Back in 2004 when it was revealed, the Dacia Logan was berated for not being the fabled 5,000 euro car for Europe as promised by the head of its Renault parent – Louis Schweitzer – but after more than a decade, looking back it’s actually best that didn’t happen.
Who would have believed back then that Dacia’s Logan (and the Sandero soon enough) would become such a major success for the Romanian automaker as well as its parent company, the Renault Nissan alliance? Probably a few did, since it’s now in its second half life span of the second generation already – and it’s a far cry from the model that was “just a car” when first introduced. Today, Dacia has even overcome the “affordable,” entry level branding by turning into a smart buy choice. And believe it or not – on the European market they’re quite singular. Years ago, it would have fought with the Skoda or even Seat brands from the VW Group – but today the Dacia brand presents itself as lonesome introduction at the exact base of the segments it has entered. Let’s take the facelifted Logan for example – it’s a small family car with a sedan body. Has anyone seen the Hyundai Accent, the Kia Rio sedan or Polo sedan recently anywhere around Europe? It’s surprising to say the least, but apparently in Europe no one wants a subcompact sedan anymore – so why is the Logan still on offer? Well, for one thing – it’s nice to have no competition, which can’t be said about the Sandero, always assumed to be the more successful of the duo. And the Logan is by no means a failure – it sells well at home and has been produced in places such as Morocco, Brazil, Argentina, Turkey, Russia, Colombia, Iran or India – the first generation Logan pick-up even lives on in South Africa.
While everyone is crazed about crossovers – even Dacia (which not only has the Duster, but also the Sandero Stepway, Dokker and Lodgy Stepway and now the Logan MCV Stepway) – the Logan remains one of the interesting reminders of old Europe, when no one had money for two cars in the family and needed a versatile but not overly expensive get anywhere vehicle. The small class sedan was the embodiment – and this is why the Logan (no relationship to the superhero with claws that makes an appearance in theaters right now) was the first model that signaled the rebirth of the Dacia brand. It’s now a global success story – both in terms of making a business thrive and also in terms of sales. Just look at the European figures for Dacia and you’ll see that while the Old Continent has emerged from the economic crash that made the brand popular, it’s still selling great thanks to the latest enhancements and additions. Whether it will live to see a third generation – in the current context it may very well be axed – the Logan will remain a staple of practicality and affordability – even without any competition to worry about, at least in Europe.
Design, Interior and Gadgets
Since its reveal at the 2012 Paris Motor Show, the Logan / Sandero family has been awarded the perk of giving up the basic, entry-level stance. And the facelift is a clear indication that Dacia is going the exact same route as Skoda – the Czech automaker’s Octavia compact car, which is based on the same underpinnings as the current Golf, even trumps the latter in terms of pricing in certain markets. We’re pretty much sure that Renault won’t do the same, but it’s clear that the days of corner cutting are almost over. Almost, as in there are a few things to iron out first, but we’ll get to those later on. First things first – the Dacia brand continues with each passing update to introduce feature firsts for its price point – the refreshed exterior and interior of the signature model come with things such as LED daylight running lights and automatic air conditioning. While classic mid-life cycle refreshes barely touch the exterior visuals lately, Dacia went for a more thorough update that includes a modified bumper with new fog lights housings and lights, restyled headlights with the LEDs and the introduction of the Duster grille. The rear bumper has also been restyled and the taillights given a more modern appearance. This is where the first corner cutting item needs to disappear in the future – while the rear lights give the impression of having four separate rectangles, they are actually illuminated by a single bulb, which is not really attractive at night. The new Prestige flagship trim grade also features nice-looking alloy-like wheels with a Dark Metal finish (although they are actually hub caps on top of steel wheels) and comes with interesting interior perks that were once reserved to the limited-edition 10 years anniversary model.
Moving inside, this is where Dacia actually worked out to address some of the issues owners have had ever since the first generation came out. This is because exterior design enhancements are great, but they never were the cause of disgruntled owners – the interior issues were the ones causing beefs. Let’s take them one by one – but first list the enhancements. The dashboard layout and instrument cluster have remained the same – but there’s white illumination for the latter and a new four-spoke steering wheel sitting in front of it. Meanwhile, depending on the version, the air conditioning aerators have remained round but changed materials (satin-effect chrome finish) – and can even be had as rectangles on the center stack with the Prestige trim (which also features a carbon-like design for the finish). There are new upholstery options, a tray on the side of the console for small items and a bottle holder at the rear next to the new 12-volt power socket. The interesting changes – for users that also had a Logan before – will for sure be the placement of the horn on the new steering wheel, the addition of spoke buttons for the cruise control/speed limiter and the move of the electric (touch-operated for the driver) window buttons on the doors from the lower part of the center stack. Of course, Dacia hasn’t finished ironing the cost cutting issues just yet – for example while everyone has controls for the electric windows on the respective door, the driver still has to operate the rear ones from the old placement. In addition – due to the oldish design for the central tunnel, which is located very close to the floor, the Easy-R lever is featured in a not so comfortable position – especially if you want to operate the gearbox in manual mode. We certainly welcome the introduction of an automated transmission mode on Dacia’s models (it’s a piloted manual, again for cost cutting and efficiency reasons), but it’s really odd that a “P” for park position has been left out (it has R, N, D and manual) – so the driver will have to secure the car in place with the handbrake every time (you can also leave it in D when cutting off the engine, but when you want to restart the car you’ll have to first switch to N).
