Long-term Review

Living with a… Dacia Logan MCV

There are some cheap cars out there on the new car market, but what’s the cheapest one a family can get away with as its only car? Auto Trader’s Road Test Editor Ivan Aistrop reckons that honour falls to the Dacia Logan MCV. Over the next six months, he’ll see if he’s right.

Words by: First published: 16th January 2019
Month one: The hypothesis…
Mileage: 1600
Costs: £0

Whenever we embark on one of these long-term tests, we always go into it with one key thought in mind: a hypothesis about the car we want to put to the test, either proving or disproving the theory. Well, here’s the hypothesis where our new Logan MCV is concerned. Ahem…

“The Dacia Logan MCV is the cheapest new car that a family can get away with.”

Big words, those, but not without substance. You see, it’s well known Dacia punts out some very cheap cars, many being the cheapest on the market in their respective areas. There’s a good reason the Romanian marque – now owned and operated by Renault – was voted by 40,000 car buyers as the winner of the ‘Best Value Brand’ gong in Auto Trader’s 2018 New Car Awards.
But here’s the thing. Although there are cheaper Dacias than the Logan MCV (which stands for ‘maximum capacity vehicle’, or 'estate' to you and me) in the shape of the Sandero and Sandero Stepway, we don’t think these cars quite have the practicality to serve as a family’s only car. Sure, both are fine when used as runabouts or to pop to the shops, but those sorts of duties are more what you’d expect from a second car. And when you’re buying on a budget, which most Dacia buyers are, you probably don’t have the cash for a second car. So, you want one car that’ll suit all your family’s needs for a low price. That’s where the Logan comes in.

At 573 litres, the boot is an absolute whopper, much bigger than the 320 litres you get in the Sandero. And when you’re lugging around the pushchairs, bikes, coats and wellies that accompany most small children on a daily basis, let alone the luggage needed for a family holiday, that extra space is pretty much a deal-breaker.
To put our theory to the test, I’ll be using the Logan to cope with the needs of my own little family – which includes four-year-old Felix and two-year-old Bess – for the next six months. The car has already faced one stern test in its first few weeks of service, too, a schlep from Surrey to Devon for a family Christmas. The car not only managed to accommodate all four members of the Aistrop family in comfort, it also managed to swallow everything we’d need for a few days away, plus a small mountain of presents. Impressive stuff.

Over the next six months, there’ll inevitably be compromises that need to be made in a car so cheap (a shade over £11k if you can believe that!), but my aim is to find out exactly what these compromises are, how bad they are, and whether they’re worth living with for the price.
Month two: Getting the spec right
Mileage: 2500
Costs: £0

Sounds like a bizarre thing to say, but our Logan MCV is actually far more sophisticated than I wanted it to be.

You see, as we stated last month, the whole idea of all this is to test our theory that the Logan is the cheapest car that a family can get away with as its only car. So ideally, we’d have liked the car itself to have been as cheap as we can possibly get away with. But alas, the only example Dacia had available to send us was in the top-end Comfort trim. Oh well, we’ll still be able to put our theory to the test with a bit of careful analysis.

So that begs the question: what is the cheapest version you can get away with? Well to our mind, it’s the mid-range Essential version. Sure, it’s not the cheapest version, but the basic Access version is a little toooooo basic, doing without, erm, essential kit like air-conditioning, remote locking, a boot light, electric front windows and a stereo. That’s right, a stereo. There are some things that even the most miserly miser can’t live without. Black plastic bumpers mean the Access looks a bit bargain-basement from the outside, too.

The Essential’s body-coloured bumpers do a rather better job of concealing your stinginess, and all those other vital boxes mentioned are checked as well. And importantly, the stereo you get comes fitted with Bluetooth, DAB, an aux input and a USB port.

The Comfort version adds a few bits of chrome inside and out, a trip computer, front foglamps and a touchscreen stereo with incorporated sat-nav, but do you really need any of that when you’re trying to keep your outlay as low as possible? We’d say not. Granted, you do also get rear parking sensors, which are an appealing thought, but they’re rubbish - they tell you to stop reversing when you still have loads of space - so you might as well not bother. We’ll admit, the Comfort’s cruise control might well be missed, but is that on its own really worth the extra grand you pay over the Essential? Again, we’d say not, especially not for families on a budget.

One upgrade that definitely is worth the money, though, is your choice of petrol engine. The entry-level 75 horsepower 1.0-litre engine doesn’t struggle too much for pace, but it’s too noisy for a quiet life, emitting an obvious three-cylinder crackle at low revs, and getting progressively more shouty as the revs climb. The cacophony is also accompanied by a fair amount of vibration through the pedals and steering wheel.

An extra £800 gets you the engine in our car, the 90 horsepower 0.9-litre turbo, which, while it isn’t perfect due to a rather stuttery power delivery, is nowhere near as strained or as rowdy. It’s a good bit stronger and more flexible, too, which also helps contribute towards an easier life.

Our car also came fitted with a few optional extra I wouldn’t have chosen if it were left to me. The alloy wheels, emergency spare wheel and reversing camera on our car are needless fripperies for the dedicated penny-pincher, although I’ll admit to being glad of the Cosmos Blue metallic paint in place of the solid white paint you get as standard.

So, follow our advice and spec your Logan in TCe 90 Essential form, and the car comes in at a shade over ten grand. That’s right, ten grand. For a fully-fledged family estate car with an enormous boot.

