The estate car is intrinsic to the British motoring scene, states Iain P W Robertson, which makes the latest Dacia Logan a perfectly acceptable and ridiculously inexpensive route to satisfying traditional motoring needs.

dacialogan1When the Romanian arm of the French Renault Group launched its long overdue Dacia line-up to the UK market in early-2013, it possessed justifiably high expectations for it. That it has exceeded them quite handsomely one year on is a measure of how we are reacting to the firm’s near unique ‘value for money’ proposition.

Dacia’s latest estate car is a brilliant product for any economy that is emerging from around six years’ worth of depression, during which time a lot of lessons have been learned. Luxuries might have been thin on the ground. Financial fluidity might have been sorely restricted. Let’s face it, the fair weather banking industry has been in its personally created doldrums for much of the same period and looking for support from it, even to buy a new Dacia, might well be a feckless exercise.

dacialogan2Yet, we are one of the world’s wealthiest nations and, regardless of the ‘downturn’, the desire to acquire things remains uppermost in our intentions. Naturally, not everybody will want to be seen at the controls of a Dacia, a great many new car buyers far preferring the snob appeal attached to a more recognisable brand, such as Audi, BMW, or Mercedes-Benz. However, as car fans, it is almost too easy for us to pander to such whims, when the motoring reality is altogether more prosaic.

Estate cars fall into that classification by rote. Another name applied to them, invariably in the US markets, was station wagon. This was the vehicle that arrived at the railway station to uplift the baggage of travellers being taken to their next destination by more luxurious means. Regarded by some recent critics as a ‘dinosaur’, Dacia’s application as a modern family car should not be understated, even though its roots are much more basic.

Dacia’s conspicuous low-cost accessibility
For a lump of extra metal (and glazing) added to the rear-end of the Sandero hatchback, there is a blatantly clear £1,000 step-up to the Logan‘s £8,595. Yet, think about that bottom-line price tag for a moment…it is what makes the Logan estate, or MCV to provide its official name, the lowest cost car in its UK class and it provides (rear seats folded) a substantial 1,518-litres of load deck (573-litres, when the back seats are erected) to make it one of the more capacious cars in the UK too.

dacialogan3Naturally, even buyers of ‘budget’ cars tend to tick the options boxes. Of course, when the price tag is so low to start with, it makes the acquisition of accessories somewhat easier to contend with, not just on the purse front. A set of alloy wheels will add £425 to the bottom-line, metallic paint equates to £495 and an emergency spare wheel is £95. By the way, the extended warranty, which might be useful if you intend to keep the car for more than three years, will cost you £395 for five years/60,000 miles, while the seven years/100,000 miles protective cover is £850. The test car’s value is £9,195.

There is a standard CD and radio, which will accept your USB, but no fancy stereo system, although the customary stability control and antilock brakes are standard regardless. If you are wondering what the little stalks are, protruding into the cabin from the area just behind the door mirrors, they are to adjust the mirrors manually. It is a pain but this is a cheap car. The rear windows are also manually adjustable, although the front pair have electric operation.

Yet, as basic as the Logan is, it is actually put together solidly and thoughtfully. Roof bars are standard as is hill-start assist that stops roll-back on gradients. There is even a headlamps ‘on’ warning buzzer and a gearshift indicator, while the outer seats of the split-fold rear bench feature ISOFIX child seat mounting points.

dacialogan4Cheap Logan continue to impress on-road
Powered by a three cylinder petrol engine, displacing 898cc, you would not expect firecracker performance and you do not get it. However, the punchy little unit develops a perfectly adequate 87bhp and it is not at all demanding of the driver, despite its just-over-a-tonne kerb weight. Amazingly, Logan’s top speed is just shy of 110mph, while it can despatch the 0-60mph benchmark sprint in a moderate 10.8 seconds, which astounded me so much that I repeated the acceleration test four times and obtained near identical figures on each.

It helps that the manual 5-speed gearshift is quite speedy in operation, aided by a most pleasant, well-damped clutch action and an eager throttle response. Of course, working the Dacia hard will ensure that the car will never reach its stated 56.5mpg Combined figure, although I struggled to reduce it to much less than 40mpg, which suggests that most owners would be happy to return around 48mpg. Emitting 116g/km of CO2 rates the car in VED band C.

dacialogan5Thanks to hydraulic power assistance, there is negligible lost input at the helm and the Dacia steers most faithfully. There are no tricks in the suspension system, with a twisting beam rear and MacPherson strut-type on the front, both sprung with coils and friction dampers. The ride can become a little busy on badly rippled road surfaces but provides a surprisingly silken and quiet quality otherwise. As a result, the handling overall is excellent, the fairly skinny 185/65×15 Michelins hanging on well in tighter corners.

The disc-front, drum-rear braking system provides strong arresting power, regardless of speed, ensuring that an emergency stop will distress neither driver, nor other car occupants. With 12,000 miles/one year service intervals, I cannot perceive too many visits to the local Dacia dealer during an average ownership period.

Conclusion: The Dacia Logan is unusual in that you do not need to make an excuse for it. It promises nothing, other than good value for money. The Logan MCV is spacious, comfortable, well-made and efficient in almost all respects.