Dacia has found the best way to sell more Logan wagons: give them the Stepway treatment
Overall Score 79/100
Although the 1980 AMC Eagle Wagon was technically the world's first jacked-up wagon, it wasn't until the mid-1990s that this type of vehicle started to catch on.
Models like the Subaru Legacy Outback, Volvo V70 XC, and Audi Allroad Quattro made jacked-up wagons a thing by combining the road handling of a passenger car with the raised ground clearance and all-wheel-drive capability of an SUV — not to mention the practicality of an estate car.
There are now tens of models on the market, but every list has to begin with the most affordable one, the Dacia Logan MCV Stepway. It may lack an all-wheel-drive system (to avoid stealing buyers from the Duster), adjustable ride height, or any other gimmick for that matter, but the Romanian jacked up wagon is a serious alternative to most front-wheel-drive compact SUVs — including the Duster.
It's not the first Stepway model (the Sandero, Lodgy, and Dokker have received the crossover-like treatment before it), but the Logan MCV Stepway represents the most serious alternative to a front-wheel-drive SUV, given its practicality and 50-mm higher ground clearance than the model it's based on. The Logan MCV Stepway sits 174 mm above the ground, being superseded in this respect only by the Duster and its 210-mm ride height (in 4×4 guise).
Along with the higher ground clearance, the Logan MCV Stepway gains a Duster-like grille, plastic body cladding, front and rear skid plates in a satin-effect chrome finish, Dark Metal mirror caps and roof bars, as well as smoked taillights. The styling tweaks make it the best-looking model in the Logan lineup — in my opinion, it's even more attractive than the first-generation Duster as well.
But does it make sense as a Duster alternative? I will try to answer this question in the in-depth review that follows.
All Terrain, Highways
HATS OFF FOR:
Comfort, Luggage Space, Modularity, Passenger Space
BANG FOR THE BUCK:
Our tester featured the range-topping engine you can have in the Logan MCV Stepway: the tried and tested 1.5-liter dCi good for 90 metric horsepower at 4,000 rpm and 220 Nm of torque at 1,750 rpm in this application. You can only have it with a five-speed manual transmission in the Logan MCV Stepway, and shifting gears by yourself using the bulky lever simply adds to the car's rugged character.
The five-speed gearbox is much more pleasant to use than the Duster 4×4's six-speed transmission: you get a longer first gear, shifting is straightforward, and you only need to put it in fifth outside the city. While the engine's clatter is a constant reminder of the car's utilitarian character, the 1.5 dCi proves to be strong enough, given that the car has a dry weight of just 1,253 kilograms. Top speed is 170 km/h, and the 0 to 100 km/h acceleration feels swift enough for most occasions despite lasting 13 seconds.
The Dacia Logan MCV Stepway is no performance wagon so it won't offer the same thrills in corners as a VW Golf R Variant. There's plenty of body roll, given the generous ground clearance, the comfort-oriented suspension set-up, and the tall body (1,550 mm). Still, the rugged wagon exhibits a safe and predictable behavior in corners, so it will never catch the driver on the wrong foot.
As expected, there's plenty of understeer on the menu, but the old-school hydraulic power assisted steering is refreshing in a world where electric power steering has become the norm. The Logan MCV Stepway has steering feel, and you get enough feedback from the wheel to make driving through turns a rather enjoyable experience.
While EuroNCAP hasn't assessed the Stepway version, the organization put the Logan MCV through its rigorous testing procedure in 2014. Sadly, the results weren't encouraging for prospective customers, with the vehicle getting an average three-star overall rating — which should apply to the Stepway model as well.
The protection offered by the Logan MCV was rated at only 57 percent for adult occupants, 75 percent for child occupants, and 55 percent for pedestrians. And, given the car's budget nature, it only scored 38 percent for safety assist systems (technologies such as lane keeping assist and autonomous emergency braking are not available). The main issue was the frontal impact test, where dummy readings revealed weak chest protection and marginal knee and femur protection for the driver. In addition, the rupture of the footwell area led to weak protection of the driver's feet and ankles.