As far as the driver and passengers are concerned, the Logan remains one of the most spacious cars in its segment – offering compact-class rear room when discussing all sizes. This is most obvious when discussing the wheelbase – the Logan has 2635 mm, compared to the Citroen C-Elysee’s 2652 mm, with the French compact being the closest competitor in terms of actual size at 4419 mm versus the Logan’s 4358 mm length. As we told you before – the Logan was born out of the old emerging market need to have a one vehicle fits all needs – so getting a huge trunk is an absolute must: 510 liters will probably do, especially since now the car also has a 60/40 rear bench for added practicality. The driver and front passenger get comfortable seats which seem to have been worked a bit compared to the pre-facelift model because they have better long-drive comfort now. After nitpicking lots of small issues about the Logan, I can also tell you – seeing how I experienced the Logan from way back when it was first released – that Dacia has worked a lot to get rid of small nuisances. For example, the engine is less intrusive in terms of NVH (noise vibrations and harshness) up to higher revs, the steering wheel rack seems to have been improved for better handling at higher speeds, there’s now a much-requested central armrest and even the well known Media Nav touchscreen infotainment suite has been enhanced. The latter has refreshed graphics as well as a better responsiveness overall – Dacia still has to work out the reflectivity issues, though. Since we’re dealing with a smart buy brand we can’t really talk about gadgets as per se – you do have all the basics covered especially if you go for the optional Media Nav, like USB, Bluetooth, navigation and now also rear-view camera.
Engine, Transmission and Handling
The best of all is that Dacia seemingly enhances its models on every occasion – before the facelift they introduced the Prestige trim with some of the enhancements that became widely available on the facelift, including the updated Media Nav (without camera though) or the optional automatic air conditioning module – which although taken straight from the Renault Clio is actually a snug fit with the overall styling of the Dacia interior. While unable to actually verify everything with an actual release, I noticed the overall driving experience has been enhanced with the facelift. For example, the steering response is better particularly at higher speeds – on the highways for example – while there’s also a Hill Assist system for easier get going. In addition, while the center of gravity remains high and the Logan is certainly no sporty subcompact, the reactions from the drivetrain seem to have gone towards better operation – possibly due to modifications operated at the rear axle, which is also way more silent in operation than before. Logan owners of past know very well not to fear pot holes due to the high clearance and sturdy suspension setup, but they will also be surprised to find out the annoying noises have almost disappeared – no matter the gravity of impact. It may also help the fact that Dacia has come to use premium tire providers such as Michelin – on the tested vehicle – which, as anyone knows, do wonders not only on grip but also on the overall performance and comfort.
The Dacia brand has always used Renault-sourced engines and will continue to do so – even though it has its own perks now, such as the piloted manual (a gearbox type that was made infamous by the initial generations of Smart cars) transmission. As such, most European owners will look forward to the use of the 1.5 dCi – which can be had with 75 and 90 ho power levels. Going for the Prestige trim will most likely have owners also choose the top spec engine, which is an old acquaintance to anyone who has ever used a Renault model in the subcompact class. The engine can be had – depending on the market – either with a five-speed manual transmission or the modern and efficient six-speed Easy-R, which is a great choice actually for a well-rounded performance both in and out of urban areas. This is because it’s certainly useful and not overly thirsty in metro areas – also thanks to the Start/Stop technology offered as standard equipment on the trim level – but also because it can cope with highway speeds unlike other, more expensive six speed automatic transmissions. It won’t do wonders to the fuel consumption because of the basic aerodynamic issues – but it keeps the engine at comfortable revolutions (around 2.600 rpm) at 130 km/h. This means the Logan can be used as an urban aid as well as a family vacation hauler – thus perfectly befitting the initial sheet fact for such a vehicle. It won’t impress you with its performance though – the manual version (no data for Easy-R) will reach 100 km/h in 11.8 seconds and top out at 173 km/h, compared to the C-Elysee 100 HDi that runs the sprint in 10.8 seconds and maxes at 183 km/h. But – if you treat it gently (as in use the Eco option) – it will reward you with a comfortable and fuel efficient ride at 3.7 liters per 100 km on average (better be prepared for above 5 liters in real world usage scenarios). No matter how you put it though, the Logan is not a dynamic ride – Dacia did wonders on NVH and comfort as of late – because it’s actually besides the point. The Logan will never be the thrilling ride you take on a mountain course on your way to the seaside – it will be that affordable and better equipped by the minute company car or family hauler that takes you, the kids, the pet and everything anyone needs on relaxed trips.
Pro: The styling has gone up a notch again, with LEDs and Duster-inspired grille. The interior keeps making you think this is a compact car and the trunk is basically huge. Dacia has worked out some issues – such as the placement of the horn, or electric window buttons – and then some more, enhancing small things that add to the overall experience. The Easy-R takes some use but will make you abandon manual gearboxes on small cars.
Against: There are still obvious cost control measures – from the lone bulb for the rear light cluster to the steering that still has one-axis control. The price for the Prestige, with the 90 hp diesel and Easy-R transmission is way out of affordable territory.
Starting Price – Dacia Logan Acces 1.0 SCe 75 – 6,950 EUR
Tested Version – Dacia Logan Prestige 1.5 dCi 90 Easy R – 12,600 EUR
Engine: 1.5L four cylinder, diesel, turbo, intercooler, start/stop (1461 cc)
Power: 90 HP (66 kW) / 4000 rpm
Torque: 220 Nm / 1750
Transmission: 6-speed piloted manual auto
Dimensions: length – 4,358 mm, width – 1,733mm, height – 1,517 mm, wheelbase – 2,635 mm
Fuel Tank Capacity: 50L
Trunk Capacity: 510/ 1257 liters
0 – 100 km/h: nc
Top Speed: nc
Fuel consumption: urban – 3,7L/100 km, highway – 3,7L/100 km, average –3,7L/100 km
Rating: 2.4 / 5