Especially when augmented by the country’s 23% sales (IVA) tax, the annual IUC (Imposto Único de Circulação) road tax ranging from €158.31 to €512.33 for gasoline-powered cars, Portugal’s initial ISV (Imposto Sobre Veículos) when a car first gets a license plate (matrícula) here, and “administrative” fees costing between €1,000 and €1,500. Unlike the USA, buyers are also expected to pay the dealership for a new vehicle’s transportation costs. Add a few hundred euros more for that.

Altogether, these costs add up to a sizable sum!

As of June 2023, used cars cost an average of 23,750 euros in the Portuguese market. Three years earlier (2020), the average price for a new car was 32,483€.

While some makes and models here are available elsewhere, others are specific to the EU … and some of their options are specific to Portugal.

Like Dacia.

Pity that more Americans aren’t aware of the brand.

Our first exposure to Dacia occurred when we emigrated from northern Wisconsin in the USA to the Alentejo region of Portugal over six years ago. Since then, we’ve seen plenty of Dacias on the streets and the motorways:

> The utilitarian, all-electric Spring, Portugal’s lowest EV in weight and cost;

> The best-selling Sandero, starting at €12,500;

> The popular Duster, a sturdy SUV that effectively put Dacia on the map;

> The jaunty Jogger, a seven-seater with cargo capacity so massive that Dacia sells a full-size (“matrimonial”) bed which fits in the back. Sleek and sexy in its latest “generation,” the Jogger – like all Dacias – is priced low enough to compete handily against those look-alike toads on the road.

Dacia’s affordability is a result of such factors as simplified design, shared components, lean production, and strategic manufacturing locations. This cost-efficient approach allows Dacia to cater to budget-conscious consumers seeking the most for their money. Faithful to its values –simplicity, spaciousness, robustness, and price –Dacia’s growing commercial success comes from its focus on practicality and affordability. With admirable resilience, Dacia documents a modest depreciation rate of 2.41%. These cars hold their value.

Eighteen months ago, we bought a new Dacia Duster Extreme for €21,500 and liked almost everything about it. Especially its bi-fuel motor. The car has a 50-liter tank for gasoline and a second, 40-liter tank for LPG (liquified petroleum gas) that costs half that of gasoline or diesel yet delivers the same power and mileage per liter. With fuel costing the U.S. equivalent of $7.50 to $8.00 per gallon in Portugal, the savings realized with LPG are formidable and felt with every fill-up.

Recognized as a low carbon alternative fuel, LPG emits significantly fewer carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions compared to conventional fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gasoline. It also emits almost no black carbon, arguably the second biggest contributor to global warming. As a clean-burning fuel, LPG helps mitigate the effects of climate change by discharging 12% CO2 less than oil and up to 20% less than gasoline.

As we got to know our Duster better, the more we realized that the Jogger would be a better fit for us. The Duster is 23.2 cm shorter and 4.9 cm lower than the Jogger, with 11% less cargo space.

Luggage (boot) space in the Jogger Extreme maxes out at 1,808 liters by folding and snapping the third rows seats into the backs of the second, and then tumbling the second row forward to its fully horizontal position. This gives us a load of two meters (6.5 feet) long and just over one meter (about a yard) wide. Building on this interior storage space are lots of nooks, crannies, compartments, a glove box, and door bins, as well as the Jogger’s modular roof bars. Pull-up, fold-down trays on the rear of the front seats can be useful, especially with children aboard.

With 19,000 km on our odometer, we traded in the 2022 Duster for €18,500 against the €24,000 price of our 2024 Jogger Extreme+. Unlike the USA, where new cars typically lose one-third their value when driven off the dealer’s lot, the Duster depreciated only €3,000.

Included in our “Plus” (+) package are two of three available options: Nav Pack with 8-inch touchscreen navigation; DAB radio; smartphone replication; Bluetooth®; Western Europe Cartography; and three years of updates on maps and navigation. The other option? Comfort Pack which includes blind spot alert; front parking assistance system; assisted automatic parking brake; automatic air conditioning; semi-elevated center console with armrest and storage space; height-adjustable driver's seat; and tables in the back of the front seats. Had we wanted to wait and order the car for delivery months later, we could have paid €200 more for heated front seats. The two rear rows in all Jogger models come with “theatre” seating in which each row is a bit higher than the one in front for enhanced passenger visibility.