The suspension is certainly set up for comfort, and that's something you immediately notice when driving over poor quality roads and unpaved lanes. The Logan MCV Stepway gives the impression it can take a lot of abuse from road irregularities, as it remains composed and relatively silent on broken surfaces at speeds you wouldn't dare reach in a regular passenger car.
The seats are reasonably comfortable and provide good lateral support, but the fact they lack lumbar adjustment may make long trips uncomfortable for some people. The driving position is nice, but I would have loved it to be able to lower the seat a bit more. As for the optional central armrest, it's a low-cost solution, but it works ergonomically. Engine, wind, and tire noise levels are higher than in a Renault Megane, for example, but lower than in the first-generation Duster.
Cheap, scratchy, black plastics dominate the Logan MCV Stepway's cabin, but that's something you expect when buying a low-cost vehicle. The good thing is the plastics are generally well screwed together. The fabric upholstery feels pleasant to touch and looks like it will stand the test of time — not to mention it's got some fake leather trim with orange topstitching that contributes to liven up the otherwise grim interior.
The glossy grey cover of the upper center console and the orange accents also serve to differentiate the Stepway from the average Logan MCV. To Dacia's credit, the leather that covers the steering wheel feels nice to touch.
The Logan MCV Stepway is Dacia's roomiest and most practical vehicle, and the Stepway version takes full advantage of that. Whether we're talking about headroom, knee-room, legroom, or elbow-room, space is generous both in the front and in the rear, with five adults able to travel in comfort.
Cargo volume is generous as well, with the boot swallowing 573 liters of stuff up to the parcel shelf and with all seats in place. However, capacity expands to a cavernous 1,680 liters with the rear seats folded down (and loaded up to the roof). Modularity is excellent too, thanks to the 1/3 split-folding back seat and several decent-sized cubby spaces.
The Logan MCV Stepway comes equipped as standard with the Media Nav infotainment system that users can control via the 7-inch touchscreen display. Operating the interface is almost exclusively a touch-only job because the only physical buttons present are for power and volume.
The system works reasonably well for a low-cost interface, but it features minimalist and outdated graphics — particularly the map screen. The display is positioned a bit low for my liking, and you can't see what's on it at times because of glare from the sun.
The 1.5-liter dCi turbodiesel is the most fuel-efficient engine available on the Logan MCV Stepway — and in any other Dacia model, for that matter. However, don't expect to get anywhere near the claimed average fuel economy of 3.9 liters/100 km. After driving it for around 400 kilometers (evenly split between the city and the open road), the trip computer showed a combined fuel consumption of 6 liters/100 km.
That's an excellent figure for a roomy family car that weighs around 1.3 tonnes, especially given the fact that I covered most of the distance at a fairly alert pace.
As a range-topping trim level, the Stepway benefits from the best features Dacia has to offer on the Logan family. In addition, our tester was an Explorer special edition, meaning it was fully loaded. Standard equipment is generous and includes cruise control, Stop & Start, air conditioning, power windows, power side mirrors with heating function, Hill Start Assist, trip computer, rear parking sensors, fog lights, and more.
As a downside, you do have to pay extra to fit stuff like alloy wheels, rearview camera, and center armrest to the Logan MCV Stepway. The good part is you won't spend a fortune on these options.
If you're looking for a no-frills wagon that can occasionally take you off the beaten track, Dacia's proposition is hard to beat. No one else is offering so much new car for so little money. The Logan MCV Stepway starts at €12,200 in Germany (VAT included) with the TCe 90 turbocharged gasoline engine, while the dCi 90 version is priced from €14,050.
Pricing aside, the Logan MCV Stepway makes a lot of sense as an alternative to a front-wheel-drive Duster as well. It may not have the same ground clearance, but it comes close, while practicality and comfort levels are a cut above the first-generation Duster. Maybe that's why Dacia doesn't offer all-wheel-drive on the Logan MCV Stepway — it would turn it into a serious competitor for the SUV.