After four years of development, Renault has launched its ‘€5,000’ X90 model, a three-box saloon called the Logan, which will go on sale at the end of 2004.

The three-box body style was chosen because it is regarded as a status symbol in emerging economies. From early 2007 other body styles will be launched on the same platform, including an estate and a small van.

The X90 project is unique in Renault’s history because it is the first range of vehicles designed entirely for sale initially outside Western Europe.

“We started with a clean sheet in 1998 and always kept the target price determined by [chairman and chief executive officer] Louis Schweitzer – starting at €5,000 – firmly in our sights”, said X90 project director Jean-Marie Hurtiger.

“In 1995, to ensure Renault’s profitable growth, I took the decision to expand the company in to markets outside Europe”, recalled Schweitzer.

About 57 million cars were sold worldwide in 2003. The most developed markets, the United States, Western Europe, Japan and South Korea, absorbed roughly 80% of the total, although they are home to only 20% of the world’s population.

“That means there is a reserve of markets to be conquered in other regions, where sustained economic growth is causing the automobile sector to expand”, said Georges Douin, head of product & strategic planning and international operations.

Renault claims to have clearly identified the Logan’s potential customers. In the passenger car market, families are expected to account for more than three out of four buyers in the Czech Republic, Romania and Morocco. They are relatively young, aged between 35 and 49, according to surveys carried out in all the countries where the model will be sold.

One customer out of four in Romania, Algeria and Turkey will be buying a new vehicle for the first time. The Logan is also aimed at the business market, especially taxis.

Renault’s surveys left no doubt as to what guided customers in choosing a car. Price was the main criterion in Romania, Central Europe and Turkey, followed by low maintenance costs.

As for competition, Logan will face a wide range of rivals in its segment. Many of the cars are made locally, such as the Chevrolet/Daewoo Kalos, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio and Skoda Fabia.

The Logan was developed on the Renault-Nissan Alliance’s B platform, used for the Nissan Micra and just-launched Renault Modus.

The car’s generous dimensions are said to make it exceptionally spacious. Its length (4250mm), width (1735mm) and height (1525mm) are claimed to be unrivalled in saloons in the B-entry segment, and are closer to the norms for the C segment. The boot volume of 510 litres is claimed to be the best in the class.

The Logan will be launched with a choice of two petrol engines: the 75hp 1.4 litre and 90hp 1.6 litre. A 65hp 1.5 dCi diesel option will be available in 2005, as well as a 107hp 1.6 litre 16 valve petrol unit.

The K7 series eight-valve engines have been well proven in several Renault vehicles, and are still used for the Clio saloon and Kangoo van.

Both engines are combined with the five-speed manual gearbox also used in the Laguna and Mégane.

Prototypes were tested over 470,000 kilometres on the “overseas export” circuit at the company’s road-proving ground in Aubevoye, Normandy. The circuit features an abundance of dust, stones and fords with a view to wearing out vehicles three times faster than they would do on standard European roads.

Maintenance costs were the subject of close study. Engineers  have extended the intervals between services – on some markets the oil, spark plugs and air filter are changed only every 30,000 kilometres. There was also a focus on simple, practical techniques for easy servicing. The headlamp bulbs can be easily reached from the engine compartment, so that customers can change them themselves.

“Logan will be on the roads of all the continents. From South America to Asia via Eastern Europe and Africa, it will have to cope with conditions that are as varied as they are demanding. So the specifications took account of requirements in the most difficult countries, from the hottest to the coldest”, said Renault Dacia chairman and head of international operations Luc Alexandre.

The heating and air conditioning systems are suitable for climates as extreme as those of Russia and the Gulf states and were developed to the same specifications as those used for the Clio sold in Mexico.

The Logan is also suitable for difficult road surfaces. The 155mm ground clearance is 20mm higher than that of a vehicle designed for use in Western Europe. The powertrains, air conditioning and opening panels were all designed for an environment where dust is everywhere.

The engines can run on fuel of widely differing quality. They are designed for 95-octane fuel, but have also been approved for use with 87-octane and 91-octane petrol.

Tests have also checked that the powertrain function with a starting temperature of minus 30°C.

However, the Logan engines comply with EU Euro 4 emissions standards and the body meets European standards for front and side impacts. Dual front airbags, are only an option though.

Front suspension is MacPherson-type with a wishbone link, based on the system used in the Clio. The rear suspension is an H-section torsion beam with programmed layout, combined with helical springs and vertical dampers.

Top versions have a front anti-roll bar and also have hydraulic power-assisted steering, ABS and 15-inch wheels.

The ABS is the Bosch 8.0 system – the same as the Mégane – with Electronic Brake Distribution.

Despite its generous dimensions, the Logan is a relative lightweight. The entry-level version weighs only 975kg.

“The X90 project forms part of Renault’s international growth strategy, which is targeting worldwide production of over 700,000 units of this model by 2010”, said Gérard Detourbet, vice president, worldwide X90 programme.

Production at Dacia’s Pitesti plant will start this year. Russia, Morocco and Colombia will follow in 2005 and Iran in 2006. Assembly of the Logan in Russia, Morocco and Iran will be from CKD packs supplied by the Pitesti pilot site, with some mechanical components supplied by Renault sites.

The car will be badged as a Renault in some markets, such as Russia and Iran. Whether the Dacia or Renault badge is used will depend on the characteristics of each market and on how long and in what circumstances Renault has been established there.

In Central Europe, as well as in Turkey, northern Africa, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, the Logan will be marketed as a Dacia to round out Renault’s range. It will be positioned in the entry-level segment, which in a country like Poland accounts for 30% of the total market and is barely covered by the current Renault range.

For aftersales service, the Dacia spare parts centre in Bradu, near the Pitesti plant, will supply all markets.