We’ve done it! 10 countries in 10 days in a Dacia Logan.
This is it! Turkey completes our adventure to make it 10 countries visited in exactly 10 days with a Dacia Logan. You can now relive the entire saga and read Part 1: Romania, Part 2: Serbia, Part 3: Bosnia & Herzegovina, Part 4: Montenegro, Part 5: Albania, Part 6: North Macedonia, Part 7: Kosovo, Part 8: Bulgaria and Part 9: Greece. Although it was quick, I feel like we were still able to explore at least one very worthwhile highlight in every country, making this more than just an exploration of the different car landscapes of each nation, even though the latter was fascinating also.
A rough outline of our final itinerary
Over a total of 4076 km / 2532 mi, crossing 27 border posts and learning about the geography, political and cultural history of these 10 countries, some of them disputed, was an incredibly humbling experience. Especially for someone who has grown up in the European Union where such controlled borders do not exist anymore, and who currently lives in Australia where you can drive non-stop for the rest of your life and never cross a single border. But wait, we’re not quite done just yet as Turkey and Istanbul still need to be explored…
The flag of TurkeyOur itinerary in TurkeyOur Tomtom GPS getting acquainted with Istanbul
After a cheeky detour to Kastanies to tick Greece as the 9th country on the trip, our itinerary in Turkey is very straight-forward: dash to Istanbul, see as many attractions – and cars – as possible, and dash back to Bulgaria and Romania in time for the drop-off date for our Dacia Logan. This fast-forward and back is made possible by the impeccable state of Turkish highways, or at least the ones that lead to Istanbul.
It’s my third time in Istanbul, having visited in 2001 and 2006, and it seemed a perfect fit as the last stop in this incredible adventure. Founded as Byzantion around 660 BCE, it became Constantinople in 330 and served as an imperial capital for almost 16 centuries, during the Roman/Byzantine (330–1453) and Ottoman (1453–1922) empires. It was instrumental in the advancement of Christianity, then the Ottomans transformed it into an Islamic stronghold. With a total population of around 15 million, Istanbul is one of the world’s most populous cities. In fact, Istanbul alone is at least twice as populated as each of the remaining countries we traversed bar Romania (20m). We managed to cram the the 6th-century Hagia Sophia – the largest cathedral in the world for nearly 1000 years, the Sultanahmet/Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace where we looked over to Asia across the Bosphorus strait, while still keeping time for dangling our feet above the water at the Eminönü Pier and Galata bridge and blending into the happy-go-lucky late-night crowds of İstiklal Caddesi. Compared to my previous visits, I found Istanbul a lot more modern and classy – I’d even say sassy – with disgraceful suburbs having all been painted over in the interval and ATMs at every street corner. It’s a true global city, in a way we hadn’t encountered yet during this trip.
Istanbul car park
Driving in Istanbul is a shock. Well, to be more precise the reckless driving style is nothing new, we’ve experienced it almost everywhere during this trip except perhaps in Bosnia and Montenegro. What’s new is everyone’s total lack of acknowledgment of surrounding cars as well as speed limits now happens over 5 lanes each way. Add to this hordes of pedestrians crossing at any time and swerving around the cars with such density that it seems almost impossible not to hit anyone, and my first priority quickly becomes finding a park near the hotel to leave our beloved Dacia Logan there for the duration of our stay. The new car landscape in Istanbul is very straight-forward: Fiat Egea and Renault Symbol virtually everywhere, both as private cars and taxis among, quite logically, a strong heritage of Fiat Linea. More surprising was the almost total absence of any Renault Megane sedans, even though it ranked #2 over the Full Year 2018. Perhaps this model is more popular outside of big cities…
Our Dacia Logan in Istanbul, and posting next to its Turkish twin the Renault Symbol.
The mysteries of car branding and marketing mean that our Dacia Logan has entered foreign territory in Turkey: as a sedan it is actually not available here. Instead, the same vehicle is sold under the Renault brand and the Symbol nameplate. As you can see on the pictures above, the cosmetic differences are minimal and centred around the front facia. To confuse everyone further, the same generation Dacia Logan MCV (aka station wagon) is sold in Turkey, and is actually quite popular among taxi companies.
It’s now time for our traditional quick review that closes all our Test Drives, this time for Roma our Dacia Logan.
- Rich equipment including stop & start, rear-view cameras, automatic gearbox with manual setting, cruise control and limited GPS navigation
- Outstanding supple suspension makes quick work of very bad gravel roads and very frequent potholes such as during our tunnel adventure in Bosnia are swallowed with pride
- Overall functioning – its commands, buttons and switches – is for the most part intuitive, all running like clockwork and reliable, in a core, “set and forget” sense. The “modern, reliable and affordable” brief Louis Schweitzer uttered almost 20 years ago has taken shape right before our eyes.
- Seat comfort is way above par, with absolutely no back ache whatsoever after 10 days of driving, 4000km and a particularly draining 24-hour consecutive stretch during the last day due to the 12-hour traffic jam at the Bulgarian border
- 2012 design is relatively timeless and still looks current 6 years later, a significant achievement for an “entry” vehicle
- Cockpit isn’t as low-cost as expected with ok materials throughout the dashboard
- Cost-cutting decisions are very smart and don’t for the most part impede everyday usage. A good example is the single armrest between the two front seats which very surprisingly ends up being no issue as the respective positions of driver and passenger mean that most times we’re using a different section of the armrest. Well spotted!
- The stop start system was put to an incredibly cruel torture test – and survived – at the Bulgarian border during a continuous 12 hours of crawling. Bonus: not much petrol was used through the ordeal
- Very generous glovebox on the passenger side
- Its price, €12,770 for the top-of-the-line Black & White, isn’t low-cost anymore and could potentially place this Logan variant in the same sandpit as arguably more sophisticated/modern sedans such as the Fiat Tipo (€12,950 starting price) and better equipped hatches such as the Peugeot 208 (€13,300), Renault Clio (€14,100) or VW Polo (€14,430)
- Engine and wind noise at high revs/speed on the highway makes it hard to have a conversation, I haven’t experienced this in a new car since the early nineties
- Shrill sound system
- Although a welcome inclusion, the stop start system automatically cuts the air con off when the car is idle, which can quickly become frustrating in the height of summer. It’s also very slow to register a new start, to the point where to avoid the car behind you getting too close you almost invariably have to accelerates quicker which often screeches the tyres in a rally car way
- Reversing in a steep incline (in Ohrid) is a bad idea: the engine was really struggling and I could smell the brake liquid, same thing in steep climbs where the auto gearbox saturates, even though this is the most powerful engine in the Logan lineup (1.5 dCi 90)
- GPS navigation is limited to Romania and Bulgaria and doesn’t alert you when changes of direction are needed, meaning missing an exit is very easy and can quickly become standard
- No hydraulic steering wheel makes you realise how we got used to that feature in current cars. Door close noise and lightness of the door handle are also definitely low-cost
- The cruise control, located on the bottom half of the centre dash, isn’t natural to operate: I couldn’t master it during the entire trip and therefore never used it
- Location of the pocket money box is impractical below the handbrake
- USB iPhone connection dies when clicking on “next song” on the steering wheel – this must be activated on the phone, which renders it useless in case you’re the only person in the car