Dacia Sandero hatchback
Price £5,995 - £9,795
- Incredible value for money
- Cheap to run
- Big boot
- Dull design
- Cheap interior
- Not much fun to drive
At a glance
"The Dacia Sandero is Britain’s cheapest car, yet it’s spacious, economical and feels grown-up."
When Renault-owned Dacia announced the £5,995 starting price of the Dacia Sandero supermini, it undercut every rival by thousands of pounds and became the cheapest car on sale in Britain. By using old Renault parts, Dacia could afford to sell this no-frills model at a price normally associated only with used cars.
Yet the Sandero is spacious for a supermini, with five doors giving great access to the rear seats, where you’ll find two child-seat mounting points. It also has the largest boot in its class, even beating the Ford Focus family hatchback.
With soft suspension giving a comfortable ride, the Sandero isn’t aimed at keen drivers, but its 1.2-litre and 0.9-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel Renault engines are economical and cheap to tax. The entry-level Access model is woefully basic, with no radio or even painted bumpers, but the great thing is, even the top Laureate model still works out cheaper than most rivals.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Avoid the 1.2-litre if you want tiny bills
The Dacia Sandero is fitted with Renault engines, and thankfully not prehistoric ones either. Even the entry-level 1.2-litre petrol returns a reasonable 48.7mpg, with emissions of 135g/km resulting in a £130 annual tax bill. The 0.9-litre TCe 90 is faster and cleaner thanks to its advanced turbocharger and returns 56.5mpg, while its 116g/km emissions mean it costs £30 every year.
For tax-free motoring you’ll want the dCi 90 diesel, capable of an impressive 74.3mpg while emitting 99g/km, although it is the most expensive to buy, so you’ll need a higher mileage for it to make most financial sense.
The Sandero requires servicing once per year or every 12,000 miles, whichever is sooner. A service plan is also available, covering the first three years/36,000 miles of servicing for a reasonable one-off payment of £489. A three year/60,000 mile warranty is standard, but this isn’t as long as rivals like Kia and Vauxhall offer. However, it can be extended to five years for £395 or seven years/100,000 miles for £850.
Engines, drive & performance
The Sandero’s comfort impresses
For this price you’d hardly expect a car as fun to drive as a Ford Fiesta or MINI Hatch. Instead, the Dacia’s engineers have opted for soft suspension to soak up rough roads and pot holes. While this might not put a grin on your face in every corner, the Dacia is fine for getting from A to B with the minimum of fuss. And, despite its no frills interior, wind and road noise aren’t too pronounced inside the cabin.
While the entry-level 1.2-litre is adequate around town, its sluggish 14.5 second acceleration to 62mph means it’s probably best avoided if you travel longer distances on faster roads. Both the TCe 90 petrol and dCi 90 diesel have 89bhp, but the petrol is a second quicker to 62mph, taking a reasonable 11.1 seconds, thanks to its zippier nature. Despite being slightly slower, we’d choose the diesel for motorway driving, because it’s more economical and feels less strained at higher speeds.
Interior & comfort
Dull but worthy
While you’d never expect Britain’s cheapest car to have an exciting interior, it’s not at all bad. There’s an abundance of space, in fact the Sandero is large for a supermini, despite costing less than most city cars. Yes, the dashboard isn’t exactly covered in soft-touch plastics, but it’s functional and looks pretty tough, so should stand up to family life. One victim of cost-cutting is the lack of driver’s seat and full steering wheel adjustment on all but the top version, so you might struggle to find a perfect driving position.
The front seats look basic, but they offer enough support for longer trips, while rear passengers should be happy too. Soft suspension and small 15-inch wheels are fitted throughout the entire range and offer a more comfortable ride than the sportier suspension and wheels of rivals like the Vauxhall Corsa.
Tall windows and a fairly upright driving position ensure visibility is not a problem, which is lucky as parking sensors are only available as an option with the top trim level.
Practicality & boot space
Incredibly spacious for its price
The Sandero is incredibly practical, not only for its price, but when compared to superminis costing double the amount. It’s only available as a five-door, with excellent access to its rear seats where passengers will find superb legroom and headroom.
Its boot also punches well above its weight, with 320-litres of space giving it more room than the Ford Focus (316 litres), Ford Fiesta (276 litres) and Vauxhall Corsa (285 litres). If you compare it with the Suzuki Alto - one of the next-cheapest cars on sale – its tiny boot measures just 129 litres in size.
You can also fold down the Sandero’s 60:40 splitting rear seats to liberate 1,200 litres of luggage room, although the rear seats don’t sit flush with the boot floor, so there’s a small lip to lift large items over. Cabin storage is plentiful with a deep glovebox, large door pockets, two cupholders and a cubby on top of the dashboard.
The Sandero can also be fitted with a spare wheel, although this is a £95 option across the range. We’d say it’s money well spent unless you never travel far from home, as the standard tyre inflation kit might not get you far.
Reliability & safety
Stout reliability and plenty of safety kit as standard
Dacia has made a stellar fifth-place entry into the 2014 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, beating the likes of Kia, Porsche, Mercedes and BMW. Importantly it scored a third for reliability, so customers obviously haven’t faced too many issues so far. The Sandero itself came an impressive 43rd out of 150 models and 36th for reliability.
The Sandero was re-tested by crash safety experts Euro NCAP in 2013 and upgraded from three to four stars out of five. It scored 80 per cent for adult occupant protection, making the Sandero considerably safer than the pricier Suzuki Alto, as it only managed 55 per cent and three stars overall. If you won’t consider a car with less than a five-star Euro NCAP rating, the SEAT Mii and Skoda Citigo are the cheapest new cars to receive the accolade.
Standard safety equipment in the Dacia includes three rear seatbelts, anti-lock brakes, rear child locks, electronic anti-skid technology, front and side airbags, seatbelt warning alarms and ISOFIX child seat mounting points for the outer rear seats.
Price, value for money & options
The Sandero costs half of some rivals
The Dacia Sandero has to be the best-value car on sale in Britain today. If we take the top-selling Ford Fiesta as an example, the Sandero is more spacious and costs from £5,995, while the entry-level Fiesta is £9,995 and come with a less powerful engine. For customers who simply want a set of wheels, the Dacia could even offer an alternative to buying a used car.
Most customers won’t go for the headline-grabbing Access trim level, because it is extremely basic, with no radio or speakers and manual wi five doors ndow winders. The Ambiance grade is far more useable, thanks to remote central locking, electric front windows, a passenger vanity mirror, CD player, Bluetooth, USB and Aux-in connections. It’s a shame it doesn’t come with air-con, but the top Laureate trim does, as well as leather trim highlights, cruise control, fog lights and rear stereo speakers for less than the starting price of most rivals.
Optional extras are similarly well priced, with a seven-inch touchscreen and sat-nav costing £300 (but only available with the Laureate trim), while leather seats are £600 and rear parking sensors will set you back £250.