Dacia is a Romanian auto-maker that was bought out by Renault at the end of the last century. Since then, the manufacturer has gone on to make budget cars that finally became so good, they came to the United Kingdom.
One of them was the Dacia Sandero, a supermini which went on sale in British dealerships in January 2013. At the time, the car was billed as the cheapest new car in the UK.
You get two petrol engines with the Dacia Sandero and one diesel. The car is no hardcore performer, but copes well enough with whatever is thrown at it – from city streets to short motorway runs.
The Sandero only has five gears, but the manual box is able and willing. The petrols come as 0.9cc and a 1.2cc units. The 0.9 is actually the fastest out of the two – and the most economical at 56mpg, compared with the 1.2cc’s 48mpg.
But the best variant is the sole diesel 1.5 litre unit. This is efficient, with up to 80mpg achievable, and it’s much better for commuting longer distances. Road tax is also excellent on this model as it slots into the lowest VED (Vehicle Excise Duty) band possible.
Ride and handling
Behind the wheel, the Dacia Sandero feels fairly agile, although the steering does seem rather numb. That said, the Sandero will cut through bends and uneven roads in a stable manner, therefore radiating a sense of confidence.
The car absorbs potholes and crumbling road surfaces fairly well, too. The sense of ride comfort is aided further by relatively comfy seats.
This Dacia acquired a four-star rating from Euro NCAP, so its safety score is just shy of first-class. This doesn’t mean, the Dacia Sandero is unsafe – far from it. The model’s safety kit list comprises ISOFIX child seat mounts, multi-airbags, and electronic stability control (ESC). The four stars were awarded partly because of the Sandero’s child and adult protection competence.
The Dacia’s Sandero is a supermini with a boot that just seems to keep on giving. Indeed, it has one of the largest load areas in its segment, with a whopping 320 litres. That luggage area gets even greater with the rear seats folded – swelling to 1,200 litres.
Basically, that means you could get camping equipment and a bike in there if you are into, say, outdoor pursuits. The cabin itself will cope with four adults and there are lots of storage areas dotted around the interior to keep coins and CDs.
The glovebox is roomy as well, providing yet more scope to carry bits and bobs around – and the door pockets are big enough to take a bottle of water.
Seating is comfortable, although the backrests are not quite as supportive as in some higher-up-the-range cars. The Dacia is pretty hushed with most wind and road noise kept out around town. Noise becomes noticeable at dual carriageway or motorway speeds.
The cabin materials, apart from the seats, appear to be pretty basic plastic slabs and they are not pretty. However, they are hardwearing and will last for many years.
The Dacia Sandero comes with three trim levels - the entry version is the aptly named Access, and it doesn’t even have a radio fitted as standard. That said, by the time the car enters the used market, most owners will have had one wired in after-market.
Moving up the range, there is the Ambiance, which comes with a stereo, USB port, Bluetooth and even electric front windows and remote central locking. Finally there is the Laureate - the pièce de résistance version of the Sandero.
Spec at this level includes cruise control, electric door mirrors, electric windows all round, and air conditioning. So, it’s a no-brainer that this is the one to aim for on a used car forecourt, if you have the choice.
What to know before you buy
The budget buy Dacia Sandero is still pretty new in the UK and its reliability has been respectable since it entered the British market in 2013.
Many of the car’s mechanicals are pooled with Renault, and the petrol and diesel power units are well established. For extra peace of mind, Renault’s dealer group supports Dacia, so any niggles will be sorted out with any fuss.
The Sandero’s major supermini rival is the Ford Fiesta, which is far more expensive. But it’s incredibly well proven and loved by the British public. It’s a reliable and comfortable car with a great drive, but its boot is only 295 litres compared with the Dacia’s voluminous 320 litres.
Another key opponent is the Vauxhall Corsa. This is a more refined motor than the Sandero, but arguably not quite as good a drive as the Ford Fiesta. Again, the Griffin badged car’s boot is not up to the Dacia’s – offering only 285 litres.
It has to be said, the Dacia Sandero is not sexy at all. It is, however, incredibly practical and costs next to nothing to buy new – let alone secondhand.
It makes an excellent first driver’s car or a second vehicle to bolster the family’s transportation needs. It isn’t uncomfortable, but it isn’t luxurious either – it just gets you from A-B in a solid, sensible, and safe way.