Dacia Sandero Ambiance 1.2

 

The new Dacia Sandero is the UK's cheapest car. But is it up to the job?

Price: £6,595
Engine: 1,149cc, four cylinders, 16 valves, 75bhp
Transmission: Five-speed gearbox, front-wheel drive
Performance: 97mph, 0-62 in 14.5sec, 47.9mpg, CO2 137g/km

The new Dacia Sandero, built by a Renault-owned company in Romania, is the cheapest proper new car you can buy in the UK. It costs from £5,995, for which you get a five-door hatchback with power steering, decent looks and a three-year warranty.

I must tell you, however, that this low-priced wonder isn't quite the car you see here. There are three trim levels of Sandero – five if you include two Stepway versions with a hint of crossover SUV about them – and the pictured example is in the top Laureate trim. Not only that, the pictured model also has a high-tech, three-cylinder engine producing 90bhp from its turbocharged 0.9 litres, a new engine already seen in the latest Clio.

This Laureate 0.9 TCe 90 costs £8,795, with a further £1,000 required to change the engine to a 1.5-litre diesel with the same power. Suddenly it doesn't seem quite so cheap, and the point of the top-range model seems lost when more sophisticated superminis can be found around this price after a discount.

The Sandero to have, then, is surely the super-cheap one. So, what do you not get? Paint on the bumpers, full covers on the steel wheels, electric windows, central locking, chrome trim around the dashboard, any form of radio, any paint colour other than white. This is truly the anti-materialism model.

However, that this version exists largely as a headline-grabber, and will probably find few takers, is obvious when you discover that a middle Ambiance model, with the same 1.2-litre engine with four cylinders and 75bhp, is just £600 more. Now you get all the items listed as missing above, with only electric mirrors and rear windows, cruise control, driver's seat-height adjustment and air-conditioning standing between this one and the Laureate at another £1,400.

That's the stall set out. What is the Sandero actually like? Could you live with one as part of an economy drive? The Laureate TCe 90 has the same hard dashboard and door trims as the lesser versions, and similarly cheap-feeling switchgear. However, it is acceptable to drive, its turbo engine pulling smoothly, the ride and handling adequate, though sometimes the motion gets choppy, and the more enthusiastically you take a corner, the less responsive the steering.

Then there's the Stepway, offered for test with the turbodiesel engine and giving zestier pace at the price of annoying engine vibrations. The black-plastic wheel-arch extensions, the roof rails and the slightly raised ride height give a convincing look of a faux-4x4, which comes across as more fun, but making your Sandero a Stepway adds another £600. That's fine, but where on the press launch were the cheap Sanderos that everyone wanted to drive?

Nowhere, it seemed, until I made an arrangement with a French Renault representative who managed to find a 1.2 Ambiance – the £6,595 one. It looks the same as the Laureate outside, while the inside is much improved by its two-tone dashboard, which is a lot more cheerful.

The engine lacks the liveliness of the turbo-charged three-cylinder, but has enough energy not to be a liability on a busy road, while the fact that this engine weighs less causes this Sandero both to ride more light-footedly and steer more crisply. I'd go so far as to say it's good fun to drive, with that loping quality small French cars used to have.

In fact, I'd say it's the version to have: there's an honest simplicity about it that is oddly calming – you don't worry about features when you don't have them.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

    £22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

    Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

    £14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones