For those of you unfamiliar with the goings-on at Dacia, the most popular model among UK buyers of Renault’s Romanian subsidiary is the Sandero Stepway, a raised and slightly off-roady version of the Sandero supermini. Until recently this was the only Stepway model in the line-up, but it has now been joined by a similar derivative of the Logan MCV estate.
While there are some styling and branding differences, the most significant alteration is a near two-inch increase in ground clearance. Sturdy plastic trim on the wheelarches and sills provides more justification for venturing further from the tarmac than you would in a regular Logan MCV.
Now, it would be fair to say that this is no more of a premium car than any other Dacia. Here’s a list of things that might put you off: the driver’s footwell is very tight (unusually, there’s actually more room in the rear), the interior plastics feel terribly cheap, the exterior doorhandles are the flimsiest I’ve encountered in years, the steering is firm (or, to put it less charitably, heavy), there’s a lot of road noise, and if you’re standing outside the car the only way of opening the tailgate – how old-fashioned is this? – is to use the key.
But you know what? I don’t care. That’s partly because I’m fond of basic cars, but there are other reasons too.
First of all, for a car measuring less than 15 feet from bumper to bumper, the amount of luggage space is just astonishing. There’s 573 litres of it with the rear seats in place, and no less than 1518 when they’re folded down. If you are an unattached person with few belongings, you could just about live in this thing, saving yourself the trouble and expense of buying a house.
Some cars have rear belts which get trapped when you raise the seats. Others don’t. The Logan MCV is rare in having slots for the belts so they can be tucked away while you’re dealing with the seats – crudely-fashioned slots, right enough, but what a great idea this is.
And here, after some necessary preamble, is another major plus point. There is no such thing as a poverty-spec Logan MCV. The lower of the two trim levels is called Laureate, a name used by Dacia when it’s really pushing the boat out in terms of equipment. Laureates have DAB digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity, LED daytime running lights, start/stop, front foglights, cruise control, a trip computer, heated door mirrors and satellite navigation with mapping for the UK and Ireland (European mapping is also available if you’re prepared to pay £90 for it).
That’s not a particularly impressive list by the current standards of the motor industry, I agree. But most of what you need is there.
The SE Summit tested here is largely the same as a Laureate apart from some interior and exterior trim upgrades, a reversing camera and a front central armrest. Both versions have 89bhp Renault engines, either a 0.9-litre TCe turbo petrol or a more expensive to buy but cheaper to run 1.5-litre dCi diesel.
The plus point is that an SE Summit with the diesel engine has a list price of £13,895. If you don’t need the European satnav mapping but would rather have the £100 optional spare wheel in place of the silly tyre repair kit offered as standard (a wise investment, I suggest) you’ll still be paying less than £14,000.
Okay, you might want to pay for an alarm, which brings the price up to £14,170. Or £14,670 if you go for leather upholstery. The point is, what else can you buy new that will take four adults and a heap of luggage over a rough track at a cost of less than £15,000?
Full disclosure: there was no opportunity to take the Logan MCV Stepway off-road during this test, but experience with a front-wheel drive Duster (based on the same platform and made of largely the same stuff) suggests that it would cope well. On public highways it’s hardly thrilling, though it does ride and handle well enough, possibly because it weighs only slightly more than the lightest version of the noticeably less roomy Mazda MX-5.
The major downside to the Logan MCV is that it has been awarded only three stars by Euro NCAP. This is partly because it doesn’t have much in the way of electronic safety aids, but the bodyshell also seems less robust than it should be. When it comes to safety, you generally get what you pay for, and in this case the low price correctly implies that you don’t get much of it.
Engine size 1461cc
Top speed 106mph
0-62mph 13.0 seconds
Fuel economy 72.4mpg combined
CO2 emissions 100g/km
Towing capacity 1150kg (braked)
Euro NCAP (2013) Overall 3 stars Adult occupant 57% Child occupant 75% Pedestrian 55% Safety assist 38% (non-Stepway tested)
Information correct at publication date