The Jogger shares much of its guts with the Duster, so we were already familiar with the car’s systems and sounds. Once getting grip on its gears, the six speed manual transmission shifts seamlessly, up or down. Suspension is quite comfortable, as struts provide a ride between sporty (hard) and squishy (soft). In addition to its integral navigation (GPS) system which also alerts us to radar, the vehicle’s sensors – amplified by a rear-view camera – chime different warnings when we’re coming close to objects ahead, behind, and on the sides. The 2024 Jogger also greets us with a second or two of musical beats, the beginning of a song, when we open its doors and get seated.

With a turning diameter of 11.7 meters, the FWD car handles nimbly, its steering neither too loose nor too tight. Technical specs include total length: 454.7 cm; exterior width with mirrors: 200.7 cm; exterior height: 167.4 cm; wheelbase:289.8 cm; ground clearance: 20 cm; weight: 1,251 kg. Cargo volume ranges from 607 to 1,819 liters. Maximum speed is 183 km/h. By pressing the ECO button, the vehicle’s throttle response is adjusted and the function of some ancillary feature, such as air conditioning, is reduced.

Inside, the cabin is spacious and inviting, its instrumentation – buttons and dials – well-placed and positioned. Hard plastics, long the bane of Dacia design, have given way to a plusher, posher look and feel. Ergonomically comfortable, the seats, front ones especially, help to make longer drives more pleasurable.

Other niceties about the Jogger Extreme+ package are that it includes:

• Electric exterior mirrors with demisting system

• Keyless entry and engine start

• Advanced Emergency Braking System [AEBS]

• Driver Fatigue and Attention Alert [DDAW]

• Traffic Sign Recognition with Speed Alert [ISA]

• Centralized door locking with remote control

• Automatic door locking in progress

• Light and rain sensors

• Lane Keeping Assistance [LKA]

• ECO Mode

• Leather steering wheel

• USB ports

• Over-tinted side and rear windows

• LED daytime running lights, LED dipped headlights, and fog lights

Not bad for such an economical car!

With a total power output of 140hp, the car clocks an acceleration time from zero to 100 km/h in 10.1 seconds and low emissions of 112g/km of CO2. According to official fuel economy figures, it can return up to 47 miles per gallon using petrol.

More good news about the Jogger:

Starting at €29,400, it’s available as a full hybrid with a rather unique way of charging its battery. Combining two electric motors and a combustion engine, the car does not need to be plugged in. With Jogger HYBRID 140, everything is simple: the battery recharges itself when you decelerate and brake.

Alas, there’s also some bad news about Dacia’s 2024 Jogger:

It lost marks for its lack of “active” safety equipment: When tested, the vehicle didn’t offer lane-keep assist (it does now!), pedestrian detection (ours beeps whenever someone is detected too close to the car), or seatbelt warnings for the rearmost row. These omissions – two of the three have been resolved – saw the Jogger clock up the equivalent of two stars for vulnerable road users, and just one star in the safety assist category. (The overall NCAP rating is dictated by the lowest score in any individual category, hence that one-star result for the Jogger.) Note, however, that it returned the equivalent of a four-star rating for adult occupant crash protection, and three stars for child occupants.

Rather respectable scores!

In my opinion, a car so cleverly conceived and assembled deserves better than vinyl cut out letters identifying the model on its lower rear panel.

For three consecutive years, the most popular new car sold in Portugal has been the Peugeot 2008—priced at €26,185 including IVA. After Peugeot, however, Dacia was the best-selling make in Portugal, with 1,337 Dacias sold to Peugeot’s 1,429 in September 2023.

Previously the bargain basement brand for Renault’s tired old platforms and retired parts, Dacia has come into its own as a robust and enviable entity which some say is surprisingly upbeat and sexy. Especially given its costs.

Dacia, you may be #2 now in Portugal, but remember the advertising campaign Avis car rental company ran against Hertz in the early 1960s: “We’re number two. We try harder.”

The rest, as they say, is history … and the future for Dacia.