Dacia Sandero (2014-2020) 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.
What's not so good
Dacia Sandero (2014-2020): what would you like to read next?
The Dacia Sandero isn’t exactly what you’d call stylish, but it’s undeniably simple, robust, and does what you ask it to.
It doesn’t cost much, and the materials used feel like they’ll take years of grief. Basically, it’s the automotive equivalent of a spoon. On top of all that, cabin space is impressive; indeed, 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 0.9-litre petrol is a sweet option – it is cheap to buy, sounds nicer and moves the Sandero relatively eagerly. The 1.0-litre petrol is the cheapest to buy, but lags behind the smaller engine for performance.
There’s also a LPG version of the 1.0-litre engine, which is no quicker and is more expensive but at least allows access to super-cheap LPG fuel.
It’s a no-nonsense means of transport
From the two equipment levels, the higher-spec Comfort has the best blend of standard equipment and asking price. The basic Essential is pretty basic, with only remote central locking, air-con and a comparatively simple audio system. Comfort adds electrically adjustable heated door mirrors, a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus a cruise control and rear parking sensors.
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. 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. The three-cylinder petrol engine makes only 74hp, but more than anything it makes a characterful noise that adds a new dimension to the cheap car.
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 only fractionally less economical than the SCe – it can do 47.0 versus the SCe’s 48.7mpg.
Topping the range, the 100hp 1.0-litre Bi-Fuel model manages 49.5mpg on petrol, and manages 39.7 on LPG. However, LPG is much cheaper than unleaded.
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.