Dacia, from Romania, is the cheapest car brand in Europe – or much of the rest of the world. For the last half century it has been associated with Renault, first building lookalikes, before becoming part of Renault.
Today’s models are still underpinned by Renault hardware, but now in a bespoke body, not a Renault clone. In areas such as South America where they are made in Renault factories, they are sold with Renault badges. In Russia they are badged as Ladas.
Ours come from Romania and carry only the name Dacia – an old region of Romania. Prices are ridiculously low. The Logan MCV tested here is its largest model and can be bought for £7,295 with a modern one-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine. It is the same length as a Ford Grand C-Max (from £22,000).
MCV used to stand for Multi Convivial Vehicle. Now we are told it is a maximum capacity vehicle. Smart words. Luggage almost gets lost in the cargo area – even with the rear seats in place. The deficit is in leg room for rear passengers.
Of course, I am not going to kid you that a Dacia matches a Ford or just about any other new car for refinement. But they are not too bad. The Sandero hatch from £5,995 and the Duster SUV from £9,495 are fun to drive and provide a family with a new car at old prices. I talked to the owner of a Duster 4x4. He’d had it four years, no trouble, liked it.
The Logan MCV is an estate car, with a five-foot load bed and an overhang to take something longer. Prise up the seat bases and you achieve a flat deck. The tailgate is opened only with a driver’s side lever or the key – a mixed blessing but it means you can’t get your load looted by opportunists in dodgy areas.
This model dates from 2013, with a smarter visage added a year ago to all Dacias. It’s by no means a shabby looker – though the “Nordic grey” paint on the demo car conspired to look gloomy. On a German sports saloon it would look hot-moody. On my street-facing door it looked good until this penchant for drab undercoat grey began to be emulated. I’ll call it Nordic grey from now on when discussing domestic matters in the Camshaft Arms.
Reviewed here is the Logan MCV Stepway SE Summit TCe 90 – signifying the crema de smântână or the pisicile de pisică (if that really is Romanian for the cat’s whiskers). Stepway is written as a legend in white block letters on the flanks of this model. Apparently you can’t decline the slogan – which reminds me of a walking aid or ladder brand. TCe 90 denotes the 90 horse power, 898cc three-cylinder petrol engine from £9,295. Diesel is also offered, the Renault group’s 1561cc four-cylinder from £10,895. All have a five-speed manual gear change and are EU6 rated for emissions. Automatic gears are not offered. A crash safety assessment from 2014 gave it just three stars from a maximum of five, which does not enthral the family buyer. Adult protection got low marks but infant protection was not as dicey.
Tourists to France will be familiar with the appeal of the Dacia to a population which has always appreciated cheap and handy cars – viz, the Renault 4 and 6 etc and Citroën’s Ami, 2CV and Dyane. Dacia’s Sandero fits the low-cost utility template perfectly. The Logan MCV seats five in reasonable comfort – an extra pair or seats are offered in some markets.
What did I do with it? Take it on a long drive, empty, for a start. The first thing you notice is that the instruments are not lit and are hard to read until you switch on the parking lights. Two, the ride is comfy at speed, less so over urban asphalt where it feels the lumps.
Load it up (someone’s always moving house) and the ride improves – the set-up being tuned for work not trips to the salon. The flat screen info panel is not cowled and so gets some reflections. The USB and iPod ports are on the top edge of this screen, meaning that wires trail down – or up if you use the handy tray on top of the dashboard. The steering wheel adjusts for rake but not reach, but I was fine with it.
On the motorway the car wanders slightly – until you adjust to its manners. It is fair to say that the Logan handles well enough in bends, with some initial roll but, hey, this is not a Ford Focus rival. It’s cheap, it’s roomy. It’s half the price.
The Renault Group 898cc engine is a gem. It runs quietly, pulls well in mid revs, and if you thrash it, can manage 0-60 in around 12 seconds. The gearbox action is clean, too.
Verdict: Worth a look, either as a household hack or family car.