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Renault's budget fighter tested

2009-04-02 10:07
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Renault
Engine 1.6-litre four-cylinder eight valve
Power 64 kW @ 5 500 r/min
Torque 128 Nm @ 3 300 r/min
Transmission five-speed manual
Zero To Hundred 11.5 seconds
Top Speed 175 km/h
Fuel Consumption 7.2 l/100 km
Steering power assisted
ABS with EBD
Airbags Driver
Front Suspension Mac Pherson strut with wishbone arm
Rear Suspension H-type torsion beam with programmed deflection and coil spring
Rivals R112 200

Hailey Philander

There seems to be a great misconception amongst motor manufacturers and importers that the people who buy and drive entry-level cars are inherently fearless.

Take a look at the safety equipment on some new cars costing around R100 000. Hell, here, as was recently witnessed when a certain limited edition entry level model was announced, sometimes even the addition of a driver's air bag is heralded bbut Renault is adopting a different tack with its latest offering.

The Logan is probably as bare bones as any recent Renault has been, with its diamond logo perhaps the only identifying feature setting it apart from other slab-sided sedans that have become the recent purvey of Indian and Chinese manufacturers.


So Renault's brazen foray into budget territory seems a bit foolhardy at first. Given the manufacturer's usual design flair and high quality appointments, Logan's styling seems almost accidental. As in, the car was "accidentally" fashioned from a standard block of metal while some ingenious engineer was puzzling ways to put it to good use. Voila!

Despite its lack of any noticeable curves (edges don't count, unfortunately) and the tin-can sound effects produced on slamming the doors or boot lid, Logan is a little revelation.

Don't let its appearance deceive you. This little sedan is big on interior space. Its cabin is cavernous with sufficient elbow and legroom for three on the rear bench and legroom aplenty for front occupants.

Sure, the accommodations may not the most comfortable, but if you're paying just over R100 000 for what is generally a proper motor vehicle, you should be prepared to accept a few "shortcomings"…


In this instance, the upholstery could have been a more dirt-friendly dark grey rather than the appalling beige that is sure to attract grime and seriously questioned the durability of the fabric used. The fitment of seat covers will probably make them more comfortable (those furry beige seats promise to be cosy in winter, though) and see them wearing for longer.

However, apart from the paltry quality of the upholstery and the questionable plastic finishes (complete with faux wood veneer), as a package Logan is impressive.

The car has enough luxury features to put several of its rivals, and siblings, to shame. Standard features on Logan - of which there is only one specification level - include power steering, a very effective air conditioning system, power windows all round, remote central locking and an MP3 compatible audio system. And bizarre as it may seem, the boot is so humungous, it has to count as a feature too.

As for safety features, Logan comes equipped with ABS, EBD and a driver airbag.

Hopefully these won't be called into use, but a possibility does exist that you could be carried away by the Logan, which is at times overzealous in its eagerness to please.

With power of 64 kW sourced from an eight-valve, four-cylinder 1.6-litre motor, this little sedan feels fearless although, realistically, you'd never expect it to win any robot-to-robot sprint races. Mated as it is with a five-speed manual gearbox, it certainly isn't lazy, though.

The thing is this drivetrain, along with several components (including the platform) and many interior odds and ends are borrowed from the Clio II, which means these components at least have the benefit of years of testing in real-world conditions which is displayed in Logan's general competencies.


Suspension is via a McPherson strut and wishbone arrangement at the front and a torsion beam at the rear. As a result, Logan's on-road temperament is very impressive and I was constantly surprised by its agility and nimbleness when a degree of "pushing on" was required. However, it does seem that NVH was not at the top of the Logan wish list because engine noise was particularly intrusive and additional insulation would certainly have been appreciated.

In the segment on or around the R100 000 mark (Logan has since its launch late last year already been subjected to price increases...), prudent buyers should no longer feel that scrounging around in bargain bins is their only recourse. Sure, Logan may have its detractors, but the reality is that in this crucial R100 000 segment, there's nothing really to touch it.

The Tata Indigo 1.4 GLS costs about the same as Logan but uses a smaller engine (although it has the same output as the Renault, it has a lower torque figure) and comes without what should be essential safety equipment in an ABS braking system. EBD and an airbag are also not featured on the Indigo.

And while there's no doubt that the Logan is not perfect, it carries the badge of a reputable manufacturer that has previously voiced its dedication to the South African market and the car's general demeanour is pleasing. We like it.

Test unit was fitted with "wood veneer" but pale beige interior is the biggest eyesore. Plastics, while robust, were easily scuffed too. Familiar Clio II switchgear and roominess were certainly welcome though.

What design? However, the Logan's deceptively small frame hides a supersized boot. Oh, and the door mouldings doubling as a handle could have been better thought out. I certainly don't have big hands, but struggling to grab a hold on that puny construction (which is basically fashioned from the door panel's armrest...)

The cabin's plastic mouldings and the facia's faux wood veneer are laughable, the beige seat upholstery calls out for chocolate-covered fingers and the aftermarket audio system is, to quote a colleague, "circa 2000".

This is the Logan's best quality - the driving experience it offers. It’s very, very impressive.

This shows a firm commitment from Renault SA, which is currently manufacturing its sibling, the very attractive Sandero hatchback in South Africa and shows that "cheap and cheerful" and "cheap and nasty" do not equate to the same thing. Renault's Logan does easier-on-the-pocket and cheerful very convincingly.

I’d just hate to see that pale interior a year from now.

Logan certainly won't be winning any beauty contests but makes its case on practicality, ease of use and bang for buck.

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