What is it?
This – almost – is the Sandero version that really has the accolade of 'cheapest car you can buy in Britain'. It has an oldish-tech 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine instead of the clever, nominally more economical, 898cc turbo three-pot which powered the top-spec Sandero Laureate we've already covered, and loses some of the toys we used to manage so well without. In entry-level Access guise it really does cost just £5995.
We've now driven the Sandero closest to the Access model that Renault/Dacia would let us near. It's the 1.2 Ambiance pictured here, but if you delete the paint on the bumpers, the trims over the 15in steel wheels, the electric front windows, the central locking, the radio/CD player and the chrome vent and instrument rings, you'd have an Access and would have saved £600 (some of which you might want to spend on a radio). It's available only in white, with naked plastic bumpers, but it's an odd pleasure to see perforated steel wheels on show with neat hubcaps in the centre.
What is it like?
The Ambiance has wind-up rear windows and, like the Access, a two-tone dashboard which livens up the interior (the Laureate and Stepway are monochrome dark grey here). These low-spec Sanderos also share a lack of air-con and seat-height adjustment, and a simple, button-free steering wheel. Actually, the cabin's simplicity and relative non-adjustability is curiously calming. This is a simple car which just works.
The 1.2-litre engine feels a touch overwhelmed by its task, and passes through several mild resonances as the revs rise, but once up to speed this Sandero cruises quietly enough. It has an easy gearchange, progressive brakes and a calmer ride than the TCe 90 version, lolloping serenely over bumps in the way small French cars used to do. It steers more precisely, too; reduced weight over the front wheels is why.
Should I buy one?
This is a simple car which works very well, without the loose, pre-aged feel of the old Sandero that the UK never got. It's amazingly cheap, albeit with no discounts available, but a 14.5sec 0-62mph time might be a sacrifice too far. It's hard to imagine many buyers going for the one-colour, radio-less Access but £6595 buys you an Ambiance which gives you all you need. Except air-con and pace.
Dacia Sandero 1.2 16V 75
Price £5995; 0-62mph 14.5sec; Top speed 97mph; Economy 48.7mpg; CO2 135g/km; Engine 1149cc, four-cylinder, petrol; Kerb weight 941kg; Power 74bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 79lb ft at 4250rpm; Gearbox 5-spd manual