“Dacia” is the name of a historic region in Eastern Europe, surrounded by the river Tisa, Danube, and the Carpathian Mountains. It is also a car brand owned by Renault. Dacia has quite a few popular models, including Duster, one of the best SUVs when it comes to bang for your buck. Besides, it prepares for the launch of its first electric model, one of the most anticipated cars by the EV community.
The Dacia brand has a long history that was intertwined with quite a few Renault models even before its factory re-entered under the French brand’s umbrella.
The Dacia plant was opened near the Romanian city Pitesti in 1966, under the name Uzina de Autoturisme Pitești (UAP) (Pitesti Automobile Factory). Its first model was a replica of Renault 8 called “Dacia 1100” – the Romanian state (the owner of the factory) licensed the Renault 8, including the Gordini version, building a standard and a sports model at the time.
Later, the factory was retooled to produce the local version of the Renault 12, sold under the name “Dacia 1300”.
In the 1970s, UAP has released quite a few “improved” versions of its models. The list includes a luxury version of the car – Dacia 1301 Lux Super – with extra features such as a radio and heated rear screen, reserved for the dignitaries of the Communist nomenclature. At the end of the 70s, UAP launched the Dacia 1310, restyled to match the improvements of the Renault 12 rolled out earlier. The model, branded Dacia Denem, was launched on the international market – it was quite successful in the UK due to its affordable price range and features like electric windows, a five-speed gearbox, and alloy wheels. Around the same time, the “Sport” version of the car was introduced – it was a beloved Rallye car, especially unique models that were tuned to squeeze out every last drop of power from their old Renault engines.
Dacia created an entire line of personal and commercial vehicles based on the Renault 12, ranging from the above-mention sports car to the 500cc Mini-Dacia called “Lastun” that was the textbook case of the small, affordable urban vehicle with minuscule fuel consumption. These models can still be spotted occasionally on Romania’s roads.
In 1989, Romania shed its communist rule, turning into a democracy. All of a sudden, the borders were opened, and second-hand cars from the West have flooded the market. Dacia felt the wind of change, too – its market share dropped significantly, even though it tried to refresh its models. A series of interesting models were launched around this time, although most of them were based on the classic Renault 12 design.
Ultimately, Dacia was acquired by Renault in 1999, turning into the French car marker’s hub for development in Central and Eastern Europe.
Dacia models were sold around the world since the 1970s but they were never as popular as they are today. Dacia Logan, launched in 2004, is the most successful Dacia model since the original 1300, the 2008 model Sandero (sold under the Renault brand in certain markets) is the textbook example of a no-nonsense, affordable hatchback, and Duster, launched in 2009, is one of the best-selling SUVs in its category.
And this March, the manufacturer has presented Dacia Spring, its first electric car (based on the Renault K-ZE) that will enter production next year, with a price tag under 20,000 euros.