One of the reasons I jumped at the chance when invited to write for this site was that I thought there would be a lot of chances to discuss the many fundamental differences between driving in the Southern hemisphere of this world and the Northern one. One big difference is that our cars are small. Why? Taxes. Why? Only Brazilians are passive enough to take this lying down. Although continental in size, Brazil limits itself to driving puny 1.0L engines (almost 50 percent of our market). You might as well think that doesn’t work. Well, it’s time to find out.
The recently launched Renault Logan is a good example of this. Its mini-me engine must struggle to make this relatively big car (its wheelbase of 2.63 m is bigger than the Corolla’s, the Astra’s and the Focuses’) move. The little-engine-that-should produces all of 76 hp when drinking dino-juice and 77 hp when using up the gift of sugarcane, ethanol. Being that the car weighs in at 1,080 kg, and that all the torque the engine can muster is 9.9 or 10.1 m.kgf (71/ 73 lb-ft, gas/ethanol) and that maximum pulling power is reached at a lofty 4,250 rpm, you can see it struggles to keep up speed. But more on that later. The new face-lifted car is mechanically identical to the departing one according to the enthusiasts over at bestcars.com.br (all numbers, head bow to them).
If Renault skimped on the mechanical side, it wasted, err, spent whatever budget it had inside. The Logan takes a page from its hatchback brother the Sandero, and takes its door handle, instrument gauge and steering wheel, while it’s at it. The result is a little more fake-plastic-chrome inside (good for a tropical sun when it’s glaring down in all its anger). Also purloined from the Sandero is the (poor) fabric found on the seats. The big news is that the door now harbors the power window buttons. Striving to correct an ergonomic mishap (the buttons were placed on the dash before), Renault created another one. Since said buttons are placed not on the door handle itself, but rather in an extension that comes from the door map holders, it’s now more difficult to access the deep recesses of the map holders and the door opener. Such genius.
Renault has always sold the Logan as the medium-sized (for Brazil) car with a compact car (again, for Brazil) pricing. So, taking whatever money was left over from the “huge” changes inside, outside the car is longer by 4 cm, you know, to give you more bang for your buck. This is due to new bumpers (according to the largest Brazilian’s newspaper O Globo’s news portal).
The face has also changed. The headlights are bigger and they changed the shape of the grill and didn’t paint it and changed the fog lights’ housing (and didn’t paint that, either). The portion of the bumper that is open to allow air to flow in was turned upside down. In the back, the bumpers are also changed. They copied the copy Fiat made of Volkswagen’s original design. They also borrowed a page from VeeDub’s book and tried integrating a spoiler on the lid of the trunk (if you squint your eyes you can see). And boy what a trunk! It holds a total of 510 liters, making it the biggest in Brazil (Lincoln, bite yourself) and is a strong selling point. Its usefulness though is hampered by the fact that the back seat doesn’t fold, like it does in all of its competitors.
Did I mention you now also have a strip of “chrome” on the front hood and out in the back, too? Yummy.
But how does it drive? you ask.
To sum up, well, sort of. No, it’s ok. Ok, it’s good. If you drive it like it’s intended to be driven (sedate, economic family sedan). If you drive it like you are Alain Prost, you’ll be frustrated fast
As noted by our own Martin Schwoerer, when he reviewed the 2008 Dacia Logan SW/minivan for TTAC, you might end up having some fun. It does go down the highway with that Gallic aplomb many find inspiring. Note I said, “when going down the road. When going up the road, you’ll have to row through the gears in earnest to keep up speed (gain speed? No, just maintaining speed.) There’ll come a point you’ll just have to scoot over to the right lane and join the other grannies and slowpokes driving their 1.0’s. Then you’ll get frustrated because they’re going so slow. You, being an accomplished driver, could eventually prod it to go faster. You just have to try real hard!
This car is long and wide. Not to mention tall. The suspension of the Logan is very well sorted out. It does not wiggle uncomfortably or lean over too much when thrown at curves of varying angles. There are limits, though. Remember physics? The Logan takes most curves with a sang-froid (not to mention grip) its smaller competitors just can’t pull off as well, damn their shorter wheelbase. Steering is great. Light, though never isolating. Just point it and go. It provides the right amount of feedback. Due to its (boxy) design, you can see the hood out front. There’s something to be said for that.
There you are then, enjoying the road. You’ll notice that top speed is not great. In this version I only managed to get it up to 155km/h (on the odometer, probably more like 147 or so in real life) for short bursts. At that point, it’s screaming. You can hear by all the wind noise that it is literally fighting the wind (and losing). It will cruise happily all day at 120 km/h (75 mph). Even at that speed the RPMs are going at 4,000. So you have to shout a little. Using my unscientific measures I recorded a best run from 0 to 100 km/h (0 to 62.5 mph) in a bit over 16 seconds. In this market, about average.
Since you’re going slowly, you have a chance to take in your surroundings. You will be sitting comfortably as you can easily find a good position to sit as there are all the adjustments. Just don’t expect them to be electronic. The seats themselves are on the smallish side, and could use more bolstering in the cushion. I can imagine many a corn-fed American having gripes about it. Though I’m a big fellow myself, I felt comfortable.
Visibility is very good. The windows are big (no gun slits here, thank God). The only problem is the back side view as the C columns are massive. The side mirrors though are bigger for this model year (another inheritance from the Sandero). The radio is just ok though it does have a satellite control unit hanging behind the spokes of the steering wheel for your pleasure. As it’s a dealer accessory, your quality may vary.
The most important part (or one of the most) for a consumer of this kind of car? Though the car I test drove was spanking brand new, I have lots of experience with this car as (time for disclaimer) I own a very similar 2008/2009 Logan (as mentioned earlier, mechanically identical to this new car). Drawing from my vast experience, I can tell you it depends extraordinarily on your right foot. Drive it like you stole it, and you’ll get robbed at the pumps a lot. Drive it like a nanny, and you’ll see the gas stations going broke. Realistically, you can expect 6.5 km/l with ethanol or about 8 km/l with gasoline in heavy stop and go traffic (A/C on at all times) and as much as 13km/l on ethanol in (flat) freeway driving and up to 17.5km/l on gas. In the real world though, A/C on and some traffic and uphills and downhills as well as legal speed limits, you can get 10km/l on ethanol and about 13km/l on gasoline.
This is a good car. It’s an engineer’s car. Not a designer’s. It’s honest. It serves a need. Of say, a family with 2 teens and a kid. It’ll hold their luggage and move them around in (relative) comfort, though slowly. If you need more power, you can always ante up for the 1.6 version, though I’d avoid this version for now since its rumored to receive some upgrades in terms of power soon (according to Brazilian car rag Auto Esporte’s February 2010 print issue). The Logan is bigger than any of its (smaller) direct competitors, cheaper than some, insurance is cheaper, the Logan is more economic (especially in the city) than most of them.
It is, however uglier (to most, though I’ve always like boxy cars), parts are more expensive and harder to come by. Then again it’s the class leader with 3 years guarantee. However, to some Brazilians this is not a tranquilizer, as they worry about the cost of regular maintenance. All I know is that it should sell better than it does. Would I buy another one? Only if bought the 1.6L version.
This car was provided to the reviewer by his father-in-law with no gas and a stern warning, “Don’t f… up the car”.