Can Dacia Take on the UK?

The order books are now officially open for the Dacia Sandero, Sandero Stepway and Duster 4x4, in the UK. But will Renault’s Romania-based budget brand win over the heads (not hearts) of the British car buyer, with its blend of proven reliability, durability and ‘shocking’ affordability? With first deliveries taking place in January of 2013, there are but a few months before the new version of James May’s favourite car begins trying to make its mark.
Dacia deem their two and a half model range enough, for starters, but after reading many forums, news comments and various other relevant information sources, I have arrived at the conclusion that they should, perhaps, have included the Logan sedan in the range as well, simply because no other sedan can beat it in terms of value for money, engineering, and I would even go so far as to say that it also trumps many of its rivals (which are more expensive, anyway) on looks, as well.

Quite a few people have expressed their desire to buy the Logan in the UK, mentioning the price, of course, and its 510-liter boot, a really massive number which makes even larger cars take notice. While Dacia has never actually said that it will never bring the Logan to UK dealerships, the possibility of it arriving on the Isles is very slim, regardless of how well the rest of the range does. Perhaps they are relying on the stereotype that Brits like hatchbacks, and that sedans simply don’t sell well enough in the UK to warrant the right-hand drive conversion.

Now, back to the subject at hand, Dacia’s chance at making a real mark in the UK. Well, I say it will, mainly because Dacia is well aware that they are not only targeting the ‘cheep and cheerful’ new car market, but also an important part of the second-hand market as well. A “Instead of buying a thee-year old Focus, why not buy a Sandero, with a small turbocharged petrol engine (Renault’s TCe 90), three years’ warranty and proven Renault reliability?” kind of mentality is at play here.

However, after doing yet more research on the matter, it seems that the British public is more eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Duster 4x4, which most consider an ideal all-round car for doing pretty much anything, as well as going pretty much anywhere. They like its spacious, if a bit spartan interior, and instead of criticizing the noticeably cheap plastics, they appreciate that at least they can see exactly where and how the costs were cut. Thankfully, though, Renault has Nissan to ask, whenever something needs to go off road, and with the Duster, they have really delivered.

It features a very similar 4x4 system to that of the much more expensive Nissan X-Trail SUV, which is made to fit the Duster’s Clio II-based underpinnings. Worth noting, and actually quite important is the matter of the rear suspension. If you buy the Duster with front-wheel drive only, be aware of the fact that it gets a great big girder with one wheel at each end, while if you opt for the 4x4 model, it gets a completely different fully-independent setup.

The 4x2 is not really recommended, as it defeats the purpose of the Duster, and not only that, but it is reportedly considerably less comfortable on the road. Now, as the arrival of the Toyota Land cruiser pretty much made all of Land Rover’s products look very bad, and stole a lot of their sales, the Duster will most likely do that as well, but at a slightly lower level. Why buy an expensive defender, when a suspension and tire kit fitted to a Duster will make 90% as capable, for only a fraction of the price, while also being better looking, and considerably greener and more efficient.

Dacia will undoubtedly do very well in the UK, and they will probably surpass all sales expectations, just as they did when they first reluctantly launched the Dacia brand in Western Europe, in 2005. Now, with the boost in quality and image, as well as the ongoing financial crisis which is not letting up, cash-strapped British buyers will flock into Renault dealerships to sign op for a Dacia, and instead of being picky and critical, they understand the idea and philosophy behind the Dacia brand, and they appreciate it. They also understand that ‘shockingly affordable’ is a proper way to describe the brand (as well as a very simple and clever marketing gimmick), as you cannot really find this level of engineering and quality even on some higher-priced offerings from other manufacturers.

If Dacia gets its foot in the door of the UK market, a very tough, mature and very selective market, then they will have conquered the whole of Europe, and in doing so proven that always keeping an eye on costs and keeping prices down will help you sell over two million cars in 8 years, after being brought back from the brink of collapse by Renault, back in 2004, with the launch of the first generation Logan, a car which future generations will look back to and regard as a true landmark in the European automotive industry of this decade.
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