Dacia Sandero cheap but not nasty

Dacia Sandero is a great value, spacious supermini priced from £5,995 on the road.

Dacia Sandero is a great value, spacious supermini priced from £5,995 on the road. - Credit: Dacia

Dacia's sensible Sandero is the right price at the right time, says motoring editor Andy Russell

In this cost-conscious economic climate it's hard to ignore a brand new car that starts at £5,995.

So the launch finally of the Dacia Sandero in the UK could not have come at a better time but is this affordable supermini from Renault's Romanian subsidiary cheap and nasty or cheap and cheerful?

Having driven the Sandero, its appeal certainly adds up – hence the slogan of 'You do the maths'.

A big car with a small price tag is how Dacia puts it – what you effectively get is a surprisingly spacious supermini for the cost of a city car. Even the range-topping model starts at £7,995.

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You can see how Dacia has kept the price down and the Sandero is not the height of fashion but it is the right car at the right price at the right time.

Dacia's entry into the UK market brings a refreshing change – a brand that is back to basics – and it sees 50pc of Sandero sales to people who would have bought a used car. So what do they get for their money?

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The Sandero looks robust, solid and not unattractive, but the entry Access model is definitely basic, only available in white with black plastic bumpers and no radio.

This roomy five-door supermini measures up inside, able to carry five large adults in acceptable comfort with decent legroom and generous headroom while the class-leading 320-litre boot is well shaped and practical but loading will need care with a lot of painted metal on show. Rear seat backs split 60/40 and fold but not flat but the one-piece rear cushion can be removed easily.

Owned by Renault, Dacia uses tried-and-tested technology from the French manufacturer and nor is it the poor relation when it comes to the latest technology.

The 75hp 1.2-litre petrol engine – the only one offered in all trim levels – will be the big seller, but the Sandero also gets the peppy 90hp 0.9-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol TCe engine from the all-new Renault Clio and 90hp 1.5-litre turbo diesel capable of 74mpg combined with 99g/km CO2 emissions.

While the rev-happy TCe unit is fun and sporty and the diesel refined and frugal, the 1.2 petrol engine does a good job and keeps the price down, only noisy when really worked hard.

The Sandero is not unpleasant to drive – the steering is light for easy parking, the soft suspension soaks up bumps and lumps, but can become bouncy on undulating roads, and body lean through corners builds with speed. That said, the Sandero is more about getting from A to B cheaply rather than quickly and that's the big attraction .

The seats are on the soft side but not uncomfortable and, as you would expect on a price-sensitive model, cabin plastics hard but they all look acceptable and feel pretty durable.

The dashboard is simplicity itself and that means clear dials, simple rotary controls for the heating and ventilation and straightforward switches and buttons. Like the Sandero it's basic so that means functional rather than fussy.

Access spec is minimal, Ambiance has upgraded trim, remote locking, electric front windows, Bluetooth and a radio/CD with USB and jackpoint and remote controls. Laureate, which will account for more than half of sales, is the one to go for and with plusher trim, trip computer, cruise control and speed limiter, air-conditioning, front fog lights, electric door mirrors and rear windows, height-adjustable steering wheel and driver's seat and the £250 option of a seven-inch touchscreen multimedia system including satellite-navigation.

With low prices and decent residuals, especially for the top models, helping keep running costs low the Sandero makes a very good case for itself as a sensible buy.

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