DACIA SANDERO: Transylvanian offspring with bite

DACIA have only been in the UK for around seven months – but already their Sandero model is an award winner.

As well as the holder of the title of Britain’s cheapest new car, it’s also picked up FHM magazine’s ‘Best For When You’re Short of Cash’ award…..

Sandero, built at a plant near Transylvania, is certainly something to get your teeth into….

With an entry level price of £5995, it sets out to shake up the UK car market. 50 per cent of customers will have previously been used car buyers who have never owned a new car before.

The Romanian manufacturer is now owned by Renault and in the main sold alongside the Regie’s products.

But Sandero, boosted into more widespread motoring perception by frequent ‘shout outs’ on Top Gear, is not the white goods fridge freezer with windscreen wipers some might have portrayed it as. It’s roomy, comfortable, maybe somewhat lacking in some of the frills you may be used to, but nevertheless more than adequate motoring for a family on a tight budget.

And if you can stretch to another two grand, the well equipped £7995 Laureate model looks a real bargain.

In fact, the built quality is acceptably good even though the initial price is low. And initial buyers are liking what they‘re buying so much that nearly two thirds of them are opting into accessory pack upgrades  – so spot a bog standard Sandero on the road if you can.

It already has a good reputation for reliability, coming out fourth in the influential German ADAC reliability survey, so buyers here can take some reassurance in that.

And budget price doesn’t need to mean budget looks, because the chrome air vent surrounds on the model we tested, as well as a decent level of interior fit and finish, gives the Sandero a far from down market aura. Only the entry model is a bit of a let down with its big black bumpers, but then again you wouldn’t have to repaint it after a car park scrape…..

This five seat supermini is the size of a Fabia but costs less than a Citigo  and at these prices there’s little competition, apart from used cars.

Yes, there is a lot of plastic – light grey and dark grey – around the interior but it’s not naff plastic and it’s all fairly well glued together. There were certainly no rattles and squeaks on the car I drove on the launch, and all the necessary switchgear is placed easily to hand and logically grouped.

The gearchange had a bit of a heavyish and rubbery feel to it but no worse than some other budget cars. Not as smooth as you might expect these days, admittedly, but here you’re paying your money and taking your choice so it would be unrealistic to expect the shift quality of a £20k family hatch.

Suspension errs on the firm side and can set up a few wobbles through the car but with the seats being fairly comfortable it’s probably only something that would get tiresome on a longer trip.

Dacia have started to benefit from the latest Renault technology and equipment upgrades. Among them are the new three-cylinder 0.9-litre TCe 90 engine as fitted in Clio 4, the integrated MediaNav touchscreen with satellite navigation (a £250 option), and even leather upholstery on the Sandero – unheard of on some superminis even now, let alone at its price point. It’s a bargain £600 option

There’s a simple three trim level line-up – Access, Ambience and Lauréate. All versions come with safety features including ABS and Electronic Stability Control, plus a quartet of airbags in the cabin.

The Access model has power steering, daytime running lights and a handy split folding rear seat. Move up to Ambiance and the list extends to Bluetooth, a radio/CD audio system, electric front windows, remote central locking, Bluetooth and an aux socket and USB port.

Laureate is the likely best-seller, accounting for up to two thirds of all sales, and it comes with air conditioning, electric windows front and rear and a multi-function trip computer.

It’s expected that a large proportion of buyers will part-exchange a used vehicle, with a sizeable proportion of PCP and HP business. Easy finance is available, the same as with Renault, through its financial arm, RCI. At launch, a new Sandero is yours for a relatively small deposit of £1,845 and £69 a month (based on 49 months – less than plenty of gym memberships and TV/phone/internet packages. If buyers can’t stretch to that, £99 monthly payments are available with £699 deposit.

Depending on your motoring needs you can buy into optional extended warranties – 60,000/mile five years for £395 or 100,000 mile/7 years for £850, on top of the standard 60,000 mile/three year deal.

FASTFACTS: Dacia Sandero Access; £5995; 1149cc 16v; 75hp, 107Nm; five speed gearbox; Top speed 97mph, 0-62 14.5 secs; Fuel – urban 36.7, extra urban 57.7, combined 47.9 (50 litre tank); CO2 137g/km; three year/60,000 mile warranty.

© Wheelwrite 2013

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