This is nothing short of bonkers. I’ve just taken delivery of a new spacious estate car that costs £13,695 without extras, or £14,580 as tested. It’s got acres of space and everything you’d expect a modern (albeit budget) family car to have, yet it costs just a grand more than the 1.3-litre Toyota Corolla that my dad bought 22 years ago, in 1996. And unlike my new long-term Dacia, that car didn’t have tyre pressure monitoring or Bluetooth connectivity. It also didn’t have anti-lock brakes and electronic stability programme or a touchscreen navigation system. In todayís money, that £12,500 Corolla should now cost £22,500.
It’s this comparison that throws the Dacia’s value into sharp relief, because while it may not be an aspirational car, it’s astonishing value for money. My colleague Vicky’s initial reaction when she sat inside was “it’s a bit basic, isn’t it?”, with a look of disappointment at the prospect of spending the next few months with the Dacia. What she meant was that it’s not luxurious, as the cabin is swathed in hard plastics. You’ll search in vain for leather upholstery, heated seats, an uprated audio system or xenon lights, but as Dacia says, it comes with everything you need and nothing you don’t. Strictly speaking this isn’t true, because one thing the Stepway doesn’t come with, at least at the moment, is a diesel engine, as it’s temporarily a petrol-only model. If thatís left you wondering why we’re running this car if you can’t buy one right now, it’s because this car is a stopgap until a new Duster arrives on the fleet later in the year. Besides, you can still buy a used example, so you might want to know if this Dacia really is as good as its maker claims, and we wonít hold back.
As Dacia’s Logan MCV range-topper, the Stepway comes only in LaurÈate form, which means it’s reasonably well equipped, despite the meagre price tag. On the standard kit list are hill start assist, LED daytime running lights, engine stop/start, cruise control and rear parking sensors ñ all of which dad’s old Toyota Corolla had to make do without. Our car also has three extras: a spare wheel (£100), a rear parking camera (£200) and a western Europe map upgrade (£90).
It’s easy to home in on the specification sheet and be amazed at what Dacia supplies for the money, but car buyers want a lot more than shiny things and buttons to press ñ they also want comfort, economy, reliability, usability and more, so we’ll see how the Dacia fares over the next few months. So far it’s looking good, as in the first five weeks we covered over 3,500 miles, including a family fortnight in France. There have been no breakdowns so far, mechanical or emotional, and the car is averaging over 50mpg. Thatís 27 per cent less than Dacia claims it should deliver, but for a rather overworked 1.5-litre engine thatís had to propel the Logan at high speeds all over the country, itís better than many of the other cars Iíve run on the long-term fleet.
The plan was to run the Logan for just a few weeks before the Duster arrived, but the delivery date for the latter has been pushed back to November, so the Logan is going to get quite a workout. This extra time wonít prove to be any hardship for me ñ so far, I rather like it, even if I wouldnít turn down something more luxurious. No, it’s not driving the Dacia that’s going to be the hard part ñ it’s the constant persuading of friends and industry colleagues that I havenít been put in the Logan MCV Stepway as some kind of punishment.
Date arrived 11th July 2018
Economy (urban/extra urban/combined) | 68.9/74.3/72.4mpg Economy (on test) | 52.5mpg
Much of the technology in the Logan is old-school, but not the multi-media system which is really easy to use.
You can’t open the tailgate without the key, or unless you pull a lever by the driver’s seat.