From £5,345
Flagship version of the Dacia Sandero shows the importance of staying true to your roots. Not bad - but much better, we hope, as a proper £6k car

Our Verdict

Dacia Sandero

The Sandero represents basic motoring done well, for those who really want it

Dacia Sandero 0.9 TCe Laureate 2012

What is it?

Perhaps the most superfluous first drive review of 2012. Does it really matter how the new Dacia Sandero drives? This is a full-sized five-door supermini, after all, with five seats, four wheels, an engine and a practical boot, that’s coming brand new to the UK next January for less than £6000.

For those old enough to remember when that seemed a perfectly normal price for a four-metre hatchback, consider this: the list price on an entry-level five-door version of the Vauxhall Corsa, not-so-long ago the most popular car in the Sandero’s class in Britain, currently contains five figures. And it starts with a ‘12’.

That being the case, you may think, it’s vastly less important how well the Sandero serves its purpose functionally and dynamically than that it simply performs at all. This is a new breed of supermini, you could say. One that, for the time being, is in a class of one on sheer value for money. If you like a bargain, how could you possibly find fault with a deal like that?

What's it like?

You mean ‘what on earth is a new £6000 supermini like on the road in 2012?’ The answer will have to wait, because Renault didn’t make any £5995, 74bhp, 1.2-litre Sandero Access models available for us to test on the international press launch.

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It did confirm an equipment level for the bottom-rung model, though. Those wanting to spend exactly £5995 will get power steering, split folding rear seats, electronic stability control and ISOFIX child seat anchorages. But they’ll also get white paint (whether they like it or not), black plastic bumpers and body trim, old-fashioned door locks, no alarm, and a blank on the fascia where the radio would otherwise be.

Automotive austerity gets a new hero in the UK in 2013, in the shape of a car that comes on 15in steel wheels – without wheel trims.

Instead of that car, though, Dacia gave us a Sandero in range-topping Laureate trim to test, which it expects to account for more than 60 per cent of the UK mix. Laureates start from £7995 and – on the equipment list at any rate – smack much less of the bare necessities. You get USB and auxiliary audio connections for your sound system – not to mention the sound system in the first place – as well as electric windows, air conditioning, remote central locking, Bluetooth, a trip computer and front fog lamps with this Sandero. 

Sounds quite generous, but it’s not nearly as spectacular a bargain as the entry-level car. You have to add cost options for example, even to the range-topping Sandero, to get it to an equipment level commensurate with, say, a Kio Rio 1.25 ‘2’: alloy wheels (£425), Dacia’s protection pack (for the alarm - £430) and a four-year extension to the standard three-year warranty (£850). Having done that, your Sandero will set you back a no-haggle £10,250; after a manufacturer-backed incentive and a bit of deal-brokering, you can expect to pay about £11,500 for the Kia at the moment. Which is why, where this particular model is concerned, it absolutely does matter how the Dacia Sandero drives. You bet it does.

There are three engines in the UK range: a 1.5-litre, 99g/km, 89bhp diesel, and two petrols. Our test car was the more powerful of the latter two, powered by Renault’s new 898cc turbo three-pot engine, mated to a five-speed manual ‘box. 

It’s a quiet enough engine at low rpm; a new thicker front bulkhead for this second-generation Sandero sees to that. But at working crank speeds, the motor sends vibrations through the body and into the cabin that you can feel through the seat and controls. It produces plenty of torque, and makes the Sandero every bit as flexible and spritely a performer as you’d want it to be: this isn’t a slow car at all. But it doesn’t have a particularly inspiring engine either, nor one to take much pleasure from.

The same goes for the Sandero’s handling. In outright terms, this is an entirely competent and adequate dynamic prospect, that rides quietly enough, and that will deliver you to your destination safely and securely. But it does feel a little bit thrown together. Grip levels are decent, and the car’s hydraulic steering is consistent and even a little feelsome. But the Sandero rolls its way into corners unchecked for a few degrees before settling onto its line, displacing you from a driving position that was far from perfect to begin with. Its damping is rudimentary: ultimately passable, but much more digital than the class norm. Which is why, judged by the current supermini class standards, the Sandero just isn’t quite at the races.

Should I buy one?

If you buy right, yes. Pay £5995 for a Sandero and ‘adequate’ refinement and handling will more than suffice. This is a surprisingly handsome small car with value on its side at any point in the range, that’s well enough built, and will make a practical, sensible purchase for anyone with their head screwed on.

But on this evidence, it’s a mistake for Dacia’s marketeers to believe this car can stand toe-to-toe with the likes of the Kia Rio and Chevrolet Aveo. Both of those Korean-built superminis are much more highly developed, polished acts. If you’re going to spend more than £10,000 – and you’d need to in order to make our test car your own – in either of the Koreans is where we’d advise putting your money.

