Dacia Sandero 0.9 TCe

3 Dec, 2012 5:30pm Jack Rix

We get behind the wheel of Britain's cheapest new car, the Dacia Sandero supermini


Even in top-spec trim and with sat-nav fitted, the Sandero costs around £800 less than the cheapest Ford Fiesta, which is gob-smacking value for money. But it’s not all about the rock-bottom price tag - interior quality is better than expected and the way it drives is calm, quiet and composed, too, so long as you don’t push it too hard. Factor in rear seats and a boot that’s among the most spacious in the supermini class, and the Sandero is an accomplished new car, for the price of a used one.

Dacia doesn’t like the word cheap, it prefers ‘affordable’. But whichever way you look at it, the new Sandero, starting from £5,995, costs less than any other new car on sale in the UK.

The Fiesta-sized supermini joins the Duster SUV in Renault’s budget-brand line up and promises to deliver the same mix of practicality, no-frills styling and shockingly low prices. But does a cheap price tag translate to a dreary experience on the road?

Anyone who’s taken an interest in the new Renault Clio will recognise the Sandero’s engine line-up. A 74bhp 1.2-litre petrol (the only option for the entry-level Access model) kicks off the range, followed by the three-cylinder 89bhp 0.9 TCe and, for the first time in a Dacia, a diesel engine is offered – a 89bhp 1.5 dCi that's capable of returning 74.3mpg and 99g/km.

We went for the turbocharged three-cylinder – the most promising on paper with a 0-62mph time of 11.1 seconds, a full second quicker than the diesel. It’s an engine that’s already impressed us under the bonnet of the new Clio, and fitted to the Sandero it’s a similar story.

At idle and on light throttle it hums away quietly in the background and pulls well from low revs – disguising its meagre cylinder count. Only when you hold onto a gear and charge towards the limiter does it let loose a characteristic thrum from under the bonnet.

Controlling the car at higher speeds isn’t quite as fun as getting there – there’s a delay between steering inputs and changes of direction, plus plenty of body roll on turn in - lucky then that all cars come with ABS, ESC and four airbags as standard. Keep things sedate, though, and the ride is extremely comfortable, while refinement is nearly a match for the new Clio at motorway speeds.

To drill down the price Dacia’s designers were forced to keep the styling as uncomplicated as possible – the same windows are used on every Dacia model for example. So while it won’t win any beauty contests, it’s unlikely to offend anyone or draw any unwanted attention either.

Interior quality is better than expected – the materials aren’t soft touch, but they don’t feel brittle or scratchy either. Our top-spec model even came with an attractive graphite finish around the centre console and well-sculpted front seats.

There’s plenty of space, too. The 320-litre boot, which expands to 1,200 litres with the 60/40 split rear bench folded, is 54 litres bigger than the new Clio, and three adults can fit across the rear bench at a squeeze.

Equipment levels are remarkably generous, as long as you don’t go for the stripped back base-spec car. That does without electric windows, air-con, a stereo and comes in just one colour combination – white with black bumpers. Most customers however will want to add some extras, especially as they won’t cost you much more.

Moving up to mid-level Ambiance trim costs just £600 extra, but adds a radio and CD player, a USB input and Bluetooth, as well as remote central locking, electric front windows and body-coloured bumpers. You’ll even get trims for the 15-inch steel wheels and chrome surrounds for the air vents in the interior.

Our test car was decked out in range-topping Laureate trim, which costs around £2,000 more than the entry-level car but adds luxuries like air-con, electric mirrors, cruise control and electric windows all round. A handful of options can be added on top of that, too, including an easy-to-use seven-inch built-in sat-nav that's a snip at £250, as well as leather upholstery for £600.

Disqus - noscript

After reading this, surely it should deserve 5 stars? Apart from handling it seems very competitive or even class leading in most areas; while I'm sure that because the top spec car costs the same as a boggo spec up! it goes some long way to counteract a compromise in handling finesse...

Ah! the dreaded three cylinder "thrum" (i.e. coarseness) makes its appearance I see. When will motoring journalists (or car anoraks for that matter) ever learn?

I gather that where the base model is concerned you can get any colour you want as long as it is white. Fair enough but rather ironic when you realise that VW sting you an extra £200 simply to paint the Golf in, wait for it, white!

When will you test the £5995 one?? Why do you always test the top spec car.

I'd like to see what you get for your money at £5995. Is that a car worth buying or it it complete rubbish?

For the cost of white paint on a golf, that used to be free until it became the IN colour you can get Sat Nav. dare not thing what VW charge for a Sat Nav.

After all a car is transport that keeps you dry, not jewellery yes it will depreciate heavily, but over 3 years similar cars will have lost more than the total cost of the Dacia, and by then the trendies will have to buy a new Golf because it's not this years shade of white.

