new Nissan Terrano has appeared in production form after an apparent August 20 launch in India, but the small sport utility vehicle remains sadly aloof from the US market. We've had our eyes on the Terrano ever since we learned it would be produced as an upscale alternative to the Dacia Duster on which it's based, but currently Nissan has no plans to import it here. Blame safety and perhaps emissions laws – the Duster was never designed for our market.

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Renault and Dacia will be headed to the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show in a big way, with a new concept car from the French company and an all-new Duster from its Romanian budget brand. The new concept is particularly exciting, as Renault's press release mentions a "new brand identity." We can also count on this car being a bit higher on the luxury scale than Renault's traditional offerings.

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When going to overseas auto shows, one can't help but spend an inordinate amount of time eyeballing forbidden automotive fruit. It's often of the seriously rare, criminally powerful and six- or seven-digit variety. But more often than one might think, the genuinely affordable overseas hero makes us swoon, too. So it is with the Dacia/Renault Duster, the cheap-as-chips, hard-wearing utility vehicle. We've often thought that its basic, rugged charms would play well in the US if saddled with a low

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The Dacia Duster catches a lot of ire from the the Top Gear boys, but the work of 23 students could (but probably won't) put an end to that. The students are part of Dacia's Engineering Projects Auto Program, and have gone about creating a stretched Dacia Duster.

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Dacia Duster ESF – Click above for high-res image

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Banned Dacia Duster ad – Click above to watch video after the jump

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While it may seem like every magazine worth its bar-code is clamoring to select its own Car of the Year, over in Europe things are a bit more civilized. Seven publications from seven different countries get together each year to nominate their collective Car of the Year, speaking in one united voice.

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Dacia Duster - Click above for high-res image gallery

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Dacia Duster - click above for high-res image gallery

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Spy shots of the 2010 Dacia crossover -- Click above for high-res image gallery

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