Don’t be confused by price of Sandero

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The Dacia Sandero might be the cheapest car on sale in the UK but that doesn’t mean it’s not without merit.

In fact the Sandero is big, solidly built and features some decent engines.

The entry-level car will be too spartan for many but even the range-topper looks good value. If you’re just about to buy a mainstream brand citycar, supermini or family hatch, you need to stop right here and read on.

This model is actually the second generation Sandero, unveiled at the 2012 Paris Show.

It’s a good deal more sophisticated than its predecessor and rides on a version of the Nissan B0 platform that underpins the Note and the LEAF.

This car is built tough though. How many other superminis are promoted as having excellent ground clearance enabling them to take on all kinds of road conditions with “robust underbody protection for impressive performance on unpaved tracks”?

I’ve experienced the roads in this car’s home state of Romania and if this Dacia can cope with them, it shouldn’t have any problems with our potholes and speed humps - though I should point out that models produced for the brand’s home market actually ride 14mm higher than our Sanderos.

The engine selection is fairly modest as you might expect but that doesn’t mean it’s archaic.

The 900cc three-cylinder TCe 90 petrol engine is sure to prove popular. This is an unit that’s great in Renault’s Clio and powers the smaller Sandero adequately, with great fuel economy and a decent turn of speed.

It’s a powerplant that needs to be worked, as it won’t make peak power until a heady 5,250rpm, although there’s a reasonable 135Nm of torque from just 1,650rpm, so you shouldn’t have to row the car through town with the gearlever.

For those on tighter budgets there’s a 75PS 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine that’s not quite as peppy and there’s also a couple of diesels. Both are of 1.5-litre capacity and come in 75 and 90PS guises.

So where does the Dacia Sandero fit, sizewise?

That very much depends on how you position the car. On price, you’d have to say it’s competing with city cars but in terms of the amount of metal you get, it’s actually sized somewhere between a Fiesta-sized supermini and a Focus-sized family hatch.

In other words, for the kind of money being asked, the interior and exterior dimensions are very generous indeed, with the ordinary five-door hatchback Sandero offering 1436mm of rear elbow room, giving enough space to seat three adults comfortably or install three child seats.

Boot volume is 320-litres (slightly more than a Ford Focus) which is extremely good for this class and there’s a 60/40 split fold rear seat to improve practicality still further.

The cabin offers plenty of storage, notably with the addition of a central cubby box. The oddments spaces in the front and rear doors are large enough to house a 1.5-litre and 0.5-litre bottle respectively.

The Dacia Sandero is an interesting car. Yes, you can buy it as a super stripped-out bargain basement item for around £6,000 but most of us want a few more creature comforts.

Like the Duster, Dacia has very carefully worked the specifications list so that the super-low baseline model price tag draws customers into dealers where they will then realise that the car they actually want is the range-topper.

After all, to many people these days, air conditioning isn’t a luxury extra but something they expect on a modern car.

So how will the Sandero fare? Pretty well, we think.

Even if you do migrate to the comparatively well equipped Laureate model, you’ll still not be paying big money.

Especially when you bear in mind that the opening price for a smaller five-door Vauxhall Corsa with air conditioning stands at over £13,000.

For more than £5,000 less, you get a top specification Sandero. Couched in those terms, the good news is that this Dacia is a bit of a no-brainer.