Dacia Sandero Review
The Dacia Sandero is one of the cheapest cars on sale in the UK. The Ford Ka+, Volkswagen Up and Hyundai i10 rival it on price, but the Sandero is bigger than all of them.
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- Turbo engine feels lively
- Top-spec models are great value
What's not so good
- Cheap models have no radio
- Rivals are sharper to drive
- Interior is dated
Dacia Sandero: what would you like to read next?
Inside, the Dacia Sandero isn’t the last word in style but has a tried and tested layout that’s easy to navigate and the materials used feel like they can sustain years of abuse, even if some are quite cheap to the touch. Passenger space is impressive for a car of this size and the boot is almost the biggest in class.
“Decent” perfectly describes the way the Dacia Sandero drives – it has enough grip most of the time and it rides nicely on most roads. It’s not as engaging as a Fiesta or as comfortable as a VW Polo, but is nevertheless a perfectly acceptable way to get from A to B.
In terms of the Sandero’s engines, the 1.5-litre diesel offers impressive fuel economy, but its higher price needs to be justified by lots of motorway miles. If you plan on driving the Dacia Sandero mostly in the city then the 0.9-litre petrol is the better option – it is cheaper to buy, sounds nicer and moves the Sandero relatively eagerly. The new 1.0-litre petrol is the cheapest to buy, but lags behind the other engine choices for performance.
It’s a no-nonsense means of transport
From the three equipment levels, the mid-spec Ambiance has the best blend of standard equipment and asking price. The basic Access is truly basic, with no remote central locking, air-con or even a stereo, while the top-of-the-range Laureate adds nice touches such as metallic paint and alloy wheels.
The Dacia Sandero is a perfect budget purchase, mainly thanks to just how much car you get for such little outlay – there are better cars out there, particularly if you’re willing to buy used, but if you simply need a warrantied cheap town runabout, the Dacia Sandero deserves a test drive.
The Dacia Sandero gives you more passenger and boot space than any other new car at the same price, but the seats themselves aren’t the most comfortable
Yes, you're getting an amazing amount of space and practicality for not much money, but you'll always be able to see where Dacia has kept the costs down
Sitting in the Dacia Sandero is pretty comfortable – the seats, although soft, aren’t really supportive, but that is to be expected at this price point. All-round visibility is great, with thin A-pillars and a large rear window, although the top-spec Sandero comes with a reversing camera. Room in the back is also great for the price, easily beating superminis such as the VW Up or Vauxhall Adam.
The Dacia Sandero’s storage is good, thanks to a reasonably sized glovebox. There may be just one cup holder in the centre console, but the door-bins are large and can accommodate a one-litre drinks bottle each. There’s also a small cubby below the infotainment screen that’s perfect for your wallet.
With a capacity of 320 litres with the seats up, the Dacia Sandero’s boot is easily on the level of the VW Polo in terms of capacity, but it’s left a bit wanting in terms of clever storage or practicality features. There’s no underfloor storage, and nothing to secure the load. Fold the rear seats down and they open up 1,200 litres of space, but don’t form a flat loading surface. However, it’s pretty good for the price.
Driving one of the UK’s cheapest cars might sound as interesting as sampling Tesco’s own-brand rich tea biscuits, but it’s actually pretty good. In early 2017 Dacia added a three-cylinder petrol engine to the range which makes 74hp, but more than anything it makes a characterful noise that adds a new dimension to the cheap car.
The turbocharged petrol is the best cost/performance compromise
The new engine, called SCe 75, might have the power on paper and benefit from a lightweight aluminium block to save fuel, but it’s hampered by very long gear ratios. This means you need to rev it out in every gear to keep up with traffic, but on the other hand that lets you enjoy the off-beat sound of the engine more. Official fuel consumption is 54mpg
Better is the 0.9 TCe, which feels much faster when overtaking thanks to its turbo. It’s also the engine that suits best the character of the Dacia Sandero. It is also more economical than the SCe – it can do 56.5mpg.
Topping the range, the 89hp diesel achieves fuel economy of 74.3 mpg and 99g/km of CO2. It’s the priciest engine to buy though, so some may feel it defeats the purpose of such a cheap car and you’ll have to cover a lot of miles to recoup that initial purchase cost.
The Dacia Sandero is built on similar underpinnings as the old Renault Clio, but with a newer (and better) suspension set up. This means that it’s agile and keen to change direction like a supermini should, but also decently comfortable on longer journeys thanks to the better judged ride.
Now, at this price point, some compromises had to be made and they can be felt the most in the steering which is both vague and a bit on the heavy side. That doesn’t give you all that much confidence at high speeds or on very twisty roads, but also shouldn’t be a deal breaker in normal in-town use. And really, complaining about steering feel in a car this inexpensive is a bit like whinging about the lack of caviar in McDonalds.
Apart from that, the Dacia Sandero drives well on motorways with little road or wind noise. Provided you have the patience to get the slowest engine up to speed, the smallest Dacia is perfectly happy to cruise at 70mph all day.
Taking into account that the Dacia Sandero is one of UK’s cheapest new cars, the interior exceeds the low expectations imposed by the price.
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