We debate substance versus style.
On the 9th February 2022, first drive reviews of two quite different yet similarly priced new models featured on the home page of a certain influential car magazine’s website and caused something of a debate chez DTW. One of them gives me cause to believe that there is again room in the market for an honest car that offers fantastic value to potential buyers. The other is a disappointing replacement of an existing city car that just makes me wonder why they bothered?
Let’s start with the positive: all hail the Dacia Jogger. OK, so the name is daft, but then so was Roomster, the moniker given to the car of which the Jogger reminds me so much. Sadly, Škoda has long abandoned this corner of the market, and with it has gone its most distinctive and playful of designs, which must also include the Yeti. Both of these Ingenlath-influenced cars are firm favourites for most, if not all, on this site.
So, when a car emerges from another east European marque which reclaims the mantle of those pitch-perfect Škodas, it’s a reason to rejoice. In case you have missed it, the Jogger is a roomy and practical seven-seat crossover mash-up of estate, MPV and SUV styles, which you can buy in the UK from £14,995. That’s £2,075 less than the most basic Fiesta, or only £200 more than the lowliest of the new Toyota Aygo X range. Hold that particular thought.
On the outside, the Jogger is almost pure new-model Sandero from the A-pillar forwards. From the B-pillar back, Dacia has attached a boxy shell with an upright tailgate in which five more people can be seated in relative comfort (although the rearmost two could do with being a bit shorter and trimmer of stature) with a bit of luggage behind them. There is even an inflection in the top edge of the window-line just behind the front doors where the two forms meet, just like that which featured on the Roomster. It’s just over 4.55m in length and just under 1.8m wide and 1.7m high. This scale obviously helps it to deliver its spacious interior.
The Jogger is powered by a 999cc triple which develops up to 109bhp and 148 lb ft of torque, delivered via a six-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels. If that doesn’t sound much for such a car, then the performance figures surprise in that they are completely adequate for this type of vehicle and, no doubt, its potential buyers. 100km/h (62mph) can be reached in 11.2 seconds and the Jogger will eventually run to over 177km/h (110mph) should you feel like losing your licence. Combined cycle fuel economy is 6.01 l/100km (47.1mpg) which, of course, one will never see, and CO2 emissions that are par for the non-hybrid petrol course at 132g/km.
The dashboard is lifted from the Sandero Stepway, so no soft-touch plastic here, nor any sign of a touchscreen. Instead, there’s a smartphone mount. However, one can at least delight in a proper handbrake lever, chunky manual HVAC controls and even the base-spec Essential model has air-con, cruise control and rear parking sensors to help place the Jogger’s large rear.
Dacia is currently making a ‘thing’ of the fact that it eschews the kind of NCAP star-rating friendly electronic driver assistance aids in order to keep its list prices down. Given that these include the lane-keeping ‘drive assist’ feature, I would be one of those happy to bag the savings and not miss at all the ghostly hand that wrests control of the wheel away from the driver at motorway speeds.
Of course, there are drawbacks. That cost-paring approach means that the five rear seats are not the most flexible or manoeuvrable of designs: there’s no Varioflex-like seating system here. A personal preference perhaps, but I think the overall honesty of the car would be improved by dropping the plastic cladding that is meant to give the Jogger that faux-SUV look.
Speaking of which brings us back to the Aygo X. Let’s start again with a few vital statistics. The Aygo X(1) is 3.7m long, 1.74m wide and 1.53m high. It too is powered by a triple, albeit with 1cc less in terms of capacity, producing maximum power and torque of just 71bhp and 69 lb ft. Weight is only 940kg, but the small Toyota still struggles up through its five-speed gearbox(2) to 100km/h (62mph) in 15.6 seconds then onwards to a 158km/h (98mph) top speed. Combined cycle fuel economy is 4.71 l/100km (60.1mpg) and CO2 emissions a pleasing 107g/km given that, as with the Jogger, the little petrol engine has no electrical assistance.
The Aygo X has that chunky, Nike-Air trainer look about it, a real urban-SUV-crossover in miniature. Viewed through the lens of car-as-fashion-item, it’s funky and hip, albeit in a rather too knowing, on the nose manner for it to count as properly ‘cool’ in my book. Moreover, the raked angle curve of the rear and long bonnet-to-cabin-length ratio clearly compromise the interior space available to passengers. Any human over 5’6″ (168cms) tall is going to be cramped in the rear and the boot, though a bit larger than that of its predecessor, is still small.
The Aygo X runs on 17” or even 18” wheels to help achieve that elevated SUV look. However, Car Magazine’s reviewer, Colin Overland, says that it still rides well for a short-wheelbase car, as well as providing some handling fun. That may be thanks to the chassis being derived from that of the current Yaris and not the previous shared PSA / Toyota platform.
The interior is, again, funkily attired and every trim level features at least a 7” touchscreen, whilst still retaining manual twist-knobs for the HVAC controls. But then, at this price, so it should.
The lowliest of the new Aygos starts at £14,795. For that you get it in ‘Pure’ trim with 17” wheels, manual air-con and one-colour bodywork. Passing swiftly by the next ‘Edge’ trim level, one reaches the ‘Exclusive’ which is on 18” wheels, has privacy glass at the rear(3) and adds wireless phone charging, LED headlights and a more advanced infotainment and safety-aids package, together with the touchscreen now measuring 9”. The top-end ‘Limited Edition’ model has differently patterned 18″ wheels, some orange flourishes on the heated front seats and an electrically retractable fabric sunroof, for a sticker price that exceeds £20k.
Yes, more than £20k for a 3.7-metre long car with a near-2+2 layout, powered by a 71bhp triple barely capable of pulling the skin of a rice pudding. Even the ritziest, most expensive Jogger will only set you back £17,395. I can see that the Aygo X will appeal to a certain stratum of society, but I’d rather have the somewhat antiquated Panda, Picanto, i10 or, most of all, the ‘totes-cool’ Ignis. I think one can buy the new 500 EV for only a bit more money.
In short, the Aygo X furthers the cause and evolution of the city car segment not one jot. Why did the mighty Toyota, makers of the rather wonderful iQ, remember, bother and how did they get it so wrong?
Returning to the Dacia, if I had to replace our Octavia Estate right now, I’d almost certainly go for the Jogger. It doesn’t advance the cause of its segment either and is indeed an oddly old-fashioned kind of car, but it offers a terrific space-to-price ratio, and is just a very straightforward, few frills, practical, family car. Remember those?
(1) Apparently, the X is pronounced ‘cross’ not ‘ex’ or ‘incorrect’.
(2) A CVT is available as an option.
(3) Doubtless making the rear cabin dark as well as cramped.