By on December 19, 2013

Salon_automobile_à_Colmar_2013_015

Top Gear and TTAC have been at the forefront of giving you your dose of Dacia developments for some time now, propelled by my strange obsession with this obscure Romanian brand of budget car. Now, Dacia is getting its 15 minutes of North American coverage, with a New York Times feature touting Dacia as “Europe’s Hottest Car”.

The NYT article is more of a primer on Dacia and its origins than an in-depth examination. If you’ve been keeping up with our extensive coverage of Dacia (all three of you), you’ll be familiar with what’s covered.

I’ve long felt that the story of Dacia is one that is congruent with the “big tent” approach we take at TTAC in examining the social, political and economic implications of cars and the auto industry. The Dacia story goes beyond that, branching into the after-effects of colonialism, immigration, outsourcing and emerging economies. It’s symbolic of economic bifurcation of much of the West, where the high and the low ends are growing, while the middle is simultaneously being hollowed out.

And it’s also another notch on the scoreboard for simple, unpretentious transportation, an endangered species in a world of government-mandated active safety systems, “connected cars”  and an overall epidemic of complexity. One Dacia buyer sums it up perfectly, telling the NYT

“I like the Dacia ethos, it fits in with my own mind-set. It’s simple, no-nonsense value for money. A niche the big manufacturers have failed to fill.”

I agree wholeheartedly.

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44 Comments on “New York Times Dubs Dacia “Europe’s Hottest Car”...”


  • avatar
    jmo

    “overall epidemic of complexity”

    Yet cars have never been safer, more reliable, more durable or more affordable ever in history. I truly don’t understand Alex’s comments.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I hate it when people use phrases like the one you quoted. Ugh it’s just annoying to read.

    • 0 avatar

      Owner of a Logan here. My 2 cents:

      Safe? It’s sold in many Western European markets, so it fulfills the bill quite well.

      Reliable? 5 yrs and 72 thousand km. Has started everyday and I have never been left stranding.

      Durable? Nothing but normal wear and tear. The two things that I might have been upset about and wouldn’t consider normal were corrected at Renault’s dime and I got a loaner for the duration. To wit: a crack in the engine’s head gasket and the 2 rear shock absorbers calling it quits at about the 2yr mark. Other things like battery lasted 4 yrs, I have change 2 light bulbs recently. There’s one rubber on the back door that developed a crack and has to be readjusted manually every week, but no water gets in. One brake job. Water doesn’t go down, neither does the oil. Of all the cars I had this one has some of the most durable parts.

      A little more noisy now at than at higher speeds than when brand new, that’s it.

      Affordable? They, the Logan and Sandero, at least in Brazil, are the elephant’s in the room. No one can touch their cost benefit.

      • 0 avatar
        Thavash

        Hey Marcelo. Sorry I have to disagree with you here. I had a Logan as a rental 2 years ago , and considered it the worst car that I’ve driven in years. There honestly wasn’t a single thing about it that I liked. Regard it’s cost benefits , here in South Africa you can get for the same price a Ford Figo , VW Polo Vivo ( the previous Polo ) and now the Honda Brio – No wonder the Logan and Sandero flopped in SA. And by the way they were sold here as Renaults.

        • 0 avatar

          Hey Thavash, seems our markets are different. Those cars you mention are available here (except Brio). The Renaults beat them on space (bigger than both), price (better), content (higher), insurance (lower), and the perceived value as Renaults more and more are being considered reliable and easy to upkeep. It’s anecdotal but in any grouping of people my age and social group, there will be a Renault or two, if not more. TGhere are those with better cars, but for those who prefer their money over cars, the Renault has found a definite audience.

          On a side note, did Nissan launch the Logan as a PU there? I seem to have read somewhere that they were studying launching it to substitute an old time favorite by Nissan.

          • 0 avatar
            Thavash

            Yup , the Nissan N200 has been available here for a few years. I think the Chev Pick up ( or Bakkie as we call it ) is more popular though , and that one comes from Brazil

      • 0 avatar
        julkinen

        “Owner of a Logan car – so much better than an owner of an older car” Sing to the tune of Yes :)

    • 0 avatar
      rdchappell

      Safer and reliable, sure. Durable and affordable can be questioned.

  • avatar
    jmo

    Also, TTAC needs to review the Dacia Sandero as it is James May’s favorite car.

  • avatar
    stephenjmcn

    Being IN Europe, I can’t help but feel the initial excitement over the Dacia concept is subsiding.

