Dacia Sandero review
The no-frills Dacia Sandero has been updated, and builds on its core values of practicality and outstanding value for money – just don’t expect much in the way of equipment
What's not so good
Find out more about the Dacia Sandero
The Dacia Sandero is a budget small car alternative to the popular Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo. It doesn’t take the fight to other options in terms of tech or driver appeal, but rather looks to beat them on value for money. In fact, in its most basic guise, it’s the cheapest new car on sale in Britain.
For that reason, buying a Sandero has always been a bit like travelling on a Ryanair flight. Sure, you’ll wind up in the same destination at roughly the same time as you would on a British Airways plane, but your ticket will cost you a fraction of the price. Just like that in-flight sandwich, however, you’ll have to fork out if you want any extra toys on your Dacia.
Chances are you’ll be willing to spend that money, too. As far as looks are concerned, the entry-level Access model is exceptionally basic; it’s all steel wheels, flat white paint and large black plastic bumpers here. Thankfully, the pricier Essential and Comfort models – with their body-coloured bumpers and more imaginative (optional) paint options – look much smarter. Just don’t expect to turn any heads as you roll down the high street; this is no Renault Clio after all.
That said, the cabin has a surprising amount of wow-factor about it – at least it does on the range-topper. Sure, there are a lot of hard, scratchy plastics throughout and a few of the fixtures do feel cheap, but it’s by no means grim in here. Snazzy black and white fabric trim inserts really give the place a visual lift, and there are plenty of useful storage cubbies dotted throughout.
The driving position is spot on too, thanks to good visibility, clear analogue dials and plenty of adjustability in the seatbase and steering column. Backseat passengers won’t have much to grumble about when it comes to leg- and headroom either, and boot space is par for the course (although the likes of the Volkswagen Polo and Renault Clio both have more).
The 90hp petrol is the engine to go for. Get it with the six-speed manual, and in Comfort trim. It’ll cost a bit more, but the extra creature comforts are worth it.
It’ll also get you from A to B with no fuss or bother. Sure, the light steering can feel a bit vague at quicker speeds, but it grips well and is easy to manoeuvre around town. It’s pretty comfortable, even on long drives, while wind and road noise is minimal on the motorway.
However, you should probably avoid the entry-level, 65hp petrol motor, as it’s a bit gutless; the 90hp petrol paired with a six-speed manual is a far better bet. Its straight-line performance won’t knock your socks off, but there’s more than enough punch on offer for comfortable motorway cruising. There’s a 100hp bi-fuel LPG engine too, but it’ll cost you extra.
Speaking of extras, for creature comforts like a proper infotainment display with built-in sat nav, cruise control, automatic lights and wipers, a reversing camera and parking sensors, you’ll have to go for a top-spec Comfort car.
Of course, doing so will mean you have to pay more money – just like you would if you wanted to bring more than a backpack with you on that Ryanair flight.
But even so, for the way it drives and the practicality on offer, the Dacia Sandero still represents exceptional value for money. Being ‘cheap’ certainly isn’t a bad thing in this instance, so check out our deals to see how much money we can save you on one.
And for more in-depth information on driving, specifications and practicality, keep reading this review.
The Sandero has enough space for four adults to sit comfortably, and storage space is good too. The boot could be a little bigger
Sit up front and you’ll have very little to complain about in terms of comfort. There’s a good range of adjustability in the driver’s seat, although it’s worth noting that the front passenger seat isn’t height adjustable.
On all Sanderos aside from the entry level, the steering column adjusts for both rake and reach, which makes it really easy to find your ideal driving position. You also get a fold-down armrest on these cars, and the seat fabric on the range-topping Comfort model feels impressively plush too.
Two adults will be able to sit in the back very easily, thanks to a good amount of legroom and decent headroom. The middle seat is probably best left for kids, but thanks to a relatively flat floor a third adult could squeeze in for shorter trips.
