Dacia sandero, basic motoring on a super mini price

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A Couple of weeks ago I was helping a friend look for a new car. Not a second-hand one but a brand new one. We started off by looking through various deals and offers including Peugeots just add fuel offer, and Skoda’s city go (same as the Vw Up and seat MII but varying price deals). Ford where ruled out along with a few others under personal preference. On the day in question the options had been narrowed down to three dealers; Renault, Skoda and Hyundai. The deal was eventually sealed in Hyundai for a good price. But it gave us time to test drive a Dacia Sandero. It was a car that made a lot of jokes on Top Gear a few years ago.

Cost: So the base model starts at £6k with a 1.2 petrol engine. For that you basically get a car with an engine, but no radio, but claimed MPG of 38-57 (urban-extra urban). It doesn’t have a spare wheel either so I’d avoid the base model (called the Access).

The next one up is the Ambiance, which offers two engines either the same 1.2 petrol or a TCE 90 (0.9 litre turbo). The Price difference is £6795 for the 1.2 petrol or £7595 for the turbo unit. This one comes with a radio CD mp3 unit, remote central locking, colour coordinated bumpers and electric windows. There is an additional Ambiance level which I wouldn’t bother with as the most I can see on it that’s additional is the alloy wheels.

The top of the range trim is the Laureate which starts at £8795 (0.9 turbo only). This comes with additional features of cruise control and Air con. If you want a Diesel engine the prices start at £8895 and go up to £10095 and are available on Ambiance and Laureate only. The diesel engine claims and mpg of 76-80 (urban and extra urban).   All the model variants come with a 3 year 60,000 mile warranty.

The tech levels on the Sandero are very basic, however they do offer what you would need rather than want. You can have rear parking sensors and stop start but they are at an extra cost, as is paint if you do not want a white car it is an extra £500. However this car isn’t a geeky car it is about basic motoring from A to B. Tax levels are higher than some of the other cars in the price range, but the Dacia has significant advantages over rivals in different areas.

Having been looking at supermini type cars (small hatchbacks) one of the best features about the Dacia was the amount of space. I can’t think of a hatchback that I have been in with so much space, I had the front seat set in a comfortable position with significant leg room and there was still space for me in the back. The boot size is 320 litres compared to the 252 of the I10/251 of the City Go it rivals that of the Ford Fiesta (290 litre). Considering the price of the sander a key feature has to be the amount of storage space available compared to cars in the same price range. The build quality of the car is not bad, you can tell that the car is cheap if you look around, but it isn’t going to fall apart immediately. Oh and if you’re like me and always need a bigger glove box for cd’s it was massive.

The driving experience of the car was interesting to say the least. It didn’t roll about as much as I expected from the size of it and its budget, however the steering could do with being less vague and more direct. The brakes where pretty average and  there is nothing more to say on them than that. The car we drove had the diesel engine which if I’m honest was rather noisy but it had an adequate amount of power, it would be good to see what it compares to with the other two engines. Whilst not directly related to the driving experience side the stereo  is an easy to operate system that actually produces good sound. Round town the car is not a bad car to be in, however it does have a problem on faster roads once you start to get to 40mph and beyond the cabin noise is pretty bad and at motorway speeds you have to raise your voice considerably to have a conversation, even with the radio off. To be fair this maybe slightly better in the petrol engine cars. Other small things do notice in this car such as not having a foot rest for your left foot, along with the cabin noise I do wonder how good this car would be on long journeys and how tiring it could be.

The bits we couldn’t look into were how the noise level compares across the engine range and how each engine drives comparatively. Varying reports have favoured the different engines on the Sandero so to know which one would be best to go for is a bit unknown, personally I’d be opting for one of the petrol’s based on the Diesels noise.

There are a few ways to look at this car, if you want the biggest car for the best possible money and are not worried about refinement or gadgets it’s a good buy, particularly if it won’t be used on long journeys very much. If on the other hand you will be using motorways or want a bit more refinement and are not as worried on space then looking at Renault’s Twingo or other supermini’s would be better.

If you are looking at the Sandero as a cheap car then two things are worth considering. Firstly what options are there on the second-hand market? A second hand two year old Fiesta with 20k on the clock can be found for £5700 granted it might not be as quick but it’s a good option. Secondly the second-hand value really varies with the Sandero depending on how well it’s been maintained and used; if you are running it on a budget it probably won’t retain the value as well. Also the lower the trim and spec the lower the second-hand price.

Overall the Sandero is a good car and really makes a good stand for one of the cheapest cars on sale in Britain at the moment. However if I was looking at one, I would have to look at alternatives such as the second-hand market or a smaller more refined car. If you like the car and want to get one I’d suggest the mid-range Ambiance with the 0.9 petrol engine. As it is most likely to give good performance and rest well with the insurance company. Also if I am honest it’s the one with the best value for money out of the three levels.

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