Where we’re surprised to be doing a lot of overtaking. That’s partly because we’re behind schedule, but also because the Sandero turns out to be rather good at cruising. It has five speeds, as you’d expect given its price and the diminutive engine, but that means you’re usually running close to peak puff, making a 120-140km/h pace pretty effortless. It’ll run faster too, but we don’t need a fat euro-denominated speeding fine. Keeping in this speed band could be easier, though, because the speedo’s km/h markings are unreadable.
The Sandero would be more effortless still if tyre and wind noise were better quelled but, given the 90 TCe Ambiance’s £7995 price, that can be forgiven – especially as the TCe is not your cheapest Sandero, that being the £5995 Access 75 Sec, with a distinctively less torquey and turbo-less 1.0. The Ambiance provides air conditioning, central locking, electric front windows, a DAB radio with Renault’s excellent behind-wheel controls, Bluetooth and stop-start.
Off-road adventures over, we notice rortier tones from the Sandero’s exhaust and, as the miles pile on, there’s more go too, this car not long run-in. The spectacularly picturesque Salamanca is our overnight stop – worth a revisit, but when it’s quieter – and we briefly divert near Bordeaux for a scrapyard visited two months ago on holiday to scavenge more parts for a Citroën AX GT project. A more popular tourist haunt is Nouaillé-Maupertuis, a particularly picturesque ancient abbey village near to our hotel. It’s the site, perhaps inevitably, for some battles involving the British. It’s very quiet now, despite incursions from our Sandero.
North of Poitiers, the weather chills, allowing us to kill the air-con. It’s like someone has removed an old sock stuffed down the Sandero’s air intake. The outright performance doesn’t change much, but the way it’s delivered certainly does. When the air-con is battling hot Moroccan air, the throttle is often as responsive as a hard-snoring drunk, and it’s inconsistent too, being affected by the compressor’s activities. Freed of this burden, the engine reacts more keenly, besides revving with zest. Installed in this Dacia at least, the Renault triple isn’t as civilised as Vauxhall and Ford equivalents, but it’s pleasing enough. Indeed, it’s the only element of the Sandero that shows real f lair, 11.1sec to 62mph not bad for budget wheels. On this briskly taken trip, it turns in a very decent 39.5mpg too. At journey’s end, then, it’s hard not be impressed by the Sandero’s effective functionality, the highlight being that torquey triple, and the relief of air conditioning.