Review: Dacia Sandero (Overall score = 4/5)

If you’re the kind of person who isn’t impressed easily, hunting out bargains instead of buying top brands, the Dacia Sandero might be very appealing. Priced from just £5995 it’s the cheapest new car on sale in the UK, but despite its low price the Sandero is a lot bigger than many cars that cost thousands of pounds more. For your money you’re getting a car that might have impressed the neighbours back in 1995; the Sandero is distinctly low-tech. But that doesn’t mean the Sandero isn’t impressive; in some ways it’s one of the most impressive cars that we’ve driven this year. When you shut the doors there’s no satisfying ‘thunk’ but the paint finish is excellent and on the outside this looks like a quality product thanks to pleasingly chunky styling. After four years on the market the Sandero is proving to be reliable and owners generally seem to love them, so is it time to buy something that’s reassuringly inexpensive?

Sandero cabin

Cabin (3.5/5)

All of the switchgear and instrumentation is simply designed so it’s easy to use. It doesn’t feel flimsy and while our test car had plenty of blanking plates (remember those?), the textured plastics appear to be of a higher quality than they really are. The heating and ventilation are excellent, including the air-con which had to cope with ambient temperatures of over 30 degrees.

There are seatbelts and ample space for five thanks to the high roof line and generous leg room. All-round visibility is good but the seats could be more supportive and the fore/aft adjustment controls are awkwardly placed. Cubby hole space is no better than average, with one of the biggest oddments trays on top of the dash – right in the driver’s line of sight.

sandero centre console

Driving (4/5)

If you’re not a fan of driver aids you’ll love the Sandero because there aren’t any apart from the mandatory items such as anti-lock brakes and ESP. The cheapest engine is a naturally aspirated three-cylinder 1.0-litre unit rated at 73bhp; the turbocharged 898cc unit in our test car is much more sprightly and significantly more efficient too. It’s the one to go for as it gives the Sandero real zip and allows it to sit on the motorway very comfortably. High-speed refinement is good, the brakes don’t feel over-servoed and the ride/handling balance is pretty much spot on thanks to the lack of low-profile tyres. Throw in a slick five-speed gearbox and dynamically the Sandero is a winner.

Sandero backseats

Costs (5/5)

Although the Sandero starts at £5995, our test car cost a whopping 33% more at £7995. This premium buys a much more sophisticated engine and lots of extra kit; it’s a premium worth paying. The entry-level Access doesn’t even get a radio while the windows are manually operated. Move up to Ambiance and you get electric front windows, a DAB radio (which sounds excellent), remote central locking, air-con and Bluetooth plus body-coloured bumpers.

For £9195 you could have a TCe 90 Laureate; this brings rear parking sensors, seven-inch touch-screen multi-media, speed limiter plus height adjustment for the steering wheel and driver’s seat. If you’d prefer to buy a diesel, prices start at £9595 for a 1.5 dCi 90 Ambiance. All Sanderos come with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty while service intervals are set at 12 months or 12,000 miles.

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