One of the greatest challenges facing South African families is trying to find an affordable car that is spacious enough to accomodate four or five people and their luggage.
I was recently in this situation, and thanks to a good turn of fortune I was able to replace my 2006 Chevrolet Spark LS with something more spacious. My eventual choice was a 2010 Renault Logan 1,6 Expression that had clocked up only 15 000 km by the time I purchased it.
Unlike its Sandero stablemate, the Logan is imported from India, where it is assembled in the same factory as Mahindra’s range of pick-ups and SUVs. It is not a striking design, especially not in ivory white, but it does not offend anybody and, thankfully, it is free of gimmicks. Therefore, it is likely to age well.
Renault adopted a take-it-or-leave-it approach for the Logan in this country, and therefore, you have to accept the car for what it is. This means that the interior is not available in anything but a light beige, and therefore, a set of seat covers will be a good investment for families with small children. The interior design deserves praise and criticism. On the positive side, the interior is very spacious for a car of this size, and the three rear head restraints suggest that three people can sit comfortably on the Logan’s rear bench. The air conditioner is also very efficent and the interior does not heat up as quickly as other cars’ cabins do in very hot weather.
The luggage compartment is very large, but it is a pity that the rear seat cannot fold down to increase capacity for larger items. The instrument panel is very comprehensive, and the trip computer, which gives average fuel consumption, tank range and average speed, is a very handy feature. However, there are a few ergonomic flaws that must be criticised. The bonnet release is on the left hand side, and the interior fuel release is where that of the bonnet should have been. The window wipers are also incorrectly placed for a right-hand drive car. Lastly, the controls for the electric rear windows are badly placed; they are fitted behind the centre console and therefore they are difficult to reach.
On the road, the Logan offers satisfactory, if unspectacular, performance. Because of its good low-down torque , steep gradients are easily dealt with, and long journeys should be comfortable. In fact, travelling at the national speed limit is easy enough. When I took it for a test drive, I drove it through a twisty road that has been used for a rally stage. The Logan did very well, but you cannot compare it’s handling dynamics to that of the Clio V6 in which I was chauffeured on the same road a few years ago. This particular Renault might not be the first choice for enthusiasts, but for its intended target market, it is good enough.
So far, I have been very impressed with the service I have received from the dealership. The sales consultant took me seriously right from the start and did everything possible to make sure that the transaction was completed to my satisfaction. I had to return the car after a week to have a bracket for the battery fitted, and this was carried out without a problem. I will only have to take the car for its first service in 15 000 km’s time, and as soon as that has happened, I will report on the dealer workshop’s after sales service. The car comes with a warranty valid for five years or 150 000km. This means that the balance of the warranty that I will be able to take advantage of is longer than I would have had with a brand new VW or Toyota. This alone has done a lot to justify my decision to buy a Renault amid lots of criticism.
The Logan is an honest car, which does not pretend to be something that it is not. That is probably the Indian-built saloon’s most endearing characteristic, especially considering its target market. It has been a very popular choice for company fleets, and the fact that the Logan has been labelled a “car rental special” is testament to Renault’s ability to make inroads in a market that it has not yet been able to conquer before. In fact, if you want a spacious, reliable and durable car at a reasonable price, you can do a whole lot worse. I will keep readers updated on a regular basis, as the kilometres accumulate and I get to know the dealer network