Small business owners and drivers – such as the fabled butcher, baker and candlestick maker of yore, not to mention plumbers, painter decorators, electricians and florists who don’t need a high payload or big load space so long as they can carry their tools or flowers – are not necessarily in the market for a conventional panel van but would rather go about their business in something, well, less van-like. Hence, the erstwhile popularity of the car-derived van (CDV), which used to be a common sight on UK high streets.

Nowadays, though, most manufacturers have decided developing these little LCVs is no longer financially viable, so tradespeople in the market for one are not exactly spoiled for choice. Unless they want to trawl the auction halls for a used Ford Fiesta Van, Renault Zoe Van or, going back even further, a Vauxhall Corsa van, it basically comes down to either a Toyota Corolla Commercial or the Dacia Duster Commercial driven here.

The Duster Commercial is available with two petrol engines, the 1.0-litre TCe 90 or the 1.0-litre TCe 150, or the 1.5-litre Blue dCi diesel engine, which develops 115hp. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard but dual-clutch auto is offered with the TCe 150 unit.

It comes in 4×4 and 4×2 versions and in two specification grades: Essential and Expression.

Essential features LED daytime running lights, body-coloured bumpers, black roof bars with ‘Duster’ inscription, 16in steel wheels, air conditioning, electric front windows, cruise control with speed limiter, seven-function on-board computer, height- and reach-adjustable steering wheel with backlit controls, DAB radio with Bluetooth connectivity and a USB connection.

Moving up to Expression adds 16in alloy wheels, body-colour door handles, front fog lights, heated and electrically adjustable door mirrors, rear-view camera with parking sensors, hill descent control with a centre differential lock on 4×4 models. The interior gains upgraded upholstery, black door sill protection strips, leather steering wheel, centre console with driver’s armrest, height-adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment, and Dacia’s Media Display infotainment system with an 8in touchscreen, smartphone pairing for both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and two USB ports.

We got to grips with a diesel 4×2 Duster Commercial Expression. Not surprisingly it is car-like and as such is pleasant to drive. The engine produces 260Nm of torque at 2,000rpm and, while performance is not exceptional, it is decent enough on motorways, ‘A’ and ‘B’ roads. Power-assisted steering and the slick manual transmission make for a relaxing drive in urban environments, too. The controls on the touchscreen are straightforward and easy to use and the reversing camera is excellent. An efficient stop and start system helps to improve fuel economy, and frugality can be improved further by selecting Eco mode.

Access to the 1.6m3 503kg load space, which beats the Corolla Commercial’s 1.3m3 425kg provision,  is via the rear tailgate or two side doors, all of which are retained from the Duster passenger car. The Commercial conversion has seen the rear seats removed and replaced with a flat load floor, mesh bulkhead, load cover and opaque windows. It is not the most practical or efficient lay out: too much space is wasted under the load floor to accommodate the wheel repair kit, the load cover gets in the way of cargo space too, and metal bars obscure the already limited access via the side doors.

Dacia Duster Commercial Expression Blue DCi 115 4×2

Price (ex VAT) £16,845

Price range (ex VAT) £13,995–£18,795

Insurance group 29A

Warranty 3yrs/60,000mls

Service intervals tbc

Load length 1,792mm

Load width 1,247mm 

Load bay height 917mm

Gross payload 503kg

Load volume 1.6m3

Engine size/power 1,461cc/115hp

Combined fuel economy 58.9mpg 

CO2 125g/km