    The cars themselves are based on several generations old Renault technology, and I’d think the last thing you’d want is a substandard Renault, being as that brand is probably Europe’s least reliable as it is. They’re slow, noisy, poorly damped, and about as inviting inside as a Siberian prison toilet.

    Cost? First owners are finding out that the depreciation is horrible, and those low entry prices can’t be had if you want, say, a radio. That forces you into a whole new trim level, for £1000′s more. CAR Magazine have a decently-specced Duster on test now at nearly £18,000. That buys a proper new car (eg the bigger, better specced Focus) or a whole lot of nearly new car (1 year old 320d, anyone?.

    Image? It doesn’t look like ‘the smart choice’, it looks like ‘the cheap choice’. Except, as outlined above, it’s really not that cheap.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      “about as inviting inside as a Siberian prison toilet. ”

      LOL!

    • 0 avatar
      jz78817

      I had a Renault (Dacia) Duster for an overnight drive late last week. Maybe it’s appropriately kitted out for its intended markets, but my driving impression was that- evaluated against the north American market- it was an enormous piece of junk. It was a 1.6 liter, and if it actually had 100 hp it did a great job of hiding it. The shifter felt like it was operating through bungee cords, the interior was made up of plastics that even Daimler-era Chrysler would have rejected, and so on.

      • 0 avatar

        Hey Jz! I think some of your complaints have been met in the new Logan and Sandero. The Duster is still the old one. I see your points and I agree that to a NAmerican it can be seen negatively. However, it’s about the same as the Versa in terms of finishing, no? I guess it could appeal to that buyer.

        • 0 avatar
          jz78817

          the most recent Versa I drove was a MY2010, and my feelings were roughly the same. Though that car was an automatic so it felt even slower.

          • 0 avatar

            So, we agree. Offer a Duster or the Nissan variant, the Terrano in NAmerica and it’d find some homes. Afterall, for the same price/quality of the Versa, it has the body shape (SUV-CUV) people seem willing to pay. I think the arrival of such things as the EcoSport, Duster to America is all but inevitable.

          • 0 avatar
            jz78817

            “So, we agree.”

            yes, seems so.

            “Offer a Duster or the Nissan variant, the Terrano in NAmerica and it’d find some homes. Afterall, for the same price/quality of the Versa, it has the body shape (SUV-CUV) people seem willing to pay. I think the arrival of such things as the EcoSport, Duster to America is all but inevitable.”

            Sure it would find a few takers, but the business case would be a hard sell. If this was a premium-level vehicle (or at least from a premium marque) then it’d be easier, but when you’re talking about inexpensive, low-end cars it gets difficult to justify the investment in federalizing them. Not a lot of profit in there to cover the expense :)

    • 0 avatar

      @stephenjmcn

      I wouldn’t disagree with you, but I have some points. First off the technology is not that old. It sits on Renault’s BO platform, a variation of the B platform that underpins the current Clio, Captur etc. It’s one of the secrets of the car’s success, though yes, cheap, platform-wise (and thus driving and safety characteristics) it’s not cutting-edge but it’s up-to-date.

      As to slow, being Brazil the land of the 1.0, the 1.6 is almost a rocket! The 1.0 has 16 v so if you know how to drive it it returns good economy and some puch, more than the 1.0 8v’s. I don’t know what engine they use in Europe, but the 1.6 8v is indeed quite old, though it has been modernized over the years, the 1.6 16v is still very competitive, though others have been moving the goalposts for this kind of engine (EcoBoost etc.), and the 1.0 16v is modern.

      I agree, the slushbox is not the best in terms of feel, but it is quiet. I agree that Renault/Dacia should have improved it by now.

      As to the finishing and noisiness, well, where do you think they can cut costs? But then again, in the category, they’re not far behind competitors and at least in Brazil it’s better than most cars in the category. For American readers, better than the Versa, but worse than the Fiesta.

      What do you mean by poorly damped?

      • 0 avatar
        stephenjmcn

        @Marcelo

        Poorly damped in the sense that handling is loose with no obvious benefit to handling. I absolutely take on board what you’re saying regarding the cost proposition in Brazil, my point is that it’s a lot less convincing here in the UK. If you can’t get an Astra or Focus out the showroom door for less than the equivalent-spec Duster, you’re not trying hard enough. It doesn’t compare well to these cars, IMO of course.

