Dacia Sandero review

Our Rating: 
3
3.0/5.0
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The Dacia Sandero is the UK's cheapest car but it's also spacious, economical and comfortable to drive

For: 
Cheap to buy, no haggle pricing, big boot
Against: 
Old fashioned handling, breathless 1.2-litre petrol, low rent interior

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Dacia has established itself in the UK car market in double quick time. Under the guidance of parent company Renault, the Romanian brand has become well known for the low prices it offers on models like the Logan, the Duster and the one we feature here, the Sandero. 

Like the other models in the line-up, the Dacia Sandero's strength is that there's more to it than a low price. The £6,000 going rate for the entry-level Sandero Access gets you a generously-sized supermini with a practical interior, big boot and low running costs. 

• Best superminis to buy

Most buyers will find the Sandero Access a little Spartan for their requirements but things get a lot better equipment-wise if you step up to the Ambiance or Laureate derivatives. At these levels there's the option of replacing the overworked 1.2-litre petrol engine with a more modern 900cc turbocharged unit or the economical 1.5-litre dCi diesel. Dacia also offers a Sandero Stepway model with beefed-up, off-roader styling should the standards cars be a bit low-key for your tastes.

Our choice: Sandero 0.9 TCe Laureate

Styling

3.1

Dacia has adopted a no-nonsense approach with the Sandero’s styling it's not going to stand out from the crowd but neither will it offend anyone. Simple lines and an upright stance mean the five-door hatchback looks a little utilitarian alongside mainstream rivals. 

Entry-level Access models have unpainted bumpers and exposed steel wheels, while the Ambience version adds body- coloured bumpers and plastic wheel trims. However, our range-topping Laureate gets some much-needed glamour courtesy of 15-inch alloy wheels, body-coloured door mirrors, a chrome grille and front foglamps. 

Climb aboard and the Sandero’s bargain- basement roots are clear to see. Hard plastics are used throughout, plus there’s plenty of hand-me-down Renault switchgear. Still, the dashboard is logically laid-out and the cabin feels well constructed. And with a height-adjustable seat and steering wheel, most drivers will be able to get comfortable. 

The cheapest versions of the Sandero are sparsely equipped, but the Laureate gets loads of big car kit, including a leather-trimmed steering wheel, air-conditioning, cruise control, Bluetooth and a trip computer. It also benefits from flashes of metal-effect trim, which create a brighter, more upmarket atmosphere. Better still, Dacia’s touchscreen sat-nav can be added for just £250 extra.

Driving

3

Much of the technology in the Dacia Sandero can be traced back to the mkII Renault Clio and as a result, the Sandero feels a little old-fashioned to drive. 

The steering is heavy at low speeds and suffers from kickback over mid-corner bumps, while a very soft suspension set-up causes the Dacia to roll and lurch through sharp bends. 

Yet the trade-off for the imprecise handling is a reasonably comfortable ride: the Sandero soaks up potholes and bumps very well. There’s plenty of grip and the car’s safe, predictable behaviour means no nasty surprises at the wheel. 

The star of the show is the Sandero’s eager 900cc three-cylinder petrol engine. Developing an impressive 135Nm of torque at just 2,500rpm, it completed the 50-70mph sprint in fifth gear in 12.4 seconds. 

In the real world, this car has no trouble keeping up with fast-flowing traffic, and it powers up motorway inclines that would leave its breathless rivals trailing. The only fly in the ointment is the occasionally jerky low-speed throttle response, but this is a small price to pay for such keen performance on the open road.

Reliability

4

Although Dacia is a relative newcomer to the UK, all its cars use tried-and-tested Renault mechanicals. 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 says 90 per cent of its customers are first-time new car buyers, and the Sandero’s durability is likely to be a vast improvement over any second-hand alternative. 

There’s also a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, which includes roadside recovery. That can be extended to five years/60,000 miles for £395, or seven years/100,000 miles for £850. 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, while Euro NCAP awarded the car a four-star crash test score.

Practicality

3.9

Available only as a five-door, the Sandero majors on practicality. The 320-litre boot, which expands to 1,200 litres with the rear seats folded flat, is one of the biggest in its class and around 50 litres bigger than that of the latest Renault Clio

Dacia Sandero 1.5 dCi Ambiance interior

However, despite its larger external dimensions, the Sandero offers no more space for rear seat passengers than a Hyundai i10 or Kia Picanto – although the Dacia does get a trio of seatbelts in the back. 

Still, the interior features some family-friendly touches, including big door bins, while the Laureate also gets map pockets on the back of the front seats. The £245 Touring pack adds floor mats, a centre armrest for the front seats and practical roof bars. 

Running Costs

4.1

It’s no surprise to find the Sandero is cheap to run, given Dacia’s budget philosophy. Over the course of our test of the 0.9 TCE model, we returned a reasonable 36.6mpg fuel economy. And while the Sandero doesn’t benefit from efficiency-boosting stop-start technology, it emits just 116g/km of CO2. 

Further financial incentives include a £489 servicing pack that takes care of mechanical maintenance for three years (up to 36,000 miles), plus 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.

Disqus - noscript

what a lot of car for not a lot of dosh
well done to Renault for backing Dacia...we cant all afford to run top cars ..if i was in this situation i would opt for a Dacia ..great value without the reliability problems of buying an old banger

"Dacia claims that for nearly 40 per cent of buyers this will be their first new car, and the reliability will be a revelation for them."

This is just Renaults way of saying that the car will be just as unreliable as another Renault. To make it look somewhat appealing, they compare it to the used clunker they're replacing their Dacia with. No wonder, people don't buy Renaults a second time. Unreliablity is part of their design.

is an opponent for VW Golf, Sandero has not, dimensions of Hyundai i10 or Kia Picanto,

This is your interpretation considering the Renault quote in meta-language. Just the published results from Germany and France say that Dacia, as reliability, is over the reliability of Renault. This is because not all the older parts of the Renault cars are qualified to enter in the Dacia cars, only the most reliable of them. This is additionally to the 45-years experience of Dacia to construct cars for bad roads. I am thinking the reliability of the Renault cars was increased. I have owned, for 12 years, a Megane I phase 2 built in 2000 and its reliability was fantastic; I have sold it, the last year, to buy a Citroen C3 Picasso, lets see the reliability of this car.

"part of their design"...Bollocks

Air vents from an alfa 156

I have had a Sandero diesel for 9 months 8k miles brilliant fuel consumption excellent value for money just over £7 good warranty (at an Cost extra) to extend it to 7 years transferable if i sell the car.I have for the 15 years brought the cheapest new car available every two or three years IE KA Panda 107 this is the most comfortable the only problem is it is a little noisy if you are driving in 5th at 40 mph but fine if you change down

It is great value for money.

Last updated: 7 Feb, 2014

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