Let’s put that into some kind of context with another, more recognisable estate car. You wouldn’t normally compare a Dacia with a BMW, but believe it or not, the Logan actually has a slightly bigger boot than a 5 Series Touring (573 litres plays 570 litres). The cheapest 5 Series, meanwhile, comes in at a shade under 40 grand. So, for the price of one 5 Series, you could have - as near as makes no difference – four Logans. How’s that for value?
Month three: You get what you pay for
Mileage: 3400
Costs: £0

Right, let’s get this out of the way fairly sharpish: there’s plenty about the Logan MCV that’s less than ideal. There, I’ve said it.

As we’ve mentioned in previous reports, the Logan is extremely cheap. Cheap by any standard, let alone by the standards of a car that’s this big and this practical. However, for the price to be so low, there will inevitably be some sacrifices. The question is, what are they, how bad are they, and are they worth it? Well, let’s consider them one by one.

We’ll start with one of the most obvious, which is the cabin quality. The materials are very basic, the design is no-frills, and in a few places, you’ll notice exposed screw heads and rough edges that don’t exactly give you a feeling of class. Indeed, on the passenger side of the dashboard, the plastic is so thin and low-grade that you can even see the outline of the airbag unit through it. Got to admit, that’s a new one on me.
Then there’s the basic nature of how some things operate. For instance, in most modern cars you’ll have a button to open the tailgate, whether that button be in the cabin, on the key, on the tailgate, or all of the above. On the Logan, meanwhile, you have to walk round to the back of the car, stick your key in the slot and turn it. Why? Because it’s a much simpler, much cheaper mechanism, which contributes to the car’s low price. It’s a similar story with the fuel filler. Most modern cars have a locking flap - usually unlocked remotely, either automatically as part of the central locking system, or by a button in the cabin - and either a cap that unscrews, or no cap at all. Again, in the Logan, you have to lift the non-locking flap, stick the key into the cap, and twist. Simple, cheap parts.

Some aspects of the driving experience are also a little bit sub-par. The handling’s a wee bit stodgy, you feel some slightly unsettling kick-back through the steering over mid-corner bumps, and it’s not a very quiet car. There’s plenty of wind and road noise to be heard at high speed, the suspension sounds clonky over low-speed urban bumps and the engine sounds strained and overworked, both on the motorway and when asked for anything more than moderate acceleration.
And, if you don’t choose your version wisely (just to reiterate, the version we recommend is the TCe 90 version in mid-range Essential trim, which costs just £10,095), then you’ll also have to endure stingy equipment levels, flat performance and levels of noise and vibration that are even worse than in the car we’ve got.

Other niggles? There’s nowhere to rest your left foot when it’s not on the clutch pedal, the real-world economy is disappointing (currently 38.4mpg against an official WLTP figure of 53.3mpg) and whenever you’re approaching a speed camera, the infotainment system repeatedly bongs away at you, even if you’re behaving impeccably.

So, those are pretty much all the niggles, so let’s address the second part of the question: how bad are they? Well, aside from the bonging (it really is very annoying, and I’ve not found a way to turn it off), I’ve got to say, not very. It’s all stuff that’s no problem to live with.

And the final part of the question: is it worth it? Well, I’ll answer that with two simple words. Ahem… TEN GRAND! At that price, you bet it is.

In fact, I’d go further than that. Oddly, these little foibles and shortcomings actually become positives if anything. You see, the great thing about the Logan is that it makes you feel clever. You’ve got this massive amount of car for such a small amount of money, and that makes you feel like you’ve pulled off some sort of fiendishly clever trick on the world. And then you look around the car at all these little idiosyncrasies, and you realise that they’re exactly the reason why. And that makes you not only forgive these minor imperfections, it also makes you – in a funny kind of way – thankful for them.
There is one area where this doesn’t apply, though, and that’s on safety. As we’ve stated before, the whole reason we’re conducting this test is to prove (or otherwise) our theory that the Logan MCV is the cheapest car that a family can actually get away with. And with your family on board - your most precious cargo of all - the car’s disappointing three-star (out of five) Euro NCAP crash test rating is far from ideal.

You could look at it this way. At the price you’re paying, you’re probably more likely to consider an older used car as an alternative to the Logan, rather than another new car. And, with Euro NCAP tests becoming tougher and tougher year on year, it’s entirely feasible that today’s three-star car could be as safe, or perhaps even safer, than the five-star car of yesteryear.

However, that argument rather falls down when you realise that the Logan MCV was tested by Euro NCAP all the way back in 2014, so you’d have to be considering a much older car for the differences to even themselves out. And if you’re not, you’ll need to do some soul-searching and figure out whether, for you, in this one crucially important area, the Logan might turn out to be something of a false economy.
Key specs:
-Model: Dacia Logan MCV TCe 90 Comfort
-List price: £11,095
-Price as tested: £12,190
-Engine/gearbox: 0.9-litre 3cyl turbo petrol, five-speed manual
-Power: 90 horsepower
-Top speed: 109mph
-0-62mph: 11.1 seconds
-Economy: 53.3mpg
-CO2/BIK tax liability: 121g/km/25% (FY 2018/19, ‘19/20 is 28%)
-Boot space: 573/1518 litres

Everything extra fitted to our long-termer:

Cosmos Blue metallic paint: £495
15-inch alloy wheels: £300
Rear parking camera: £200
Emergency spare wheel: £100

Interested in buying a Dacia Logan MCV?