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In-depth reviews

Dacia Sandero review - Engines, performance and drive

Dacia keeps things simple, so the Sandero comes with a choice of three engines and a manual gearbox. That’s it

On the road, the Dacia Sandero doesn’t really do much wrong, although you’ll never really enjoy driving it. Despite its elderly Renault Clio underpinnings, the Sandero rides well and has decent grip. However, kickback through steering, limp gearshift and poorer refinement betray the car’s nineties mechanical roots.

Still, the ride quality is really impressive. This is down to the relatively small wheels and high-profile tyres, and the fact that Dacia never set out to give the Sandero sporty responses.

Engines

When you read the story behind its development, you’d think all the Sandero has to offer is decade-old Renault tech that’s well past its sell by date. But that’s not quite the case. While the chassis is old, the 900cc TCe turbo three-cylinder is bang up to date. This is a thoroughly modern unit, essentially designed by Renault to replace the old 1.2 in its more modern cars – you can find it in service in the likes of the ClioCaptur and Megane.

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It’s a lightweight, hi-tech engine with advances such as a light-pressure turbo and multipoint fuel injection. And in use it revs freely and is very willing, not to mention more refined than the entry-level engine. Mind you, that refinement from under the bonnet does show up how noisy the Sandero is in other areas, with tyre roar and wind noise letting the side down. Power delivery could be smoother, but it revs eagerly, pulls strongly and emits a characterfully thrummy soundtrack.

The basic 1.0-litre petrol engine needs working hard, although it's just about acceptable as long as you don’t ask too much of it. For those who buy Sanderos for just bumbling around town, or short journeys, it’ll do fine, but start extending it on motorways or main roads, and you’ll soon find that it struggles to keep pace with traffic. 

You could upgrade to the 1.5 Blue dCi diesel – again, an engine some buyers will be familiar with from the Renault line-up. This will add a full £1,600 to the price of the TCe model, though, and in a car where every penny counts, there’s not really much point spending the extra.

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Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    1.0 SCe Access 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £6,170

Most Economical

  • Name
    1.0 TCe Bi-Fuel Essential 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £8,280

Fastest

  • Name
    1.0 TCe Bi-Fuel Essential 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £8,280
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