If you are anything like me you love your car. Like really love it. It's virtually a prerequisite for visiting this website. My car is a huge part of my life, and I am immensely proud of it. This despite everyone calling it the 'Crappat', and the fact that for a good while it had a mouse living in it. Because while it might very well 'only' be a 2009 VW Passat (with the famously fault-free 2.0-litre FSI motor) it is as faithful and vital to my existence as the family hound. I could not easily survive without it.
However, despite lavishing it with the sort of affection normally reserved for something with dark brown eyes and a shiny coat, there were omens last week that it might not be the ideal thing to get me all the way to Scotland for our latest Readers' Car shoot. Very minor things, like the driver's door not opening on command and it making strange disharmonious noises. Or occasionally none at all. No matter, though, because the PH brain trust had something else in mind for the 535-mile, nine-hour journey. Smash cut to the new Dacia Jogger.
Now, for anyone not familiar with Jogger, it is Dacia's latest attempt to gatecrash another market segment - specifically the one that allows you to seat seven people in a single car. This is genius. Because while crossovers may have usurped the MPVs that European carmakers used to turn out like cheap toffee, they tend to be about as affordable as diamond engagement rings. (Which is the whole point of them, from the manufacturer's perspective.) Dacia, bless it, has a more old-fashioned business model. It is quite happy to sit at the bottom of the aspiration ladder, and hoover up anyone who has put value-for-money at the top of their most-wanted list.
With seven people to seat, this, frankly, seems like a good way to go. Because unless you're in the six-figure market for a premium-badge SUV flagship (in which case I'll lay odds you didn't click on a Dacia feature), you're going to be spending used Porsche Cayman-money on a Kia or Hyundai. Which makes the £15,345 starting price of the Jogger seem more than a little competitive. Even the range-topping Extreme SE that turned up on my doorstep, with gloss-black alloys and heated front seats, is only £17,745. The cheapest Kia Sorento is £40k.
Now, if like me - i.e. you're an adherent to the concept of cost-effective motoring - this is going to make you cut the Jogger a whole heap of slack. Because every subjective criticism you might choose to level at the car (some of them entering your brain through your eyeballs) is going to be subverted by the idea that you possess it for the trifling (representative) sum of £233 per month. Which isn't very much at all for a brand-new car which is entirely decent at the job it is built to do.
I know this because the moment it turned up, I whipped out the second row of seats (painlessly, speedily) and replaced them with many, many boxes of photographic equipment - only to discover that the volume of kit, which normally brims the Crappat, was swallowed with room to spare. The PH brain trust tells me this is because the Jogger is built on the CMF-B platform, which, thanks to its underlying modularity, has permitted Dacia the chance to arm it with an elongated rear end. This means you get up to 2,085 litres of boot space when you're not carrying any passengers. Or mice.
What you also get - and I really can't stress this enough - is a nice place to sit. Sure, the seats are a bit rugged (especially if you sit in them for nine hours) and obviously the Jogger isn't trimmed like a Maybach; but it has everything you could reasonably need - a usable touchscreen with sat nav, automatic climate control, smartphone connectivity - and nothing you don't. Moreover it has physical switchgear to manage the cabin temperature - which means you're going to like it more than a new VW Golf from the first minute.
Now, granted, moments later you'll discover it doesn't drive with the mature finesse of a Mk8 Golf - but were you expecting it to? No - because you know for a fact that it is nearly £10k cheaper than the cheapest Mk8 wagon. So, again, with modest expectations pre-loaded, the Jogger makes a decent fist of turning on the charm. Certainly it doesn't make the mistake of trying too hard: the seven-seater is plainly tuned to be driven modestly, with more than one person aboard. The limit of grip is easily reachable, but of course Dacia won't expect anyone to go looking for it. What they will be looking for is a moderately comfortable, easy-to-steer, livably quiet car. And that's what has been delivered.
It helps that the 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine is up to snuff. Plainly it has been developed with drivability in mind, which is the reason you get a let's-get-going slug of torque in the mid-range. Chasing a spectacular LB Specialist Lancia Stratos on Scottish B roads is a good way of discovering that there's not much to be gained from revving the petrol motor out, but if you're only interesting in arriving at the national speed limit for umpteen hours, then 148 lb ft of twist is more than enough to be getting on with.
It is quite possible that the job of driving all the way from the south-east to faraway Scotland is the perfect testing backdrop for the Jogger. Would I have enjoyed the M25 or M40 or M6 more in a Lamborghini Huracan? Probably not. And there would be no room for my big tripod or the drone I crashed. A Kia Sorento might've been quieter and quicker and comfier - but potentially not by a degree that would make paying its premium compelling. Was it better than it would have been in the Crappat? Probably yes, if only because there was no fear of a catastrophic breakdown, and the Jogger's dinky engine undoubtedly consumed less fuel. Which is rather at the core of Dacia's appeal: because for anyone else getting by with a 12-year-old car - and the uncertainties that come with it - the prospect of paying a very modest amount every month to get a large family-life box comprehensively ticked makes all sorts of sense. In that respect, the Jogger is precisely as loveable as it needs to be.
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