Admittedly, the likes of the Honda Jazz is more spacious still, but it certainly isn’t cramped back here. Isofix anchor points can be found on both rear bench seats, too.
You certainly don’t have to pay extra for storage space in the Sandero.
You’ll be able to fit a regular-sized flask or drink bottle in the front door bins with no worries, and there are two cup holders in the centre console. One is slightly shallower than the other, so if you prefer a flat white over a full-on cappuccino, your smaller cup will still fit securely.
Elsewhere, the glovebox is narrow but surprisingly deep, and there are a handy number of trays for things like wallets, keys and phones.
The Sandero has a 328-litre boot, which is by no means bad for a small car. Sure, the likes of the Renault Clio and Seat Ibiza have more, but the Dacia’s boot is still bigger than the ones you’d find in a Ford Fiesta or Honda Jazz.
There is a fairly sizable lip to navigate, though, which might make loading heavier items a bit more difficult. But the opening is nice and wide, and there are handy hooks to hang things like shopping bags from too. Just be aware that if you collapse the 60:40 split-folding rear bench down to open up more space, there is another lip between the boot floor and the seat backs.
There’s also space for an emergency spare wheel beneath the floor, but you’ll have to pay extra to get one.
The Sandero is a very easy car to drive. It’s not the quickest car out there, but visibility is very good and it’s comfortable over distance
The Dacia Sandero is available with two petrol engines, and one bi-fuel LPG motor. There’s also a choice of manual and automatic transmissions, although these are tied to specific engines. All Sandero models are front-wheel drive.
The engine to go for is the 90hp petrol with the six-speed manual gearbox, which is available from the mid-level Essential trim and upwards. While it isn’t quite as powerful as the 100hp LPG unit, there’s still enough performance on offer here to help you keep pace with the traffic. At motorway speeds it’s quiet enough, and will easily achieve an economy figure of nearly 50mpg in such conditions.
This particular motor can also be had with a continuously variable transmission (read automatic), but only if you go for the range-topping Comfort model. Equipped as such, the Sandero is slower to 60mph and not as economical. You’ll have to pay an extra £1200 for the privilege too.
We haven’t tested the bi-fuel LPG engine yet, but with a secondary LPG fuel tank it has the ability to travel more than 800 miles in one hit – provided you manage your resources correctly. Just know that you won’t be able to have a spare wheel with this engine, as the extra LPG tank sits beneath the boot floor.
While the Sandero certainly isn’t designed to be the most exciting small car on the road, there’s little about the way it drives that’s likely to cause offence.
A good view out front and back comes in handy when you’re navigating busy city streets, while parking sensors and a reversing camera (standard on the range-topping Comfort model) are a welcome addition when squeezing the Sandero into tight supermarket car parks. All models get autonomous emergency braking and blind-spot warning as standard too, but that wasn’t enough to prevent it from scoring just 2 stars during Euro NCAP safety tests.
Light steering makes manoeuvring the car at low speeds a doddle, although at higher speeds this lack of weight does translate to a slight sense of vagueness. Its turning circle could be a touch tighter, too.
Still, on the open road the Dacia’s softer suspension plays into its favour. It doesn’t crash too badly over lumps or bumps, and while it leans a bit going around corners it doesn’t wallow about like a ship on a stormy sea.
It’s decently comfortable on the motorway, too. Road noise is subdued, and while there’s a bit of wind noise around the front pillars it isn’t so loud that it begins to grate on longer trips. You’ll have to make do with basic cruise control however, which comes as standard on Essential models and above.
The Sandero won’t win any awards for visual wow-factor or build-quality, but this new model is still far more welcoming than its predecessor. The infotainment suite will cost you, too
Dacia Sandero colours
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*Please contact the dealer for a personalised quote, including terms and conditions. Quote is subject to dealer requirements, including status and availability. Illustrations are based on personal contract hire, 9 month upfront fee, 48 month term and 8000 miles annually, VAT included.