Dacia Sandero review
The Dacia Sandero is the cheapest new car on sale in the UK, but still offers plenty of space and comfort for your money
Renault’s budget sub-brand, Dacia, is a company that does things a little differently. It offers three cars in the UK – the Sandero, Sandero Stepway, Logan MPV and Duster SUV – and all for the price of a car in the class below. The Sandero is the cheapest of them all, and promises to deliver supermini space for less mony than smaller city cars, such as the Skoda Citigo and Kia Picanto. Entry-level versions are very sparsely equipped – there’s no electric windows and even a radio costs extra. The more expensive models are better-equipped and should make up around 60 per cent of UK sales.
Our choice: Sandero 0.9 TCe Laureate
Considering the constraints placed on Dacia’s designers to keep the styling as simple and cheap to make as possible, the Sandero is an attractive shape. The full-width front grille matches up with the Duster's so it’s recognisable as a Dacia, while the overall proportions are classic supermini. To cut costs, all Dacias are identical from the B-pillar forwards. Base-spec Sanderos are only available in white with black bumpers, but mid and top-spec models are much smarter with body-coloured bumpers, while 15-inch alloy wheels are a £425 option. The interior is robustly screwed together, but the plastics look and feel cheap and are no match for the high quality materials used in a Skoda Citigo.
There’s an argument that when a car costs this little, should it really matter how it drives? Even so, the Sandero is surprisingly capable, staying reasonably smooth, quiet and comfortable in a straight line and even at motorway speeds. Turn into a corner, though, and the rather basic chassis becomes apparent – the hydraulic power steering feels heavy and lifeless while significant body roll will have you sliding about in your seat. However, the engines are just as good as anything you’ll find in a Clio. The pick of the range is the three-cylinder turbocharged 89bhp 0.9 TCe, which delivers eager performance and decent refinement, while the 1.5 dCi is smooth with plenty of torque – perfect if you’re planning to cover lots of motorway miles. However, the ancient 1.2 petrol is wheezy and best avoided. One thing that may annoy while driving the Sandero is the fact that there’s no room next to the clutch pedal to rest your foot – you have to leave it on the floor, underneath the pedal, when you’re not changing gear.
One of the big advantages of being a Renault subsidiary is that Dacia has access to its pool of proven technology – including engines, electronics and safety systems. All Sanderos come as standard with ABS, traction control, stability control, ISOFIX points in the rear and four airbags. Dacia is realistic about the Sandero’s Euro NCAP test results, though, and it recorded a four-star score. As for reliability, 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. Dacias were originally designed to cope with the harsh conditions of Eastern Europe, so should be able to take UK roads in their stride.
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 new Renault Clio. 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. (Plus,) Order the ‘Touring’ pack for £280 and Dacia will deck out the interior with a front centre armrest, a boot luggage net and roof bars.
Unsurprisingly, the 89bhp 1.5 dCi engine is by far the most fuel efficient, returning 74.3mpg and emitting just 99g/km of CO2. It will cost you £1,000 more than the equivalent 0.9 TCe model, though, which returns 54.3mpg and 116g/km, and ultimately suits the car better. The entry-level 1.2-litre petrol engine manages 47.9mpg and 137g/km. Low running costs are a major part of the Sandero’s appeal, so as well as infrequent trips to the petrol station, the entry-level model falls into insurance group 2E – the lowest bracket of any UK car. A three-year, 60,000-mile warranty comes as standard, but there’s the option to buy extended five or seven-year plans for £395 and £850 respectively.