What is it?
Britain’s cheapest new car in an engine/trim combination that adds almost 50 per cent to the cost of a £5995 basic version. Ambiance trim is actually the mid-level trim behind Laureate and above Access, but with a few options boxes ticked like on our test car, the price nudges closer to Ford Fiesta territory.
This model comes equipped with the most expensive but also most frugal engine in the Dacia Sandero range, the 1.5-litre turbodiesel familiar from the all-new Renault Clio. Its combined mpg is in the 70s and CO2 emissions dip below the 100g/km, the only Sandero to do so. The engine can only be found in Dacia's Ambiance and Laureate trims.
Leave the option boxes alone and the Ambiance dCi 90 will set you back £8395, or go for metallic paint and 15inch alloys as with our test car and the price nudges north of £9000.
What's it like?
Pretty good, as far as Sanderos go. Our experiences with other engines and trims so far have revealed a car with dynamics and performance you could describe as no more than adequate, and quality and comfort you’d rate no higher than acceptable.
Of course, whether these traits make a good car or not depends on how much you spend on a Sandero. Adequate and acceptable are fine when you’re spending less than £6000, much more so when you’re spending more than £10,000.
This £8395 price sits nicely next to this Sandero. With the sophisticated engine, strong equipment levels and smartened-up appearance inside and out, it feels true to Dacia’s good value ethos rather than being elevated into an arena it’d struggle to compete in.
Performance from the 1.5-litre turbodiesel is strong, spinning freely and with plenty of low-end grunt. It’s quite noisy above 3000rpm though, and the gearshift is notchy. Tall gear ratios aid fuel economy; we returned more than 60mpg on a gentle motorway run.
The handling is fairly crisp, turn-in decent, although it never feels planted and grip levels aren’t the strongest. The ride is one of the stronger points, there’s plenty of suspension travel, although the secondary ride does suffer with the heavier alloy wheels rather than the steel wheels fitted to lesser Sanderos.
The steering wheel is fixed and the seat doesn’t adjust for height, so finding a decent driving position depends on how tall you are and how close you like the wheel to your chest. If your height and shape works with the default Sandero set-up then lucky you, if not then you might have some achey limbs at the end of a long journey.
The Ambiance trim is nicely appointed. Painting the bumpers the same shade as the body helps lift the model’s appeal no end over the Access. You also get electric front windows, remote central locking a 60/40 split rear seat, a radio with USB and AUX-in connectors and even some chrome trim as part of the Ambiance trim.
Should I buy one?
The £5995 Dacia Sandero will be too spartan and rugged for most tastes; the more expensive £10,000-plus examples go against the Sandero’s ethos and forces it to line up against cars with perhaps less equipment, but considerably more grown-up and sophisticated road manners.
So this Sandero would appear to be a happy medium in the range. Performance and economy are good, and while the quality, refinement and dynamics remain no match at all for a Fiesta, the cheery looks and equipment levels help add up to make a car with plenty more good than bad, particularly if you leave those option boxes unticked.
Dacia Sandero Ambiance dCi 90
Price £8395; Price as tested £9290; 0-62mph 12.1sec; Top speed 107mph; Economy 74.3mpg; CO2 99g/km; Kerb weight 1033kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1461cc, turbodiesel; Power 89bhp at 3750rpm; Torque 162lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 5spd manual