What is the Dacia Sandero?
Romanian-based Dacia (pronounced “Dat-cha”) broke into the UK market at the start of 2013 with this five-door, five-seat supermini causing many an eyebrow to rise with its bargain-basement price. Starting at £5,995 for the entry-level Access trim level, the Sandero can be a seriously affordable car but at that price alarm bells concerning quality would, ordinarily, start to ring. But Dacia is no ordinary budget car maker. It is owned by Renault, which guarantees a certain level of quality.
Naturally, a new car for less than six grand demands you make certain sacrifices. Our Sandero Access test car went without such minor luxuries as air conditioning, electric windows, central locking and a radio (although wiring is there for the fitment of aftermarket stereos).
Dacia’s mid-spec Ambiance trim (from £6,595) and range-topping Laureate (from £7,995) do provide options. You can choose a touch screen infotainment centre, for example, but once you start piling on extra kit you raise the Sandero’s price, pushing the car into the territory of more desirable rivals such as the Skoda Citigo, Toyota Aygo and Kia Rio.
It’s also worth noting that even the Access gets driver and passenger airbags, electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes – all important safety systems – meaning the most basic Sandero, with its three-year warranty and low servicing costs, could be worth a look instead of a well-used, second-hand car.
Three engines are offered: a 1.2-litre petrol producing 75bhp, a 900cc 3-cylinder turbocharged petrol unit that manages 90bhp and a 1.5-litre diesel with the same power output but extra torque (162 lb ft) for quicker getaways from the lights. We say “quicker” but none of these engines could be considered gutsy. Performance from the 1.2 petrol, which is the only engine available at Access trim level, is only just adequate with 0-62mph taking a leisurely 14.5sec. Maximum speed is 97mph.
That said, in the case of the Sandero 1.2, it can be rewarding finding the asthmatic engine’s sweet spot – between 5,000 and 6,000rpm – and keeping it there. Overtaking is possible if you try really, really hard, and it is a satisfying experience if you keep your nerve. We’d have preferred to have the extra grunt of the 90bhp models required to make passing other, more capable cars a little less “exciting”, but if we’re trying to keep costs down here you could live with the cheapest engine.
The Sandero’s suspension manages to smooth out bumps in the road fairly well but it does feel soft, particularly through the corners where it contributes to excessive body roll. The steering is quite heavy and fidgety, with small inputs having a significant effect, while the gearchange is clunky and loose.
At Access level, the interior is basic to say the least. With no air conditioning or stereo you’re greeted with a sea of hard, dull-coloured plastics. Dacia has at least made an effort to form the plastics into shapes with vaguely appealing lines, however; the air vents are of a modern, circular design, for example. The seats are short and unsupportive, the manual windows are what the kids might describe, tongue in cheek, as “retro” and there’s a distinct lack of useful cubbyholes and cup holders. It’s not the most pleasant of environments, but then this is a budget car.
For an extra £800, the Ambiance trim is worth a look as it adds electric front windows, two-tone cloth upholstery, a stereo with CD and MP3 player, central locking and an alarm, which will reduce insurance costs. Laureate trim brings such things as manual air conditioning, alloy wheels, electric mirrors, cruise control, electric rear windows, trip computer, leather steering wheel and a height-adjustable driver’s seat – pure frivolity.
Whatever package you choose, all-round visibility is good while interior space is actually very decent. The Sandero can seat five without too much bother and its boot is relatively generous, making it a very good transporter for the money.
The one to buy
Dacia Sandero Ambiance 1.2 16V 75
- £6,795 (correct at first publication)
- 1149cc, 4 cylinder
- 75bhp @ 5500rpm
- 79 lb ft @ 4250rpm
- 5-speed manual
- 0-62mph in 14.5sec
- Top speed:
- 47.9mpg (combined)
- Road tax band:
- L 4058mm, W 1732mm, H 1518mm
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