Do the car buying public a favour, buy one run it for 6 or 7 years and hand it on to the kids as cheap transport then get another one

Motoring magazines don't test the base model because they review what the manufacturers chose to give them for the purpose. Unless there is a complete change in attitudes whereby magazines hire a vehicle to test it, thereby incurring extra expense and some delay, this will continue. Add this to the risk of mysterious falls in advertising revenue if the writers really say what they think then you can see why no change is likely.
All we can do is point out if any boot licking gets too out of hand and also keep an eye out for comments posted by manufacturers' "fanboys"

it will be class leader
Dacia has the best value for money
well done Renault

according to the web site the medianav is only available as standard on the laureate and not in the other models, the £250 you quote is for the upgrade in the abient to radio with bluetooth and USB connectivity at the moment here in Spain I am trying to add full european mapping onto my Lodgy medianav by the only way it can be done. that is only through what they call Dacia Medianav Toolbox and is proving a headache because in the first place the catalogue page had nothing on it and it has taken 3 weeks for the Dacia helpline to get me just the individual countries in Western Europe on the page to be able to buy at anything between £35 and £65 per country the complete Western Europe option is not there and they have gone back to try to find it The dealers will not help in any way so make sure if you want the whole of europe on your medianav you have it put on for delivery of the car. Otherwise no complaints what so ever.A brilliant buy for the price you pay and should not be compared with other cars of a higher price or snobby customers.

Check out its crash test performance before you buy...

Excellent value for money, until you factor in Dacia safety ratings, oooops..Cheap should not come at the expense of safety, here is what EuroNcap have to say about this and their latest new caw the Lodgy - Dr Michiel van Ratingen, Secretary General of Euro NCAP, said: “It is disappointing to see the Lodgy do badly in our tests, especially coming just a week after the Sandero, branded a Renault in South America, was given a poor one star rating by Latin NCAP. The Lodgy is a budget vehicle and customers will accept compromises in comfort and performance, but not safety. Euro NCAP believes that occupants’ safety should be paramount, regardless of how much they pay for their vehicle.” Funny how it hasn't been mentioned in this article, and seeing as this is probably aimed at a family with small kids on a tight budget..

Thats not strictly true, as I know one manufacturer who offers base models on their press fleet. Only if their base models are truly appalling or look cheap will they be unlikely to have one on test - hence why no Dacia Sandro Access....

And there is no boot-licking going on with journalists either, car companies have a media budget each year no matter what.

As for fanboys, yes, ALL manufacturers have them, even Dacia.
There are also trolls too, who constantly moan and bitch about certain manufacturers, usually jealous of the facts that certain manufacturers make award winning cars, evolving their designs rather than making them fashion accessories that date rapidly.

Actually I often wonder about the process whereby cars get awards. For the record, just to avoid accusations of trolling, my present vehicle is an award winner!

I'd rather buy a 6 month old Fiesta for 8k (or Polo....or something else)

because it doesn't have curtain airbag as standar

The car in this youtube link is Sandero I from 2008. The car from this review is Sandero II, a brand new model. The basic model Sandero I has received 3 stars from Euro NCAP . The version with the optional safety pack got 4 stars, the same rating as the Ford Fiesta or the Audi A3 from that year.

If the safety really is that poor its a real shame as this comes across as being far less budget than it has any right to. They are even giving it Renault's best effort in terms of engines which I hadn't expected. How can a modern car get such a low NCAP rating though? Even 3*is the kind of rating that 20 odd year old supermini designs were managing. Whilst you wouldn't argue with a small difference you can't really put a price on safety ...are highly tenuous references to VW's Golf really necessary in a review of a budget supermini?

why is the dacia sandero lhd in the uk and not rhd

Completely agree with this posting, most importantly on safety issues. As for AE's ludicrous references to the VW Golf at every opportunity (or non-opportunity for that matter) if we keep hauling them up for these, they might repent. Except I can't actually find such a reference in this piece! Has Ian Hilton been imagining this or have AE actually been listening and removed the reference?

Hoping you will let my comment, this time.
I have seen nobody has observed an "ironic" detail: the decoration of the front mask is in hexagonal units, like as on the...supersport versions of the cars!

Scored 4 stars in 2013 NCAP test

Key specs

  • Price: £8,795
  • Engine: 0.9-litre three-cylinder turbo
  • Transmission: Five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • Power/torque: 89bhp/135Nm
  • 0-62mph: 11.1 seconds
  • Top speed: 109mph
  • Economy: 54.3mpg
  • CO2: 116g/km
  • Equipment: Air-conditioning, cruise control, electric windows, sat-nav (£250 option), CD player, Bluetooth, USB input, electric mirrors
  • On sale: Now