Review

Dacia Sandero hatchback

Price  £5,995 - £9,795

Dacia Sandero hatchback

reviewed by Carbuyer

Pros
  • Incredible value for money
  • Cheap to run
  • Big boot
Cons
  • Not much fun to drive
  • Cheap-feeling interior
  • Very dull design

At a glance

The greenest
Lauréate dCi 90 5dr £9,795
The cheapest
Access 1.2 16v 75 5dr £5,995
The fastest
Lauréate TCe 90 5dr £8,795
Top of the range
Lauréate dCi 90 5dr £9,795

"The Dacia Sandero is the UK's cheapest new 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 the UK. By using proven Renault parts, Dacia could afford to sell this no-frills model at a price normally only associated 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 ISOFIX child-seat mounting points. It also has the largest boot in its class, even beating the bigger 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 engines are economical and cheap to tax. The entry-level Access model is woefully basic, with no stereo and black plastic bumpers, but even the top-of-the-range Laureate model still works out cheaper than most rivals.

 

MPG, running costs & CO2

3.8 / 5

Avoid the 1.2-litre if you want tiny bills

The Dacia Sandero is fitted with Renault engines that have previously appeared in the Renault Clio supermini. Even the entry-level 1.2-litre petrol returns a reasonable 48.7mpg, with CO2 emissions of 135g/km resulting in a £130 annual tax bill. The 0.9-litre TCe 90 model is faster and cleaner thanks to a turbocharger. It returns 56.5mpg, while its 116g/km CO2 emissions mean it costs £30 to tax each year.

For tax-free motoring, you need the 1.5-litre dCi 90 diesel, which is capable of an impressive 74.3mpg while emitting 99g/km of CO2. It's the most expensive model in the range to buy, though, so you'll need to cover high mileage for it to make financial sense.

The Sandero requires servicing once a year or every 12,000 miles, whichever comes sooner. A service plan is also available, covering the first three years or 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 such Kia and Hyundai offer. However, it can be extended to five years for £395 or seven years for £850.

Engines, drive & performance

2 / 5

The Sandero’s comfort impresses

At this price, you'd hardly expect the Sandero to be as fun to drive as a Ford Fiesta or MINI Hatch. Instead, Dacia's engineers have fitted soft suspension to soak up rough roads and potholes. So while it won't put a grin on your face in every corner, the Dacia is fine for getting from A to B with a 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 engine is adequate around town, its sluggish 14.5-second 0-62mph time 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 from 0-62mph, taking a reasonable 11.1 seconds. Despite being slightly slower, the diesel is better for motorway driving, because it's more economical and feels less strained at high speeds.

Interior & comfort

2.6 / 5

Dull but worthy

While you'd never expect the UK's cheapest car to have an exciting interior, it's not actually that bad. There's an abundance of space; in fact, the Sandero is very large for a supermini, despite costing less than most city cars. The dashboard isn't covered in soft-touch plastics, but it's functional and looks pretty tough, so should stand up to the rigours of family life. One sign of cost-cutting is the lack of driver's-seat and full steering-wheel adjustment on all but the top-spec 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-seat passengers should be happy, too. Soft suspension and small 15-inch wheels are fitted throughout the range, and these 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 in the Sandero, which is lucky as parking sensors are only available as an option with the top trim level.

Practicality & boot space

3.6 / 5

Incredibly spacious for its price

The Sandero is incredibly practical, even when compared to superminis costing almost twice as much. It's only available as a five-door, giving excellent access to its rear seats, where passengers will find superb legroom and headroom.

Its boot also punches well above its weight: 320 litres of space is more than you get in a Ford Focus (316 litres), Ford Fiesta (276 litres) or Vauxhall Corsa (285 litres). The Suzuki Alto – one of the next-cheapest cars on sale – has a tiny boot that holds just 129 litres.

You can also fold down the Sandero's 60:40 split rear seats to free up 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 cup-holders and a space 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 won't always do the job.

Reliability & safety

3 / 5

Stout reliability and plenty of safety kit as standard

Dacia recorded a stellar fifth-place finish in the Driver Power 2014 customer satisfaction survey, beating the likes of Kia, Porsche, Mercedes and BMW. Importantly, it was ranked 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 was ranked 36th for reliability.

The Sandero was retested by Euro NCAP in 2013, when it was upgraded from three to four stars out of a possible five. It scored 80% for adult occupant protection, making the Sandero considerably safer than the pricier Suzuki Alto, which only managed 55% 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 this accolade.

Standard safety equipment in the Dacia includes three rear seatbelts, anti-lock brakes, rear child locks, electronic stability control, front and side airbags, seatbelt warning buzzers and two ISOFIX child-seat mounts in the back.

Price, value for money & options

4.7 / 5

The Sandero costs half as much as some rivals

The Dacia Sandero has to be the best-value car on sale in the UK 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 comes with a less powerful engine. For customers who simply want a set of wheels, the Dacia offers an alternative to buying a used car.

Most customers won't go for the headline-grabbing Access trim level, because it's extremely basic, with no stereo or speakers and manual window winders. The Ambiance grade is much better, featuring remote central locking, electric front windows, a passenger vanity mirror, a CD player and Bluetooth phone connectivity, as well as USB and MP3 player ports. It's just a shame it doesn't come with air-con – for that, you have to move up to the top Laureate trim, which also has leather trim highlights, cruise control, foglights and rear speakers – all for less than the starting price of most rivals.

Optional extras are equally good value, 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.

What the others say

4 / 5
based on 2 reviews
4 / 5
"Even in top-spec trim and with sat-nav fitted, the Sandero costs around £800 less than the cheapest Ford Fiesta, which is gob-smacking value for money. But it's not all about the rock-bottom price tag - interior quality is better than expected and the way it drives is calm, quiet and composed, too, so long as you don’t push it too hard. Factor in rear seats and a boot that's among the most spacious in the supermini class, and the Sandero is an accomplished new car, for the price of a used one."
4 / 5
"The Dacia Sandero isn't faultless; there's evidence of cost-cutting measures throughout, but that's hardly surprising when you consider that the mid-spec 0.9 TCe model costs £3100 less than the cheapest five-door Ford Fiesta. What's even more astonishing is that the Sandero isn't worth recommending on price alone. It's pleasant to drive, easy to see out of and doesn't feel as low-rent inside as you might expect. The Sandero is an endearing and well-rounded package that requires fewer compromises than expected given the incredibly low price."
"Its ace up the sleeve is its competitive price - designed to turn heads of those looking for a supermini that won't break the bank."
"Thanks to an unbeatable combination of price, space and equipment, Europe's fastest growing automotive brand for the last six years has appealed to smart consumers in every country in which the brand is on sale, who have realised they can buy a car which easily meets their needs, without spending more than they need to."
Last updated 
10 Sep 2014

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