Good: cheap, practical, decent warranty, sensible
Not so good: cheap cabin, dull to drive, not so cheap when you get the model you'll want
If ever there was a car brand perfectly of-its-time it has to be Dacia. The Romanian car maker is to the motoring industry what Penneys is to the fashion world or Aldi and Lidl are to groceries. Actually that may be selling Dacia a little short - neither Penneys nor Aldi offer four-year warranties on their products. With less than a month left in 2013, over 1,200 Dacias have found new homes in Ireland this year - more than Citroen has shifted, or Honda, or indeed Volvo.
The appeal is easy to understand; cars like the Duster, Sandero or this new Logan MCV (Maximum Capacity Vehicle) are vehicles for people who have to own a car in the same way that they have to own a kettle. For such a simplistic task as boiling water, or getting from A to B in this case, the less money spent the better and what it looks like, or indeed what it is called, come lower on the priority list than fuel economy, luggage capacity and the fact that it will not collapse like a cardboard box in a crash.
And the Logan MCV, like the Sandero on which it is based (everything from the B-pillar forwards is the same, so why it's not called the Sandero Estate is beyond us), is an eminently safe car. Packing such safety equipment as stability control as standard, anti-lock brakes and brake assist and four airbags, it is as safe as the technological tour-de force that is the BMW i3 according to Euro NCAP, with both cars scoring four out of five in crash tests.
And at €11,190 the Logan MCV is three times cheaper than the i3 too. Sure it's not the best looking design in the world - the extended boot is particularly frumpy - but it is comfortable, has plenty of space in the rear for adults or children alike (assuming neither are particularly long of leg) and with a boot volume of 573 litres it offers more than enough space for a trip to one of the aforementioned shops. Road and wind noise can be quite irksome, but not so much that they cannot be drowned out by the noise of the engine, which in the case of our test car is a 1.5-litre dCi diesel unit that offers up an adequate 90hp and 220Nm of torque - while using a more than reasonable 3.8 litres/100km with emissions of 99g/km.
We say adequate as performance is at best described as tepid and it has as much cornering ability as a shopping trolley with a dodgy wheel, but the Logan MCV is not a car that you are likely to wring the neck of on your favourite back road. Instead it chomps away at motorway miles with ease and even makes a good fist of things when it encounters some of the less than ideal road surfaces that we possess in Ireland.
What more could you ask from a car that costs a little over €11,000, can carry five with ease and take in a trip to Ikea at the same time, costs only €180 a year to tax and is robust enough that the manufacturer is willing to stand over it for four years?
There is one slight problem though - the headline catching figure of €11,190 refers to an 'Alternative' specification car fitted with Renault's old 1.2-litre petrol engine that is neither particularly frugal (5.8 litres/100km) nor green (135g/km - or €280 a year car tax). To get a diesel engine, which, according to the data most buyers are, you have to pay €13,690 and that is just if you want it in Alternative trim.
Thankfully Dacia Ireland does not offer the same poverty spec entry level model as is offered in the UK so Alternative is not that badly specified with the likes of Bluetooth, electric front windows and a multi-function steering, but if you are the kind of person (or should that be the shape of person) who needs to adjust the height of the seatbelt than you have to go for the range topping Signature model. Likewise if you have kids and want electric rather than windy windows out back or if you spend a lot of time on the motorway and need cruise control and a trip computer. You can see where we are going with this, right?
One of Dacia's taglines is "giving you just what you need", but we're afraid by the time you get a Logan MCV to do or indeed be what you want it to be you are into the realm of more talented alternatives. Our 1.5-litre dCi Signature test car will set you back €15,690 and for that money both SEAT and Skoda offer very capable supermini estates and nigh on €16k will also buy a nearly new Grand Mégane from a Renault dealership. Considering Dacia and Renault share showroom space that one may be a tough call.