Dacia Sandero hatchback
Price: £5,995 - £9,795
- Incredible value for money
- Cheap to run
- Big boot
- Dull design
- Cheap interior
- Poor handling
"The Dacia Sandero is the cheapest new car available to buy in the UK, but it's also spacious, comfortable and cheap to run."
The Dacia Sandero is one of the best value cars on the market. It's a supermini like the Ford Fiesta and Renault Clio, but it costs less than a tiny city car like the Skoda Citigo. You won’t find a new car in the UK that's cheaper to buy and run than the Sandero.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Dacia brand, that will be because it's relatively new to the UK. It only launched the Sandero over here a couple of years ago, but the company has been a fairly big player in the European market for some time. The brand is owned by Renault and its models are built using many of the French company's parts with the purpose of creating basic, functional, ultra-cheap cars. Other models in the line-up include the Sandero Stepway crossover, the Dacia Duster SUV and the Dacia Logan MPV – all offering incredibly low prices for budget buyers.
Entry-level Sanderos are very sparsely equipped and come without air-con, electric windows or even a stereo, but higher-spec models come with reasonable kit lists. The engine range is limited but efficient with low running costs. Top-of-the-range models are significantly cheaper than an entry-level Ford Fiesta.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Running costs are low thanks to efficient engines and flexible warranties
The Sandero comes with a choice of three engines: a 75bhp 1.2-litre petrol, a 90bhp 900cc turbo-charged petrol and a 90bhp 1.5-litre diesel. The most efficient is the diesel engine, which will do 74.3mpg and emit 99g/km CO2 – but it's only available with top-spec models. The 1.2-litre petrol is the least efficient and will return 47.9mpg and emit 137g/km CO2, while the 900cc petrol manages 54.3mpg and emits 116g/km CO2. The insurance group rating depends on which model you opt for, with entry-level cars enjoying the lowest rating, but all are low and will keep premiums to a minimum. The Sandero comes with a standard three-year/60,000 mile warranty but you can extend it to five or seven years for a small premium to ensure repair bills are kept to an absolute minimum. All-in-all, the Sandero doesn’t have the cheapest running costs in the supermini class, but given the budget price tag it's very, very impressive.
Interior & comfort
As basic as the budget price would suggest but not uncomfortable
This is a budget car so you can’t expect a luxury cabin. It's very basic – and entry-level Access models are particularly spartan, with next to no accessories (not even a radio). Higher spec models get some mod cons and are still excellent value for money, so it's worth splashing out a bit and upgrading. And the Sandero is quite a comfortable car. The seats are far from luxurious but they’re supportive, and the soft suspension keeps bumps and potholes from jolting the car around. Material quality is noticeably cheap but it all feels well put together and sturdy enough to put up with some hard use.
Practicality & boot space
By far the most practical car for the money
Practicality is relative – a supermini is impractical compared to a family hatch, which is impractical compared to an estate. And compared to rivals – both by size and by price – the Sandero is superbly practical. The only cars that rival the Sandero on price are city cars, none of which come close to matching its 320-litre boot. The Hyundai i10 has one of the biggest boots in the city car class but its 252-litres of capacity falls well short of the Sandero's. You’ll also struggle to find a rival supermini that comes close, as the Ford Fiesta has 276 litres of capacity, while the Peugeot 208 has 285 litres. If you fold the Sandero's rear seats flat you can increase the space to a very generous 1,200 litres, too. It's also spacious inside, and there are ISOFIX anchor points for securing child seats. An optional Touring Pack adds a front centre armrest, a boot luggage net and roof bars.
Reliability & safety
Four star safety rating is a bit disappointing but it should be reliable
Dacia is still relatively new to the UK so it doesn’t figure in any customer satisfaction surveys but the Sandero should prove to be reliable. Dacia is owned by Renault and its cars are built using a lot of tried and tested components from the French company, and because it's relatively low-tech, there's not a whole lot to go wrong. The Sandero's low price tag also means that it is, in many ways, more of a competitor to second-hand cars than it is to new cars – and it offers a lot of advantages over a used vehicle when it comes to reliability. Aside from the fact that it will have no wear and tear, it comes with a three-year warranty that can be extended to five or seven years – guaranteeing you’ll face no big repair bills for a long, long time. One black mark against the Sandero's name is its safety rating: it only scored four stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests. This was mainly due to poor scores in the pedestrian protection and safety assist categories – which isn’t that surprising given how sparsely equipped it is. All models come with electronic stability control as standard, though.
Engines, drive & performance
Engines are good but Sandero’s handling is pretty poor
The Sandero was never going to offer the kind of sporty performance to rival the likes of the Ford Fiesta but it's actually surprisingly good for a budget car. The 900cc TCe petrol engine and the 1.5-litre diesel are both impressive. The former is surprisingly quick for such a little engine, while the latter is smooth and powerful. We’d avoid the 1.2-litre petrol engine, though, which feels a bit underpowered. The Sandero doesn’t much like corners, as the soft suspension setup means it leans quite heavily, but the trade-off is that it's very comfortable and soaks up potholes and bumps very well. The cabin is well insulated as well, so you’re not troubled by wind and road noise. It all adds up to a car that is perfectly capable and comfortable for travelling from A to B, just don’t expect it to make your heart race with excitement.
Price, value for money & options
Easily one of the best value cars that money can buy
Value-for-money is really the Sandero's greatest strength. Yes, it's a flawed car and very basic but it's still a lot of car for the money. What you get is all the benefits of a new car (the warranty, the lack of wear and tear, the dealer support) for the price of a second-hand model – and that's a really tempting proposition. There's a choice of three specification levels: Access, Ambiance and Laureate. We’d recommend avoiding the entry-level Access spec because it's so basic. An extra £600 will get you the mid-spec model that comes with a CD stereo, front electric windows and remote central locking. The top-spec Laureate model – which Dacia expects to be the biggest seller – comes with air-con, electric mirrors and cruise control. Sat-nav and leather seats are an optional extra. The car is still so new that resale values haven’t really been established – but the car is so cheap to start with that they can’t fall too far.
What the others say
"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."
"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."
"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."
Last updated: 18 Feb 2014