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Dacia Sandero Review

Value for money; it’s a simple concept but one that has been rather lost on a lot of the automotive industry of late – until now. Learning from lessons in its home-country of Romania, Renault-owned Dacia has brought its Sandero supermini into the UK for the first time; the result is the UK’s cheapest car.
While it lacks the funky appeal of its Duster SUV brother the Sandero is refreshingly honest in its approach and comes complete with a rudimentary level of standard kit. We sat behind the rather basic steering wheel of the £5,995 Sandero Access 1.2 16V to find out if the Dacia is an object lesson in cheap transport.

Design

If you were to sum the Sandero up in one word, it’d be ‘basic’ – and that applies to the exterior design too. Here’s a mass of sheet metal refreshingly free from trinkets or intricate detailing, with slab-sides and steel wheels. In a world of amusingly-named special editions and models designed to grab youth attention the Dacia boasts its own assured appeal for those in the know. It’s not a particularly modern form though, and for many the steel wheels and black bumpers of our Access model will be a step too far towards the thrifty side.

Practicality

The Dacia Sandero is basic inside – there’s not much in the way of equipment and the dashboard plastics are of ten-year old Renault quality – but that’s not a surprise. At least there’s plenty of room, with even grown-kids finding enough space to sit behind a parent. And should there be some luggage for the trip the 320-litre boot is the biggest in the class. There’s only rake adjustment for the steering wheel though, so some drivers will find it difficult to get into the perfect position and without a stereo in place long journeys will quickly get tiring.

Performance & handling

The Dacia’s performance is, you guessed it, basic. With only a 1.2-litre petrol engine making 74bhp under the slab-fronted bonnet the Sandero isn’t going to win any drag races, and you’ll have to work it hard to build speed. It’s fair to say this engine, first seen in the previous Renault Clio, is not in its first flourish of youth and that’s borne out by the considerable vibration and coarseness transmitted back into the cabin on the move.

The Dacia Sandero’s handling is rather old school too. There’s some noticeable body roll if you’re at all aggressive with the steering, which could offer more feedback, and the 15-inch tyres don’t provide quite as much grip as a modern supermini shod with larger rims. Still, in a classic French supermini way, this Sandero is actually quite good fun to throw enthusiastically down a back lane, plus the soft suspension provides a generally comfortable ride.

Economy & environment

Old tech means the Sandero isn’t especially frugal or efficient, but if its money you’re worried about then you can offset the running costs with the low purchase price. Regardless, the Dacia emits 137g/km of CO2 and those with a light right foot should come close to matching the official claimed combined economy figure of 47.9mpg.

All models come with a gear-shift indicator, but you’ll need to stump up for the turbocharged three-cylinder TCe petrol or four-cylinder dCi diesel if you want to take advantage of the Eco mode throttle mapping. It’s this pair of engines that you’ll need for maximum economy and efficiency too. They manage 54.3mpg plus 120g/km and 74.3mpg and 99g/km, respectively.

Equipment & value

The Dacia Sandero might not be very well equipped but that hasn’t stopped people clambering over themselves to buy one. The Sandero has sold over 300,000 examples in Europe since its original 2008 launch, and 80 per cent of the people who bought one were previously buyers of used cars.

So there has been no need for Dacia to stuff this latest model with anything other than the most basic of equipment. The entry-level Sandero (and the model we’re driving here) starts proceedings off at £5,995. It’s only available in white though. Still, all Sandero models come with tinted windows, electronic stability control, four airbags, an engine immobiliser and daytime running lights. But if you want a stereo or electric windows then you’ll need to stump up £6,595 for a mid-level Ambiance. The excellent MediaNav 7inch touchscreen system (an extremely reasonable £250) is only available on the top spec £7,995 Laureate model.

Safety

Safety is something of a chink in this car’s otherwise almost un-penetrable armour. The Sandero only managed to score three stars in EuroNCAP safety test despite offering four airbags, ESC, EBD and ABS as standard across the range. It’s worth noting pedestrian impact scores are particularly poor, so don’t run anyone over unless you’re actually trying to kill them.

Verdict

If you’re already looking at this review, then chances are you know exactly what the Sandero offers – and that’s incredible value for money. Its price is more comparable with a used car but the £5,995 Access model is brand new, complete with three year warranty (upgradeable to four or five years). Of course it’s not glamorous, exciting or even particularly fun to drive – and the safety rating could be cause for concern to some – but for honest family motoring it’s something of a unique proposition. We’d still spend the extra £600 for the mid-level Ambiance model though.

Key Specs

Model tested: Dacia Sandero Access
Engine: 1.2-litre four-cylinder
Power: 74bhp
Torque: 107Nm
Acceleration: 0-62 in 14.5 seconds
Top speed: 97mph
Economy: 47.9mpg
Emissions: 137g/km
CO2
Price: £5,995
Score: 

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