Is the Dacia Jogger the best seven-seater on sale?
That’s a tricky question given the state of the market but what’s for sure is that it’s a remarkable piece of kit.
While other brands kill off their traditional MPVs, Dacia is coming in with an estate/MPV/SUV mash-up to please every crowd.
And it’s sticking true to its budget roots. The Jogger starts at £16,645 and even a top spec car with all the options is still less than £20,000 - less than a mid-spec Ford Fiesta.
Among the many remarkable things about the Jogger Is that it doesn’t look like a super-budget car. Its proportions are perhaps a little odd but it mostly looks and feels like a jacked-up estate with the sort of de rigueur "rugged" design cues intended to indicate this is a car for an active lifestyle off the beaten track. There’s 200mm of ground clearance, black body cladding, skid plates and chunky roof rails. Never mind that under the skin this is a 1.0-litre two-wheel-drive car based on a supermini.
The interior is a similar story. It’s by no means a premium experience but neither does it feel painfully cheap in the way old Dacias did. The plastics around the cabin look and feel pretty robust and many of the controls are borrowed from parent company Renault, bringing a splash of metallic highlights among the grey and black plastic. Top spec Extreme SE models also get a fabric trim panel on the dashboard and doors that adds some unexpected but welcome extra texture and character.
If the interior looks and feel is solidly ‘good for the money’, the space and practicality elevates it to another level. At 4.5m long the Jogger is shorter than a Ford Focus or VW Golf estate but, with a 2.9m wheelbase, it squeezes in three rows of seats and space for seven, plus a host of different configurations so you can pack it with people or throw bikes etc in the back and head off in search of adventure.
It’s not perfect- the second row is a flat bench rather than individual seats and legroom in row two is tighter than on bigger, more expensive cars. The mechanism for moving the second row and the way the rearmost seats fold and flip up rather than falling into the boot floor also can’t match the neatness or simplicity of the Citroen Grand C4 Spacetourer or Ford S-Max. Nonetheless, it does offer a usable and flexible seven-seat space for the same price as an average supermini.
And it’s not just the number of seats, the Jogger has plenty of useful storage spaces dotted around the cabin, seat back tray tables and even pop-out windows in row three. With all the seats in place there’s 212 litres of boot space, rising to an impressive 699 litres in five-seat mode. Remove the last two seats and fold down the second row bench and you’ve got 2,000 litres of space to play with.
Next year the Jogger will get a hybrid powertrain but for now there is just a single 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol. Despite throwing out just 108bhp, this little Renault-sourced unit does an impressive job of shifting the Jogger along, even fully laden. There’s some lag at low revs but once it gets going it feels far more punchy and lively than its on-paper stats suggest. Refinement isn’t its strong suit, with an audible gruffness but over several hundred miles it returned a steady 50mpg.
There are three trim levels in the Jogger range, starting with the Essential, priced from just £16,645. That features cruise control, automatic headlights, manual air conditioning and rear parking sensors, but still has wind-up rear windows . For £17,945 mid-spec Comfort adds all-round electric windows, an eight-inch touchscreen with smartphone mirroring, front parking sensors, electrically adjustable mirrors and clever modular roof rails that rotate easily to become horizontal roof bars, while our top spec Extreme SE costs £18,745. Even at that price, the Jogger feels like spectacular value, with 16-inch black alloys, keyless start, climate control, heated seats and even wireless smartphone mirroring.
The only hitch with the Jogger is its well publicised one-star safety rating. Much of that harsh rating is linked to the fairly basic driver aids fitted to the Jogger - there is autonomous emergency and blind spot warning but no lane assist or more advanced intervention tech. Dacia quite rightly argues that fitting such kit would push up the price and its buyers shouldn’t pay more for systems they don’t want. More problematically, the Jogger’s crash protection performance is relatively poor by the latest Euro NCAP standards, although not hugely different to cars from Vauxhall and Hyundai.
So is the Dacia Jogger the best seven-seater on sale? Probably not but it’s certainly the best value. It has its flaws and other, more expensive, cars - from the Skoda Kodiaq to the Kia Sorento - are more luxurious and better equipped but it’s also hugely practical, easy to live with and offers unbeatable value.
Dacia Jogger Extreme SE
Price: £18,745 (£19,680 as tested); Engine: 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, turbo, petrol; Power: 108bhp; Torque: 148lb ft; Transmission: Six-speed manual; Top speed: 114mph; 0-62mph: 11.2 seconds; Economy: 48.7mpg; CO2 emissions: 130g/km