How’s this for an opening? The Dacia Jogger is so easy to use an idiot can convert it from seven-seater people carrier to a two-seater van in two minutes flat. I know this because I just did.
There you go, and it is true, with just a few levers and toggles your Jogger can transform itself, and with no great physical or intellectual demands on its owner. It’s brilliant. I think Dacia would have a winner here if they presented it as a flexible multi-purpose vehicle rather than always referring to it as the cheapest seven-seater car on the market, starting at £14,495. It has little competition in that niche, with the Land Rover Discovery and Audi A7 vastly more costly, and the fun Citroen Berlingo XL only available as an electric vehicle, at around £32,000.
So the Jogger has this niche in the market to itself, but I’m sorry to say a lot of people – well, nearly everyone – might at look at that offer and decide that they don’t really need seven seats, and thus fail to appreciate the Jogger’s astonishing versatility. But it’s great fun messing with changing the car’s configuration, and with two rows of split rear seats it can be a two-, three-, five-, six- or seven-seater with commensurately large or small boot space stretching back from a one -meter wide and two-meter-high hatch. You can take the back pair of lightweight seats out completely if you like, and use them for a picnic. Or whatever.
So it’s an exciting sort of car, and of course being a Dacia it’s excellent value, and the range topping “Extreme” version at £17,395 even runs to heated front seats and a rear parking camera, as well as the manual air conditioning, basic cruise control and touchscreen you get as standard on all the models.
In case you’re remotely bothered, the latest Dacias no longer depend so much on parent Renault’s hand-me-down dated technology, so the Jogger is as good to drive as the contemporary Clio it’s related to. That means a rather soft, comfortable ride and reasonable performance from the thrummy three-cylinder engine. It’s far from refined, but it is fun to chuck about and it invites a bit of a thrashing to get the best out of it.
Indoors, it’s modern and fresh enough. The touchscreen is, predictably, a bit basic but it’s got DAB, satnav and Android and Apple connectivity, so you’ve got what you need. I’d have actually preferred a few more manual buttons, but there we are. The control pods behind the wheel for the radio and the cruise control are a bit old school and fiddly to use, but anyone who’s driven a French car will feel instantly at home (the Dacia is built in Romania, by the way).
I did like the vaguely SUV styling with its curved Volvo-style rear lights and piano black alloy wheels. The raised height will help on country lanes and the like, which brings me to the only real criticism I have about the Jogger. You see, the new typeface Dacia is using for its badging means that the “J” in Jogger is so squared off it looks slightly like the word “Dogger” at a glance, which is really not the image you’d want. Unless of course you are a proud member of Britain’s dogging community, in which case the possibilities of a car with seven seats are endless. You do the maths, as they say.