The Renault Logan has one role to fulfil, albeit a two-fisted one: be cheap, and have all the features. At a fraction under R100 000 it fulfils that task. I mean, look at the options list. Basically there isn’t one – instead the Renault Logan can be bought in just one impressive spec. It’s lacquered in metallic paint, the steering and windows are powered, airbags and ABS are all in, and for your entertainment there’s a CD/MP3-playing device. Under the pancake-flat hood resides a 1.6 litre fuel injected engine willing to churn out 66kW and 128Nm, blitzing the Logan from standstill to 100km/h in 11.5 seconds. So on paper it all sounds fabulously competent and, as per the intent, a bloody bargain too. But therein lies the rub. You see I’m not scanning its virtues via catalogue, instead I’m sitting inside it and its price tag is starting to make sense.
FULL LOADED, SHOULD YOU CARE?
The Logan’s components are a who’s who list from the Renault-Nissan-Dacia parts bins. I see bits of Clio II, a huge garnishing of Nissan NP200 and seats from a particularly cheap lounge suite, circa 1971. They’re flat and lack substance. And if you think that’s harsh, wait till you see what they’ve covered the seats with: some bright spark might have idealised the design as stirred swirls in desert sand. The colour’s right, but the pattern is more akin to ‘Learn cursive for dummies, basic tutorial 1’. Why Renault couldn’t just leave the seats plain beggars belief.
Maybe it’s to offset the enamel-hard dashboard which is crafted entirely in one material (I’ve secretly named it rock-sand plastic) and fills the expanse between windscreen and driver, then extends backwards like a virus to all the door panels. Thank heavens for that classic 1980s touch, a black/grey Blaupunkt head unit with removable face. In these morbid surroundings, it gets more than its fair share of attention. The rear window switchgear has been cleverly positioned behind the conventional handbrake lever so as to be easily accessible to front and rear occupants. Front windows are operated from similar switches located on the dash centre stack, nestled in a wafer thin insert of the scariest fake wood trim we’ve ever seen.
THE FUN BIT
With my bum sort-of planted atop the driver seat and the creamy-grey seatbelt affixed across my waist I am just about ready for ignition. The key, a simple fixed unit with central locking buttons on the fob, is inserted into the steering column and with a chug, chug, chug she purrs into life. A flattened foot gives the chugging more volume. I let the revs subside before shifting into first and after a light shuffling of feet am off. Sheer motoring mediocrity ensues. The Logan ticks all the boxes once more: faster, slower, left, right, stop, go. It really commutes as expected. We knew it would and for that it’s commendable. On the blacktop, slotted in fifth, the Logan trundles along with little need for goading, but ultimately fails to connect with the driver on a fundamental level. I cannot like this car. It does not try to endear itself to me. Our relationship is one of mutual necessity – I need to drive, it exists to be driven. I exit fresh from my drive without once looking back, a first for me. I’ve enjoyed driving cars I’ve hated more than this. A bad car is essentially one filled with more negative quirks than positive ones, whereas the Logan simply has none. No quirks on a French car? Sacre bleu! That’s because it’s only a cardboard cutout of a car. In a world of full-cream chocolate-strawberry-caramel kinds of cars with almonds and the supersized flake, it’s a vanilla sorbet.
The allure of a sedan for under a hundred grand is strong. That it also has a watered-down French connection and price-based international success as bragging rights means it should be the right kind of car for these tough economic times. If the only brief was for a well equipped car providing affordable A to B transport for families who desperately need acres of boot space, them the Logan is as authentic as anyone could hope for.