For the Sandero, the golden rule would seem to be ‘if it’s cheap enough, it’s good enough’ – and almost £9000 probably isn’t quite cheap enough.

Dacia Sandero 0.9 TCE

Price £8795; 0-62mph 11.1sec; Top speed 109mph; Economy 54.3mpg; CO2 116g; Kerb weight 962kg; Engine 3 cyls, 898cc, turbocharged petrol; Power 89bhp at 5250rpm; Torque 100lb ft at 2500rpm; Gearbox 5spd manual

Join the debate


4 December 2012

There are a couple of points this car brings to mind.

Firstly, this car is going to become the new grey car - a car purchased by older people who wish just to make their way from A to B with little fuss and cost.  Think of it as a modern day Skoda Felicia, or Proton Aerodeck.

Secondly, Dacia have played this one very cleverly in the that they know the UK buyer loves toys and extra's.  The base car is  £5995 and is perfectly adequate for it's purpose.  Just because the average British buyer will want to add extra's is not the either Dacia or the cars fault.  From a business perspective, they are only giving their audience what they want and if they want to price the car out of it's comfort zone then that is the customers problem.

Is it going to change the shape of the UK market?  As much as I hoped it would do, with other manufacturers having to follow suit, I don't think it will.  I can see Dacia inhabiting a sector of the market all to itself, which from their point of view is no bad thing.

4 December 2012

Agree that the base model is super value, but the problem with the loaded versions isn't only the Korean competition (which are beginning to get pricy themselves), but the little used mainstream European and Japanese alternatives.

4 December 2012

It would be interesting to see how other car makers respond to Dacia's bargain bucket prices. Being new these cars would be a lot better than millions of old cars chugging up and down our roads. Austerity strapped Britons need some cheap motoring.


Near future is hybrid

4 December 2012

If I was shopping in the market for a new supermini, my money would not go here.


Besides the spartan equipment levels (I remember when radios were optional on BMWs and Mercs), to do without a radio these days baffles me. Add some poor residual value (come on, do you think a new brand will hold its value well? Even if it is owned by Renault, which let's be fair, doesn't exactly have a stellar rep either), drizzle with what will be a shocking NCAP Score (to which Dacia aren't improving. Look at the 2011/2012 scores for the Duster and Lodgy) and it would leave a bad taste in my mouth.

If you cant afford the 1k more for a new Rio, wait 6 months and get a pre reg one instead!

4 December 2012

Not even hubcaps? sounds like Dacia is going overboard to make the £5995 car seem a great price point but unappealing when the customer arrives in the showroom, so the dealer has a strong opportunity to upsell into a more attractive model.


5 December 2012

Orangewheels wrote:

Not even hubcaps? sounds like Dacia is going overboard to make the £5995 car seem a great price point but unappealing when the customer arrives in the showroom, so the dealer has a strong opportunity to upsell into a more attractive model.

Add hubcaps for £30 and some bling radio with iPod adapter for £170 and you're done...

The only fit-it-afterwards exception is air con. This is a top model feature only, whereas most makes have AC in the bottom of the range these days. Maybe the aftermarket equivalent is the side window air deflector? 


4 December 2012

You would have to be crazy to buy a new one of these with the unknown levels of depreciation.

If you really want one, wait a year or two and pick up a Laureate for the price of an Access with the (hopefully) remainder of the extended warranty pack that the first owner ticked.


4 December 2012

The launch of Dacia in the UK is an interesting development. It would have a considerable impact on the UK's car market. Dacia's exceptionally low prices are bound to force the established car makers to reconsider the exorbitant prices they are charging the UK buyers. Is it just me or has somebody else has noticed too that the growing competition is already having a return-to-sense impact. From VW to Ford and Nissan, car makers are readjusting their prices to reflect the growing competition.


Hybrid is future

4 December 2012

Is a new 5dr car with 3 year warranty the same size of a Skoda Fabia, Renault Clio, VW Polo not enough for £5995? I think some people are forgetting this car is a bigger than C1's etc and still cheaper than everyones base model eve forgetting its size. The car will have pre wiring for a CD Player and speakers which im sure Renault/Dacia dealers will be offering an option through their parts department to fit these for less than £200 and most units now a days include bluetooth and some sort of Aux/USB connection.

if you paid £5995 for a base model and sold it 3 years later with 30k miles for even £2000 (i believe it will be worth more than this) then you have lost £3995. Would you not stand to loose a vast amount more on a VW Polo? Skoda Fabia? Vauxhall Corsa?


4 December 2012

I don't care how cheap it is, I would not buy a new car with a three star Euro Ncap rating.


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