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 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.
The turbocharged petrol is the best cost/performance compromise
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.