        • 0 avatar

          @stephenjmcn
          Ok, thanks for the answer. Again I wouldn’t disagree with you on the suspension. It’s no Focus, that’s for sure. Just beware that due to height, the Duster is worse than the Sandero and Logan. As the car was originally a sedan, I think the Logan offers the best ride, even better than the Sandero due to the longer wheelbase. It’s not crisp or “Germanic”, but comparable, some like I would say better, than Fiat’s small sedans. Also better, as more comfortable, than VW’s small sedans or hatches.

          As to pricing yes, the Duster is up there. It’s a bit cheaper than the EcoSport, it’s direct competitor, while encroaching on Focus and Cruze. I would be hard pressed to choose a Duster over these cars, but I guess many do because the Duster comes in the fashionable CUV-SUV shape. It won’t get enthusiasts, but it will get almost any other. Yes, no comparing the finishing and quality of an EcoSport or Duster to a Focus or Fluence.

    • 0 avatar
      AKM

      Sorry, but I have to disagree with most of your post.
      Renault used to be terribly unreliable, but since the megane III, has proven far MORE reliable than the german carmakers, no parangons of reliability despite their stellar image.
      For that matter, buying a used 320d, with their known problems with diesel engines, seems to be inviting financial ruin. Not to mention that VW group and BMW 4-cyl diesel engines are regularly excorciated as noisy and unrefined by the european auto press.
      Older technology, while not sexy, is reliable because issues have been ironed out. It’s not “older” as in “used”, but “older” as in “tested”.

      Driving Dacias IS indeed seen as a smart choice. Driving a used BMW as somebody who’s going to file for overindebtness very soon.
      And Dacia depreciation is amazing, despite the no-haggle policy. Just look in used car websites. The only reason why used BMWs keep their value so well is because, despite the crisis, many people still haven’t realized what a chore overindebtness actually is.

      • 0 avatar
        stephenjmcn

        @AKM

        The BMW was only an example – might be more relevant to suggest a 0-miles Focus or Astra for less than a Duster of equivalent spec. Or a Nissan Quashqai if you want to go absolutely like-for-like.

        I don’t get your point regarding indebtedness – £15k for a Dacia is the same £15k you’d owe for anything else, and after 5 years someone’s going to have to want it…..

      • 0 avatar

        I recently rented a BMW X1 diesel for a weekend and found the engine rough and noisy; it felt and sounded like an old Farmall Cub tractor. Fuel consumption was commendable but did not make up for the roughness in a vehicle that sells here in this trim for nearly 50,000 Euros. A few days later I had a VW Golf with a gasoline engine which made for a far superior driving experience.

        • 0 avatar
          jz78817

          we had an X1 in our group for a few days, and I got out of it wondering why the hell anyone would pay BMW bucks that incredible piece of junk. The doors were flimsy and sounded rattly when you closed them, not to mention buzzed and rattled like hell when trying to play any music with bass. The interior materials also seemed pretty cut-rate for a $41,000 car.

          • 0 avatar
            Nicholas Weaver

            “why the hell anyone would pay BMW bucks that incredible piece of junk”

            Look on the back, that BMW logo adds $15K to what people will pay…

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      The excitement in Europe is already subsiding? You mean the New York Times is behind the curve AGAIN? Well, for some of their readers, it’s like those second run movie theaters that advertise, “It’s first run until you’ve seen it.”

    • 0 avatar
      b787

      Additionally more than 13% of Dacia Logans, aged 2-3 years, failed TUV roadworthiness test, which is about twice the average.

      http://www.anusedcar.com/index.php/tuv-report-year-age/2013-2-3/309

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    In France earlier this year I noticed a significant number of Dusters in diesel form. Maybe the diesel is a much better performing vehicle.

    Except for the front end the vehicle is quite attractive to look at.

    As Derek highlighted, look at the intended market and people who are buying them. They seem to be focusing on functionality.

    I would like to see how the Nissan variant shapes up against the Duster in quality.

  • avatar
    ash78

    New York Times: All the GREAT NEWS that’s Fit to Print.

  • avatar
    praeliber

    We have a dacia duster, only its called jeep patriot. Older dodge tech, fwd based awd (with lockable 4×4) available in manual even with the awd, stripped down version for about us16k. North American should stop lusting over the dacia and go buy a jeep!

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      End of Patriot production is in August of next year, so you better hurry.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        Last year I sat in a base Patriot at a car show.The interior upgrade is wonders above the Cebarus era bean counter Rubbermaid fittings. Steelies and crank windows but had the automatic for under 19k. You could see people justifying buying one. “Honey, the RAV 4 and CRV are too pricy and after all it is a Jeep”

  • avatar
    old5.0

    Good news!

