From £5,995
The cheapest Dacia Sandero - indeed the cheapest new car on sale - offers plenty of appeal, but it's hard to consider it a rival for the likes of the Ford Fiesta

What is it?

Its full name is the Dacia Sandero Access 1.2 16V 75, but in simpler terms it is the base model in the budget range, priced at £5995.

This particular model breaks through that budget cap via the addition of a £250 stereo and £50 spare wheel, but neither should detract from our first opportunity to sample this headline-grabbing base model.

That means that it only comes in United Nations-spec white with black bumpers, 15-inch steel wheels and with a mainly no-frills approach to standard kit. In basic terms everything you need is here, plus you get ABS, ESC, traction control, ISOFIX, power steering, split-folding rear seats, a driver’s airbag, side airbags, an immobiliser and an audible warning if you leave the lights on.

The list isn’t generous, but nor is it needlessly sparse. The only likely gripe of real substance is the absence of an adjustable steering column.

What's it like?

If you were told to drive without knowing what you were in, there is no way you would guess this is Britain’s cheapest new car. It is well built, well presented and exudes rugged good sense in the way it goes about pretty much everything. There are many worse value city cars and superminis on sale today.

Euro5 emission regulations determine that the 1.2-litre petrol is reasonably modern. Sure, 74bhp at 5500rpm and 109lb ft of torque at 4250rpm does not deliver performance to get excited about even in a 941kg car, with 0-62mph coming in at a slovenly 14.5sec. However, keep it below 2200rpm (as urged by the gearchange indicator) and progress is reasonably refined and more than sufficient for town use. Dacia claims 48.7mpg, too, and while that is inevitably optimistic, we did manage 42mpg.

Faster roads and overtaking inevitably present more of a challenge, but so long as you're prepared to plan ahead there is enough here to ensure you can keep with the flow of traffic at all times, albeit with an ever-increasing amount of engine and road noise intruding into the cabin. 

Grip levels are slight, but the handling is accurate. However, flat, gripless seats do little to encourage spirited driving, and neither do the brittle ride and notchy gearbox. The Sandero, somewhat inevitably, is best viewed as a modest way of getting from A to B as opposed to a car in which to enjoy driving – beyond, of course, the certain smugness that comes with pushing a cheap motor along at the same pace as vastly more expensive rivals.

Taken at the same values, the cabin does an equally decent job. There’s no air-con, electric windows, central locking or even glove box light or vanity mirror, but the basics are present and correct and the recycled Renault switchgear doesn’t remotely shout ‘cheap’. The boot is a good size, the folding rear seats add an attractive extra dimension and there’s room for two adults and two children to travel in reasonable comfort (with a third rear seatbelt if you’re prepared to squeeze up).

This latest generation Sandero has yet to be tested by Euro NCAP.

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Should I buy one?

If you are of the mindset of using a car merely to get from one place to another, especially in towns, then this is a perfectly adequate and at times charming way to do it. There is a certain not-too-shabby chic about the Sandero that gives it a strong case for being an appealing second or workhorse car.

It also has its appeal as an alternative to many used cars, particularly as you’d be starting your ownership with a three-year warranty ahead of, rather than behind, you. The prospect of low buying and running costs will appeal to many.

The mistake, however, would be to think that you're getting a car of Ford Fiesta quality or similar at this budget price. That simply isn’t possible for £6000. In purely objective terms, the Sandero does adequate very well, but rarely pushes beyond that.

Dacia Sandero Access 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

Join the debate

Add a comment…
nicebiscuit 6 February 2013

Sports variant

Good point made further up...  This base model with sports seats, bigger engine and fatter wheels would be a hoot.   Remember the Pug 205 Rallye?

The enthusiast market could do with some back to basics cars as well, and it wouldn't just be fuddy-duddys buying them either...

Audidriver12 6 February 2013

On order

Just placed an order for one. Perferct runabout. Waiting list? 4 months! Seems I'm not the only one with the same idea. 

jonboy4969 6 February 2013

Good luck to them, with over

Good luck to them, with over two thousand orders taken for the Dacia range so far in the UK they are going to do very well, I agree that you cant  compare it to a Fiesta, I would not want to, I loathe the Fiesta, hideous looking thing, but if it has to be compared with anything then it should be down to price range, and what do you get there.

Suzuki Alto, nah, too poo and tinny, Hyundau I10 (when reduced from original 8K price, yes, I would have one of those they are not bad little cars at all, and offer more kit than the Dacia, but for those that just want a run around or cheap motoring, this will do just fine.

When they ask, you do the maths, well, I have and would i want a car that loses more money per mile than I would like or a car that cost sod all to start with and will still be worth something in three years time, or four or five.

In Europe Dacia has a good reliability record so I cant see why it would be any different here, I wish them well and hope that they can continue to sell very good and very cheap new cars for years to come, and ignore the whinning children that think haveing a Dacia is just so beneath them.