Dacia Sandero hatchback review
"The Dacia Sandero is a practical and clever supermini that may beg the question, why spend more?"
- Fantastic value
- Right amount of kit
- Access trim is too basic
- Base engine is sluggish
- Road noise
The Dacia Sandero made its name by being Britain's cheapest new car, which was stubbornly basic in the pursuit of value. It did this without sacrificing space, thanks to its supermini size, five doors and decent sized boot. The latest version promises more of the same, and gets some big upgrades.
It now sits on the same building blocks as the latest Renault Clio, one of our favourite cars. This means the latest Sandero is far more modern inside and out, with up-to-date technology and safety kit. The Hyundai i10 and Skoda Fabia rival also has a more modern and stylish design, aided by a wider stance and new LED headlights with Y-shaped daytime running lights. Even the bonnet has a more intricate design, and overall the Sandero looks simple but appealing.
There's been a similar rethink inside, where the design is very straightforward and effective. Simpler versions have a smartphone holder instead of an infotainment screen, which is a neat solution that places a USB port near the top of the dashboard to avoid dangling wires. Access trim was rather basic, with no radio or air-conditioning, and it has now been discontinued. We'd already have recommend Essential trim as a minimum, which is far better, with a DAB radio, Bluetooth and even cruise control. Costing from around £11,500, the top-spec Comfort still undercuts the cheapest Fiesta by almost £5,000, yet it boasts keyless entry, an eight-inch infotainment display and a rear-view camera.
Don't expect any hybrid or even mild-hybrid engines; they would push the price up too much. Instead, you can pick from a simple lineup of a 64bhp or 89bhp petrol engine and a 99bhp Bi-Fuel model that's also fitted with an LPG tank, allowing it to run on the cheaper fuel as well as petrol. All three are based around the same 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine, and the TCe 90 is the sweet spot in the range, with decent performance and excellent fuel economy of around 53mpg. It's available with a six-speed manual gearbox or a CVT automatic.
On the move, the 89bhp Sandero will be plenty good enough for most drivers. It has light steering and a nifty gear change, while the car is lighter and stiffer than the outgoing model, with a fairly soft ride that soaks up bumps nicely. The new Sandero is also slightly wider than before, which helps to improve handling, although a fair amount of body lean in sharper corners means it remains less sporty than a Ford Fiesta or even a Volkswagen Polo.
Another positive side-effect of the updated Dacia is access to the latest safety equipment, so the Sandero now gets autonomous emergency braking (AEB) for the first time, along with six airbags. This should improve its Euro NCAP score when it's tested, although its budget specification means it's still unlikely it will score five stars.