Dacia Sandero review
The Dacia Sandero is immensely likeable and good value, but it feels basic and dated compared to mainstream supermini rivals
Since it arrived on UK shores in 2012, Romanian car brand Dacia has become a firm favourite with UK buyers, thanks to its no-nonsense, budget price cars such as the Logan, the Duster and this particular model, the Sandero.
With a starting price of around £6,000, the entry-level Dacia Sandero Access is excellent value thanks to its borderline Volkswagen Golf size, large 320-litre boot, practical interior and low running costs. It's little wonder then, that the Sandero featured in our 2013 best superminis to buy list.
Unsurprisingly, the Dacia Sandero Access is rather sparse, but for around £6k, that's to be expected. You get wheels, and that's about it. Things improve greatly if you step-up to the mid-range Ambiance or flagship Sandero Laureate.
In addition to featuring electric front windows, central locking and Bluetooth connectivity, on the Ambiance and Laureate models, it's possible to replace the Access' wheezing 1.2-litre 16v engine with either a turbocharged petrol 0.9-litre TCe engine, or an economical 1.5-litre diesel unit.
Should the Sandero's back-to-basics styling not tick your boxes, Dacia also offers the jacked-up Sandero Stepway model, which features beefed-up, off-roader styling.
Our choice: Sandero 0.9 TCe Laureate
Dacia prides itself on placing function over form, so it won't be a shock that the Sandero's styling is pretty low-key. On the other hand, it won't offend anyone. It has simple lines and an upright stance, which means it gets a utilitarian look compared to supermini alternatives.
The entry-level Sandero Access is truly bargain basement, and Dacia has given it non-body coloured coded bumpers and exposed steel wheels, which means it's charming in a rugged sort of way. The mid-range Ambience model gets colour-coded bumpers, as well as plastic wheel trims.
The range-topping Laureate gets a dab of style courtesy of a chrome front grille, 15-inch alloy wheels and front fog lights.
The Dacia Sandero's budget roots are clear to see in the cockpit, with the Access getting all-black trim but no-radio or electric windows. The Ambiance and the Laureate get some much-needed colour thanks to some silver dash trim and interior chrome details.
Either way, the plastics are quite scratchy and it's clear by the switchgear that Dacia has raided the Renault spare parts bin.
The Laureate also gets plenty of big-car kit, which includes a leather-trimmed steering wheel, air-conditioning and cruise control as standard. Dacia's sat-nav can also be added for around £250 extra.
The Dacia Sandero is based on the Renault Clio Mk2 and it feels a little long in the tooth on the road as a result. It’s nowhere near as sharp as a Ford Fiesta behind the wheel.
The Sandero's steering is heavy at low speeds and it suffers from kickback over mid-corner bumps. The very soft suspensions also sees the Dacia roll and lurch through sharp bends.
However, the soft suspension means the Sandero has a reasonably comfortable ride as a trade-off for the average handling. There is also plenty of grip and it's relatively predictable, which means there's nothing unpleasant in-store for the driver.
In real-world terms, the Dacia Sandero has no trouble in keeping up with fast-flowing traffic, and with the 0.9-litre engine, it powers up motorway inclines with no trouble at all. The only possible criticism is that it has an occasionally jerky low-speed throttle response.
Despite having only been on sale in the UK since 2012, Dacia's cars use proven Renault mechanical parts, so they should be relatively drama free.
The Sandero’s 900cc petrol and 1.5-litre diesel engines are shared with the latest Clio, as is the five-speed manual gearbox – there’s no automatic available.
Dacia gives the Sandero a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, which includes roadside recovery. For around £400, this can be extended to five years/60,000 miles, or about £850 for seven years/100,000 miles.
Despite its budget roots, the Sandero comes with a respectable haul of safety kit. All versions get four airbags, stability control and Isofix child seat fittings. However, Euro NCAP awarded the car a four-star crash test score, which isn't the best when the maximum five-star score is the general standard for most modern superminis.
A significant trump-card that the Dacia Sandero has is that it's very practical. It has a 320-litre boot and when its rear seats are folded flat, this improves to 1,200-litres. This makes it one of the biggest boots in the supermini class.
Like the rest of the Dacia Sandero, its interior is no-nonsense but if you look closely enough, you'll see it features handy touches such as big door bins. The Laureate model features map-pockets, too. Optional packages which feature parking sensors, a boot net and door mats are also available.
Dacia's budget principles have ensured that the Sandero is quite easy on the wallet.
The 0.9-litre TCe will manage 56.5mpg and emit 116g/km of CO2. The 1.5-litre diesel unit is the most economic runner in the range, thanks to a 74.3mpg and 99g/km of CO2 - this means it's also exempt from road tax, as it falls under the 100g/km of CO2.
The only relatively weak engine is the 1.2-litre petrol, which is pretty lifeless and can only manage 48.7mpg with CO2 levels of 135g/km. When you compare this to the ultra efficient and punchy 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine in the Ford Fiesta, it seems pretty poor.
Further financial incentives include servicing pack that takes care of mechanical maintenance for three years (up to 36,000 miles), and costs around £500. The Dacia Sandero also has decent residual values.
Lower-spec Dacias perform best at resale, with some holding on to 50 per cent of their new price after three years. The Laureate version is predicted to retain 44.3 per cent.