► Tested for a station wagon and a seven-seater MPV
► Prices for the joggers start from just £14,995
► A giant windfall?
Is Dacia the new Skoda? With the latter’s relentless march towards the top of the range and the disappearance of its most interesting products, a void is opening up in the market. Not for a manufacturer to pile them up and sell them cheap – that’s what MG is for – but to sell cars that really are a little different, a little left and fantastic value.
That’s exactly what we have here. The Dacia Jogger (or ‘Yogger’ – it could be a soft ‘J’) is impossible to categorize. It looks like a Sandero supermini from the front, but it’s longer than a Nissan Qashqai and has seven seats. Front-wheel drive only, but with 200mm of ground clearance and the kind of tough body cladding that will ignore any trolley Morrison’s car park has to offer.
Still, prices start a few miles south of the cheapest Ford Fiesta you can buy.
What exactly is the Jogger?
Dacia says it combines “the practicality of a station wagon with the space of an MPV and the style of an SUV”. Unusually for something we’ve quoted straight from the press kit, it’s not too far off.
It’s based on the same CMF-B platform that underpins the Renault Clio and Captur as well as the Sandero, but with an extended rear to bring it above 4.5m in length. There are Skoda Roomster nuances in the way this has been achieved, with a distinct stepped window line where the Sandero cabin meets the new boxier rear.
The range is the ultimate in simplicity. Three trim levels at launch, and a single engine and gearbox – it’s a 109bhp 1.0-litre petrol and a six-speed manual. Continental markets are getting a bi-fuel LPG model, but the UK is not – it seems a strange thing to miss, given that bi-fuel Sanderos and Dusters are available and account for a sizable 15% of sales. We will, however, have a fully hybrid model, coming in 2023.
Is it really that spacious inside?
Surprisingly. There’s more room in the Jogger’s third row than any seven-seater SUV this side of a Discovery – even purpose-built MPVs like the Citroen C4 Spacetourer give pause.
This tester is a generously proportioned 6’2 and fits in impressive comfort. Adults might not want to stay here for the duration of a family road trip, but for anyone under around 5’10, it’s a perfectly acceptable way to have fun around town. There are even pop-up windows down there, a nostalgic touch that harkens back to days gone by in the third row of the Family Space.
Access isn’t too bad either, with the second row easily tipping forward and large rear doors. And second-row space is as good as expected, with plenty of knee and head room and useful shelves on the front seatbacks.
What you miss for this bargain price is the last degree of flexibility in the seating arrangement. Ever since the Chrysler Grand Voyager, we’ve demanded seats that fold completely flat into the floor, but for maximum space in the Jogger, you’ll need to remove the third row entirely. It’s not too cumbersome a process – it’s a few takes, and the seats themselves weigh only ten kilos each – but they are a pain to put away.
The second row doesn’t even come out, instead falling forward. When that’s done and with the third row removed, you get a massive load area – 2m long and one meter wide, over 1,800 liters of capacity. But it’s a shame it’s not as configurable as its rivals.
We like the modular roof rails available from the mid-range car, though. These convert into a full roof rack in just a minute or two and are ideal for all sorts of bike racks, roof boxes or even a roof tent. There’s also an optional tow bar, and the Jogger will tow up to 1,200kg. Maximum lifestyle.
How is it to drive?
There’s nothing revolutionary about the Jogger’s 1.0-liter turbocharged gasoline, and its 109 hp and 148 lb-ft sound rather asthmatic. What you need to remember is that it weighs 1,200kg, so – unloaded at least – it’s more than enough if not particularly snappy. 0-62 mph takes 11.2 seconds, about on par with other budget loaders.
We can’t comment on what a seven-up is yet, but we imagine you’ll have to wiggle the slightly cogged six-speed gearbox a bit to keep going. It’s a shame there won’t be an automatic variant until the hybrid arrives next year. It’s a shame there’s no diesel – that kind of low torque would suit this car just fine.
On the handling side, if you like soft and very French suspensions, you will appreciate the way the Jogger progresses. While it’s undeniably a little wallowy in the corners, it effectively sloughs off almost any bump, further aided by relatively large-diameter wheels. Don’t expect precision.
With 200mm of ground clearance, the Jogger is cleared for smooth road riding, although it’s a bit of a shame you can’t get any kind of Grip Control system instead of four-wheel drive.
Does it feel so cheap inside?
It’s pure Sandero Stepway up front, but that’s not really a bad thing these days. Of course, you’ll have to look elsewhere for soft-touch plastic, but these days even the base Essential model has air conditioning, cruise control and rear parking sensors (the latter because Dacia UK reckons that we might need help parking something so long. They might be right).
These base cars make do with a smartphone holder instead of a central touchscreen, but step up to the Comfort trim and you’ll get a basic but fairly user-friendly infotainment system. And with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto available, why bother using the factory software? The mid-spec also brings air conditioning, power rear windows, keyless entry and an electric parking brake that just feels weird on a Dacia.
The higher end ‘Extreme SE’ cars get navigation, heated front seats and plenty of styling extras to make it more rugged. Sales performance will dictate whether this is a permanent part of the model range or is replaced after a few months by a more conventional top of the range.
Whatever the model, it’s not luxury here – but neither are its rivals, which tend to be van-based. And we’d rather sit behind the wheel of a Jogger than a Berlingo.
The Dacia Jogger is so honest it’s almost impossible not to love it. Accessories from the budget brand for making something that ticks so many boxes – it’s roomy, comfortable, smart and great value.
We can see the Jogger proving popular with large families, taxi drivers and those with a more lifestyle-oriented persuasion – expect to see plenty along the coast or in bike parks loaded with muddy material.
Some off-road capability would have been icing on the cake, making the Jogger a true budget Subaru Outback rival, but since it’s now easy to recommend the Jogger over a pickup-based MPV or most small Seven-seat SUV.