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It might be the biggest bargain on the new car market, but is it a car worth having?

In the eight years that it’s been on sale in the UK, the Dacia Sandero has managed to make quite a name for itself and for Dacia.

Touching down on our shores for the first time in 2013 in second-generation Dacia Sandero guise, the Romanian supermini immediately staked its claim to the title of ‘cheapest new car in Britain’. Prices for the bog-standard Access model started at £5995, for which you would get a car that had four wheels, an engine and not much else. Such was the absence of standard equipment that even the most conservatively minded Spartan would have felt right at home behind the wheel.

Our range-topping Prestige-specification Sandero Stepway comes with 16in alloy wheels as standard. Lower-spec models get regular steelies, or Dacia’s 15in ‘Flex’ steel wheels, which have been engineered to look like alloys

Of course, despite the headline-grabbing price, not many people actually opted for the Austerity Special. Higher-spec variants offered a bit more in the way of creature comforts (namely air conditioning and a stereo) but still came with an intriguingly low sticker price. The formula proved to be a hit, and with a range bolstered by similarly cut-price offerings in the form of the Dacia Duster SUV and Dacia Logan MCV, Dacia sold its 100,000th UK car just three years after it first set up shop.

Fast forward to 2021, and the Renault-owned brand has sold 108,000 Sanderos in Britain alone. It’s the Romanian firm’s breadand-butter model, and was a big contributor to its ability to shift more than 500,000 cars annually in Europe before the pandemic.

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Now, the Sandero is back for a third generation. It may still be the cheapest new car on sale in Britain (prices now start at £7995) but, as we’ll go on to explore, this time around Dacia has made even more of an effort when it comes to bolstering equipment, and outright desirability, while trying to keep costs to the customer at levels that would see them mulling over it instead of a used car. That’s a tricky tightrope to walk. Let’s see how it gets on.

The Dacia Sandero line-up at a glance

The Sandero and slightly taller Dacia Sandero Stepway line-ups are all based around the same 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine, which is available in a range of power outputs and with a series of transmissions.

The normally aspirated SCe 65 unit is available exclusively on the regular Sandero, and is paired with a five-speed manual gearbox. The turbocharged TCe 90 and TCe 100 Bi-Fuel motors are available on both variants, but only the 90 unit can be paired with a CVT. Otherwise, both get six-speed manuals.

The trim walk is straightforward: the Sandero comes in Access, Essential and Comfort; the Stepway is available in Essential, Comfort and Prestige.

 

Dacia Sandero Stepway First drives