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Dacia Sandero Review

Dacia Sandero Tested April 2013

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Quick Summary

Recommended. It may be Britain's cheapest car, but it feels vastly better than that.

Road Test

Britain has a history of buying some dreadful cheap cars - Ladas, Polski-Fiats and Reliant Robins to name just three. However the Dacia Sandero is emphatically not in that category. In fact it seems too good to be true - a properly engineered five-door, five-seater that costs from around £6K. There are Mini Cooper owners who have spent more than that on options.

It should be said that the £6K price is a come-on - Dacia itself expects to sell almost none of the base model with its black bumpers shouting 'cheapskate' to all the neighbours. However, the mid-range Ambience model starts at only £600 more and that is where the Sandero makes an awful lot of sense. The idea is that the base model tempts buyers into the showroom, where the dealer can shame them into moving up the range.

In terms of driving experience, the Sandero is way better than its price would suggest. In fact, it is rather good. Its chassis is never going to worry a Ford Fiesta or a VW Polo, but it demonstrates some very sensible thinking. Dacia has taken the view that its buyers will appreciate comfort rather than handling, so the company has tuned its previous-generation Clio platform to provide easy progress. Freed of the need to pretend to be sporty in any way, it is quite a surprise how comfortable this old design can be made to feel.

In fact, if you are prepared to stretch to the 1.2 TCE, you can have a Sandero with a state-of-the-art turbocharged petrol engine, which makes the car feel thoroughly modern. That also has the attraction of surprising owners of upmarket brands who sometimes act as if Dacias have a top speed of 40 mph. We might well be tempted by the 90 bhp turbo, but we would have to admit that the cheaper 75 bhp 1.2 engine is more in keeping with the 'good enough' philosophy of Dacia.

Apart from the price, the main advantage of the Dacia is that it is big - almost half a size bigger than a Fiesta. That makes it a very practical proposition for a family on a budget. In fact, we think Dacia owners could be some of the happiest motorists around. They reckon they have beaten the system and bought a decent new car for less than anyone else. Bragging about 0-62 mph times are fun for five minutes down the pub, but the feeling that you have discovered a valuable secret provides a glow that lasts for years.

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