The Clarkson review: Dacia Logan MCV Mk 1 (2014)

Antique roadshow

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WHEN I arrived at the Top Gear studio last week there was a man with a lorry waiting to take the 911 Turbo I’d been using back to Porsche. And another man brandishing a set of keys to the car I’d be using to go home that night. It was a Dacia Logan MCV. And I don’t think I’d ever clapped eyes on anything so woefully dreary and unimaginative.

Its awfulness consumed me to such an extent that all day I wandered about forgetting my lines and not paying attention to the director’s requests to stand a little bit further to the left. Trying to record a show knowing that afterwards you’ll be driving home in a Logan is, I imagine, a bit like being told to make love knowing that afterwards you will be taken outside, tied to a post and executed. It’s difficult.

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Now at this point you are probably expecting me to say that to drive, the Logan was a big surprise. And you’d be right. It was. Because it was much worse than I could possibly have imagined. In fact, it was like being led outside to face a firing squad and then finding out that actually you were to be burnt at the stake.

The interior is much like those one-piece bathrooms that you find in budget French motorway hotels. Only without the sense of longevity and good quality. Everything you touch feels nasty and as though it may break at any moment.

Then you fire up the engine. I’m told the diesel alternative is fairly dreadful but I cannot see how it could possibly be worse than the 0.9-litre petrol unit under the bonnet of my test car. Want to know what it sounded like? Well, set your blender at top speed and then empty a packet of gravel into it.

Which brings me neatly on to the performance. There isn’t any. Floor the throttle and it feels much like you feel now, as you sit in a chair reading the paper. It has all the get-up-and-go of someone who’s dead.

This is a good thing, because if it were capable of moving about, you would need to stop it, and the brakes aren’t really up to the job. The handling, meanwhile, is worse, and the ride is shocking. I’ve had more comfortable falls. And then there are the headlights, which pierce the night with all the ferocity of a glowworm in a jam jar.

front cabin cropped.jpg
Then I got cramp. This is because the clutch pedal is jammed right up against the centre console and there is consequently nowhere to put your left foot.

All of which raises an interesting question. I have no idea who runs Dacia in Britain but I presume they are capable of breathing through their noses and don’t spend all day flapping their arms about and making animal noises at one another. In other words, I presume they are adults and that possibly they have degrees in business studies from a university.

So what caused them to gather round a plate of biscuits one day and say, “Right. If we import the Logan MCV, many people in Britain will buy it and we shall make our shareholders extremely happy”?

They must have known that an ancient Renault reclothed in a body that had been styled by someone whose eyes didn’t work and then built in Romania was never going to be a hit in a country where there is something called choice.

Perhaps they thought that it would find favour among those who had recently arrived from Romania — that it would remind them of home in some way.

I’m not sure about that. Because when you look at those Romanian immigrants who camp out at Marble Arch every night, sheltering from the rain in a selection of carrier-bag hats and eating best-before-2009 sandwiches, you do have to ask a question: how bad was your life in Romania for that to be better? We have to assume that it was very bad, so I don’t think they will be forming orderly queues to be reminded of it. And anyway, getting a proper hat is probably a higher priority than getting a set of wheels.

Perhaps, then, Dacia’s UK importers thought that the car would sell to those who simply wanted the latest registration plate. Not sure about that. Because, as I explained a couple of months ago when I reviewed the Dacia Sandero Access, nobody really notices new registration numbers these days. So you are better off buying second hand.

I trawled through my address book and pored over old school photographs. I stared at passers-by out of the window and looked at everyone in the audience on daytime television shows. And I couldn’t see anyone anywhere who looked mad enough to buy an ugly car that drives, handles and stops with the speed and verve of continental drift. A car so bad that when I had to film an item on cycling recently I chose to ride my bike to the location rather than take the Dacia. It’s that bad.

I’m not even that sold on the entry-level, headline-grabbing price tag of £6,995, because while this is cheap, so is sawing your head off. Anyway the version I drove costs £8,595 and you could get a perfectly decent used Volkswagen Golf for less than that.

However, the Logan does have one thing you do not get from a Golf. Or indeed many other cars on the market. A truly enormous boot — Dacia claims it has a best-in-class capacity. With the seats up it’s even bigger than the one in the BMW 5-series Touring. In fact you’d be looking at a car such as the Mercedes E-class estate or the Volvo V70 to find more carrying space. And you’d struggle to get a decent example of either of those for less than seven grand.

The boot in the Logan is so vast that you arrive at your destination six hours before the rear window’s wiper. It’s not just big enough for a complete set of 20-storey scaffolding but there’s sufficient room left over for you and your extended family to have a long-haul holiday. It’s a football pitch in there.

And that gave me an idea. We know that in recent times the demand for antiques has plummeted. Nobody wants a Georgian table when, for less, they can have something Danish and so stylish it doesn’t even have legs.

This means the nation’s antiques dealers can no longer afford to buy a Volvo. The Logan may just be the answer to their prayers. They can still come home from a trip to the antiques cash’n’carry with a welsh dresser and two tallboys in the back. But for pretty much a quarter of what the V70 costs.

And I doubt very much they’ll notice the awful ride or the alarming lack of performance because they are antiques dealers, so they are people who want to live in the past. They may even enjoy driving a car that feels as if it was made in 1973.

So that’s it, then. For you and me the Logan is a full-on, no-stars failure. Almost certainly it’s the worst car in current production. But for the nation’s modern-day Arthur Neguses it’s just the ticket.


Dacia Logan MCV Ambiance TCe 90 ☆☆☆☆☆

Bags of space; no other virtues at all



898cc, 3 cylinders, turbo
90bhp @ 5250rpm
99 lb ft @ 2500rpm
5-speed manual
0-62mph: 11.1sec
Top speed:
Road tax band:
C (free for first year)
L 4492mm; W 1733mm; H 1550mm



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