With the market for mainstream car sales being driven by discounted and Vat free new models, cheaper finance plans and cheaper more fuel and CO2 efficient new cars coming our way, sales this year up until the end of September have risen by 10.7% over the same period last year.
The new 63 registration plate month of September alone made it the best selling month for five years with over 400,000 new cars registered. Official sales figures issued by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed a 17% rise in private sales for September and the year so far. Demand by Fleet customers for the same period shows around a 5% increase and sales to Business customers have increased by 15%.
As one motoring pundit put it, “If retail and business buyers have the confidence to return to buying new cars Britain must be well on the way back to financial recovery after the recession.”
One of the new brands on the way up is Dacia the Romania automotive company founded in 1966 producing older Renaults under licence before it was bought by Renault in 1999. In 2004 Dacia was re-launched into most Western European Markets where it has become the fastest growing automotive brand for eight years in a row. In January this year Dacia came to Britain, first with the Duster crossover SUV then the Sandero supermini five door hatchback and its taller Sandero Stepway crossover version arrived in June. In November their latest offering the Dacia Logan MCV, (Maximum Capacity Vehicle), a C-segment estate range joins the line-up and it is being billed as the cheapest estate on the market – priced from just £6,995.
Dacia, pronounced “Datch-ya”, with Dacia in Romanian meaning “home”, has already exceeded 11,630 new car sales in the UK in the first nine months of this year sold through all 130 UK Renault Dealerships. Their sales here already exceed those of the more established mainstream brands such as Chevrolet, Chrysler, Jeep, MG, Mitsubishi, Perodua, Proton, Smart and Subaru. Potentially of course Dacia models, which use the most recent Renault-Nissan Alliance drivetrain and production technologies and are being sold out of Renault dealerships, could take sales away from Renault in the UK. Not so it appears because their sales so far this year are up by 6.2%.
Jeremy Townsend, Director of Communications for Renault and Dacia in the UK said, UK customers for Dacia models have been used car buyers in the past but now they see the opportunity to buy a brand new car at value-for-money prices.
At the recent SMMT media test drive event for the latest new models from the industry, some of the youthful new generations of bloggers and electronic life-style types looked like children let loose in a sweet-shop as they headed towards the latest Jags, Mercs, Bentleys and Range Rovers whilst us older ‘hacks’ having a nose-for-news headed towards Dacia and in particular their yet to go on sale Logan MCV . A brand new family sized estate for £6,995 surely there must be a catch to it. Not so, the only catch is Dacia published on-the-road prices are what they say they are, no haggling and of course it is expected that the spec will be basic at that price. Pay a little more, up to £10,795 for the top of the range 1.5-litre dCi 90hp Laureate, and the spec and performance improves. There is the choice of three engines; the cheapest 1.2-litre 75hp 4-cylinder petrol unit, the new TCe 90hp 3-cylinder 898cc turbocharged petrol unit and the 1.5-litre DCi 4-cylinder common-rail, direct injection turbodiesel. There is the choice of Access, Ambience and Laureate specification levels but their headline grabbing budget model is only available with Access spec and the lack-lustre 1.2-litre petrol engine.
That was the version I tried. A big shock, given today’s fully loaded spec press test cars we drive day in and day out, the door key has to be used to open the doors, remember that. No central door locking for this price on this version. Equally reminiscent were the wind-up windows and the manually adjusted front door mirrors but yes there was a heater. Also included were tinted windows, seatbelts to all five seats, Isofix points for child seats in the rear outer two seats, anti-lock braking, stability control, front and side airbags, immobiliser, tyre inflation kit, power assisted steering, rev counter, heated rear window, 60/40 split rear seatbacks, sombre but seemingly well fitted plastic trim, cloth upholstery, 15-inch steel wheels and pre-wiring for a radio, yes a radio is an option in this base spec. However the Dacia showcase car for the new Logan MCV with Access spec did have the following options fitted, a £95 emergency spare wheel, £395 extended 5years/60,000 mile warranty – you get 3years/60k as standard, £225 accessory pack including a set of mats, boot liner and rear parking sensors, a £250 Kenwood radio/CD player and a £395 touring pack which includes towbar and electrics, roof bars and boot luggage net. So the final on-the-road price of the test car came to just £7,340. But the argument remains for some customers, do they buy a new Dacia or do they buy a more highly specced used model for roughly the same price? It’s a difficult call but owning a car from new does have appeal for many people.
That call becomes more difficult if reasonable specification is important rather than just a cheap new set of reliable ‘wheels’. Ambience will improve the car to some extent but it is only really the Laureate level where air conditioning, electric front and rear windows, electric door mirrors, on-board computer and even a height adjustable steering wheel appears. The problem is the expected best selling Laureate spec models with the 1.2-litre and 898cc turbocharged petrol and 1.5-litre turbodiesel engines cost from £8,995 to £10,795 which really then puts them in the same price league as a high specced used estate from mainstream brands with around 30,000 miles on the clock.
Other than its headline starter price, the big selling point of the new Dacia Logan MCV is the space it offers, seating for five with good rear seat legroom and a huge load area which starts at 573-litres and goes up to 1,518-litres. The interior as I’ve said is relatively basic, but the carrying space is its trump card and very appealing. With the 1.2-litre normally aspirated low power 75hp petrol engine model and its five-speed gearbox available for a brief first test drive, this version felt just about OK. The sluggish zero to 62mph acceleration time of 14.5 seconds says it all and the top speed, although immaterial in real-life, is only 97mph. Carrying a load the performance would be even less. Officially this engine will return 48.7mpg in the Combined Cycle and I would expect a more realistic figure of around 35mpg. CO2 emissions are 135g/km so VED road tax is £125 per annum but insurance is expected to be Group 4 so running costs are as commendably low as the purchase price.
The suspension is set up for comfort so there is considerable body-roll during cornering and although there is reasonable cornering grip there is significant understeer. The power assisted steering felt on the heavy side and there is significant wind and road noise intrusion. Basically you get what you pay for and for some buyers who want a budget priced, durable new car it will be enough to make the roomy Dacia Logan MCV appealing.
MILESTONES. Dacia Logan MCV Access 5-Door Estate, 1.2 16V 75. Price: £6,995. Engine/transmission: 1.2-litre, 4-cylinder, normally aspirated petrol, 75hp, 107Nm (79lb ft) of torque at 4,250rpm, 5-speed manual. Performance: 97mph, 0-62mph 14.5 seconds, 48.7mpg, CO2 125g/km, VED road tax £125. Insurance group: 4P. Dimensions/capacities: L 4, 492mm, H 1,550mm, W 1,733mm, boot/load space 573 to 1,518-litres, braked towing capacity 810kg. Warranty: 3-years/60,000 miles. For: Low price, impressive load space, modern exterior styling, comfortable ride, likely to be durable and reliable. Against: Very basic specification, drab interior, unproven residual values, sluggish engine, a 3-5 year old used estate from a mainstream brand might offer better long term value in terms of specification and performance for the same money. Miles Better News Agency