Dacia offers up a Mad Max-esque off-road buggy

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Dacia Offers Up A Mad Max-Esque Off-Road Buggy Dacia Offers Up A Mad Max-Esque Off-Road Buggy
Manifesto won’t become a production model but will influence future Dacias
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Neil Briscoe

If ever a carmaker were at a crossroads right now, it’s Dacia. The Renault-owned budget brand is currently riding a wave of success across Europe and in Ireland.

From a standing start, the new Jogger seven seater has become the fourth-best-selling seven seat car in Ireland, and that’s a model that didn’t even arrive here until April. The Sandero is Ireland’s second-best-selling supermini, and the brand as a whole now commands 3.2 per cent of the Irish car market. Quite the success story for a badge that came here in 2014 with only one model.

Dacia has a problem though and it's the future. For a brand whose appeal lies largely in its price tag, moving to electric power is going to be difficult, as batteries are expensive to build and to sell. Even though Dacia already has an affordable EV on sale in Europe, the Spring (which should be coming to Ireland in due course) electrifying the rest of the lineup could prove difficult.

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However, there’s a possible get-out clause. If Dacia can reduce the carbon emissions of every other part of its cars, aside from the engine, then by being part of a car making group — including Renault, Nissan, and Mitsubishi — that’s heading for all-electric power then perhaps Dacia can duck the electric issue slightly, at least until EV tech becomes affordable enough to fit the brand’s USP.

That’s the thinking behind this, the Dacia Manifesto concept. Sadly, given how unspeakably awesome it looks, it is just a concept and Dacia is already pouring cold water on any hopes of it reaching production, saying that: “it does not prefigure an upcoming model, Manifesto is a lab for ideas with some of its innovative features available on future vehicles in the Dacia range.”

What is the Manifesto? It’s set-dressing from a Mad Max movie. No, perhaps that’s unfair. What it is, is a concept off-road buggy designed around two basic tenets — light weight and recycled materials.

Dacia is proud of the fact that it makes cars lighter than most of the opposition. The Jogger seven-seater, for example, is some 300kg lighter than most of its main rivals (although cynics might point out that’s because Dacia skimped on the safety equipment). The Manifesto also dodges some of the equipment you’d normally expect to see on a modern car in the search of a lower weight, mostly doors, a windscreen, and windows. As Dacia puts it: “The driver and passenger are therefore fully immersed in nature.” Better bring some goggles.

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Inside, if the Manifesto can quite be said to have an actual inside, Dacia is pushing forward the idea of making your smartphone part of the dashboard architecture, with a plug-and-play setup that’s an evolution of the clamp and USB plug that features in base models of the current Sandero, Jogger, and Duster.

Dacia wants you to bring other accessories along for the ride, and has developed a way of securing other accessories to the interior called YouClip, which will appear on future production models. Meanwhile, on the outside there’s a single headlamp, which Dacia says provides the same lighting performance as a two-unit setup, and which can be detached and used as a powerful hand torch. There’s also a battery pack at the rear that charges as you drive and can be removed to power camping gear.

Obviously, the Manifesto is built to go off-road (maybe Dacia is thinking this is the only place in which cars might be allowed in the future?) with massive ride height, big tyres, and four-wheel drive. The cabin is fully waterproofed, and not only can you hose it out, but apparently you can use a jet washer. The seat covers can be removed, not only to be cleaned but to be converted into handy sleeping bags. Meanwhile, the roof rack — as it is on the current Jogger, Stepway, and Duster — is modular and can be swung into different positions depending on whether you want to carry bikes or a roof box.

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While Dacia hasn’t given the Manifesto an actual engine, it is designed to be ‘multifuel’ and could theoretically be powered by petrol, LPG, or have electric drive, and the company claims that it is: “a vehicle with a minimal environmental footprint. As it is compact and lightweight, it consumes less energy.” All-up, the Manifesto is said to weigh just 720kg even if you fit batteries and an electric motor.

The Manifesto is also made largely of recycled components. The outer body panels, all plastic, incorporate a reprocessed polypropylene, with a flecked effect called Starkle. That will go into production next year, and will feature on the plastic cladding parts used on the exterior of the Dacia Duster.

Inside (again, if it has an actual inside…) Dacia has done away with chrome trim and used easily grown and recycled cork for the dashboard covering. The concept’s airless tyres are another innovative feature, as they aim for environmental friendliness as well as savings. The underlying principle is durability as tyres are puncture-proof and last for as long as the vehicle.

David Durand, Dacia’s design director said: “At Dacia, we like to keep it real. As we were developing and exploring new ideas, we felt we needed to push them past 3D simulations and see what they look like in real life! As well as being a designer object, the Manifesto concept encapsulates our vision and combines a wide range of innovation – some involve extreme implementation, but they are still affordable for customers. We will be using a few of them on future Dacia models.”

Lionel Jaillet, Dacia’s product performance director, said: “We want to build a range of products that strengthens our brand promise, focusing on the essentials and adapting our vehicles for outdoor activities. Beyond our models, we are also working on innovative features that match our customers’ need and lifestyles even more closely. Manifesto Concept is a “lab” to try out and mock up new ideas. The version you can see today will keep on evolving as we keep on exploring. So don’t miss the next models: they will be ever smarter, ever more tailored to outdoor activities and ever more Dacia.”

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