DRIVEN: Dacia Sandero

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The Dacia Sandero, now in its second generation is Britain’s cheapest car on the road at the moment at only £69 a month, but is it too cheap for the British public?

Styling

The Sandero Access version we drove came with barely any kit; grey plastic bumpers, mirrors, door handles and 15-inch steel wheels wrapped in 185/65 budget tyres. It looks more like a company van with its lack of extras and tech. Interior wise, you get everything you would in an early 90’s hatchback, manual winding windows, manual locking doors, a steering wheel and a manual gearbox. No more than you really need and they all work as intended. If it is looks you are looking for, go for a higher spec trim with more standard kit. If you opt for the Ambiance trim priced at £6,795; colour coded bumpers, electric front windows, remote central locking, split rear sit with head restraints and a radio with USB connectivity are all included. The higher you spec this model, the closer you get to its more refined competitors.

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Driving

This car was never going to be a driver’s car. Never fine tuned like a hot hatch, but that is not what this car is meant to be. It is a budget car that does what is needed. The little 1.2 Litre engine is pretty decent for puttering around town barely getting over 30 mph but doesn’t inspire confidence on the motorway. Cross winds affected the Sandero to no end causing the driver to always try to correct the car’s lurching tendencies. Road and wind noise enter the cabin at ease when on the motorway as does the drum of the engine which struggles at pace. This isn’t a comfort cruiser. Not in the least. You have to plan your overtakes ahead, making sure you are in the right gear and have plenty of space to pick up speed. When driving, a little gear shift indicator appears urging you to change-up and down through specific revs. This allows the engine more freedom to work at its optimum. The other quibbles I had were the fixed steering column, which I wanted to extend slightly to suit my driving style. The driving seat has no height adjustment, meaning you sit pretty high up in the car. All this can lead to an uncomfortable drive when taking the Sandero on long journeys.

Reliability

As the Sandero is the cheapest car to buy in Britain at only £5995, its safety ratings are quite reasonable getting a four out of five-star rating with Euro NCAP, an improvement over the first generation. It is fitted with two conventional airbags in the steering wheel and above the glove box on the passenger side as well as two airbags in each seat. Two isofix child seat points are in the rear, however no head restraints are present, which may prove to be a risk during a collision. Most of the underpinnings have been taken out of the Renault parts bin, mainly that of the 1998 Renault Clio model. A three-year/ 60,000-mile warranty with roadside assistance is included in the price. This can be extended to five years or seven years for £395 and £850 respectively.

Practicality

It is one of the largest of the super-minis, giving a large amount of rear legroom able to sit three large males comfortably and a boot capable of swallowing enough shopping bags to feed four hungry men. That totals to 320 litres of boot space, enlarged to 1200 Litres with the rear seats folded down, rivals that of a larger city car. Our base model was fitted with the optional £250 stereo and £50 spare wheel, which added a little more luxury to the Sandero.

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One major problem we found was that when leaving the car, the driver had to be the last person out, as the passengers can’t lock their individual doors. It has to be done by the driver.

Running Costs

The Sandero did very well on the mileage front, averaging 48mpg from the little 1.2 Litre 16v engine pushing out a total of 75bhp and 109 lb ft capable of hitting a top speed of 97mph. On the green front, the Sandero releases 135g/km

There are two other engines available, a three cylinder 900cc turbo-charged engine and 1.5 Litre diesel engine both with 88bhp.  With regards to resale value, the Sandero Access is shaping up to hold 50% of its residual value at resale.

Tech Specs

Price: £5995

Engine: 1.2 litre, 4 cylinder, 16 valve

Power: 73 bhp

Torque: 79 lb ft

0-62 mph: 14.0 secs

Top speed: 97 mph

Weight: 941 kg

mpg:  48 mpg

co2: 135 g/km

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