The Dacia Jogger is 2022’s unexpected hero. You can bet your house that the latest Porsche GT car is going to be sensational, but a budget seven-seater could easily end up being worthy but forgettable. Instead, the Jogger really punches above its weight.
Given the rampant rise in the cost of living that we’ve experienced in the past year, the Jogger is a particularly relevant car for families. It offers all the space and utility you need, including a genuinely usable third row of seats, for significantly less money than most standard hatchbacks. It would be a worthy winner of our Value Car of the Year award, were it not for another Dacia winning it.
And it’s not as if Jogger drivers have to give up a lot of creature comforts. Yes, the plastics are hard and there is no expensive-feeling leather on the seats, but Dacia has grown very adept at brightening up its interiors with a strip of fabric here, and a bit of faux knurled aluminium there, without breaking the bank.
Go for one of the still very reasonably priced higher trims, and you get heated seats, cruise control and navigation, as well as an infotainment system that works more logically than a lot of fancier systems.
What truly makes the Jogger a great car is that it drives so much better than it strictly needs to. The 1.0-litre engine is familiar from the Clio and Captur, and although it hardly provides scintillating performance potential, it’s happy to rev and the standard six-speed manual gearbox is tight enough that making the most of the those 118bhp proves more pleasure than pain. If you must have an automatic transmission, the recently introduced Hybrid is the one to go for and returns very impressive economy.
The suspension is equally well-resolved. While soft springs and tall tyre sidewalls provide old-fashioned ride comfort in the best French tradition, the Jogger also holds its own in the corners. The steering is nicely weighted and the chassis has enough inherent balance to even make this seven-seater decent fun on a twisty road.
Some families might instantly discount the Jogger at the sight of its one-star NCAP rating, but they would be missing out. Rather than a blatantly unsafe car, the Jogger protects its occupants perfectly well in a crash. However, NCAP marked it down for the absence of some active safety systems.
Given such systems can occasionally be less than helpful, and the ones that the Jogger does have (ABS, ESC, automatic emergency braking and lane keep assist) are mostly unintrusive, it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for most buyers.
The enduring feeling is that the Jogger is so much better at everything it does than it has any right to for the amount of money Dacia charges for it. When a family SUV can easily top £50,000 with a few options, the Jogger demonstrates you needn’t pay more for a practical family car that’s nice to drive.