  • avatar
    darex

    I remember when they used to sell Dacias in Canada (and LADAs). In the ’80s, I guess.

  • avatar
    Garak

    My aunt has a Logan van. It is very primitive and has a simple, harsh interior, but is also roomy and unpretentious. Too bad Dacia is in the last place in inspection statistics, even worse than Fiat, Alfa or Chevrolet. Only Chrysler has managed to make worse vehicles in recent years.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Vast improvement from the Ceausescu Renault 12 adoption. In the end both needed to be taken out and machine gunned.

    • 0 avatar

      Interestingly, the Renault 12 survived in Brazil too, well into the 90s albeit with a Ford badge. You see, Ford bought out Willys Overland and Brazil and Willys here built Renault products (Dauphine/Gordini) and some of their own. WHen Ford bought them, the Renault 12 was very far along in development and Ford took it, gave it some Ford design cues and launched it. Quite a car for its time, the Ford Corcel brought many firsts to the market and was huge hit. Later it spawned a luxury version, the Del Rey, a PU, the Pampa, and a station wagon, the Belina.

  • avatar
    vwgolf420

    I saw lots of Dacias the past couple of times I’ve been to Europe (not so much in Germany and the Netherlands, though) and honestly I think they might do ok here. Rebadge them as Datsuns since a lot of people know that name. Hyundai and Kia are no longer basic budget priced cars. Even when I bought an Elantra hatchback in 2005, the price wasn’t that much lower than a comparable Japanese car and was about the same or even more than a domestic.

    • 0 avatar

      Seems the Nissan version of the Duster (Terrano) is almost ready and will soon be available in some Asian markets. It’s interesting the hatch and sedan have already been updated while the “SUV” has not. It’ll also be interesting to see if the Duster and Terrano are updated soon too, if they will be updated together, or if one or the other will use the current version in selected markets while the other goes forward.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    for some markets the Duster has no ‘pidgeon hole’

    eg. we have the Nissan Qashkai and Kia Sportage and Hyundai ix35 Walking Dead edition for around $25k starting

    i’m sure these three leave the Duster for dead in just about every metric possible

    Nissan or Renault would have to sell the Duster at $20k and yet… why?

    surely if you can afford a $20k Duster you can afford a $25k Nissan Dualis/Qashkai?

    $20k is where the Chinese are playing

    the Japanese and Koreans like to have a lower bar where people need to be to afford their products

    i’m talking about certain western markets here where there’s a high level of protectionism

    dont get me wrong, i like the Duster but it is clearly deficient in many areas but I think this Duster is due for a “Series 2″ soon where they get updated Nissan engines and interior trims

    • 0 avatar

      Hey! In Brazil we already get all those cars, except the Nissan. The step up from an EcoSport or Duster is much steeper though, something like 15 to 20 k USD. Here, closer in value to the Renault and Ford would be a Mitsubishi TR4 and Hyundai Tucson (yes the old generation still built here). However, those two or don’t have the mindshare of Renault and Ford and do scare some people away from them with worries over maintenance. At 25k USD, the Duster and EcoSport appeal to those moderately affluent and beyond. Those who are counting their pennies in this segment, wrongly or rightly, perceive them as doable. On the other hand, the Sportage and others here, appeal to those genuinely affluent.

  • avatar
    Joss

    The Dacia version of the 12 was awful. It had some serious design flaws engineered in by Dacia. Turning the wheel full lock would rub the tires hard against the wheel wells. This wasn’t an original Renault 12 design issue. This Dacia was withdrawn from the UK market for this and other safety issues.

  • avatar
    stanczyk

    the reals Owners(yeah, the ones that suck all money from the $ystem[from suckers like you]) want to tell you that : “cheap is good” ..
    .. wait few years when banksters and “executive types” will suck it all.. .. and than they’ll introduce you to the brand new, modern, cool “global” Mustang GT500(rebranded-dressed-up Tana Nano “Turbo”! :) ..

  • avatar

    Had my Duster for just over one year with 10,000km on the clock. No issues whatsoever. 1.6L petrol needs to be revved into about 5,000 rpm to get that full amount of torque and when you do, it goes. Pity about the high revs, and it is a tad thirsty. I recommend the 1.5 dCi or the 1.2 TCe in the 2014 Duster.

    A very good car overall!


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