The new Dacia Sandero at €12,990 may be Ireland’s cheapest new car but you wouldn’t think it judging by its exterior styling. The Sandero has been a huge sales success across Europe with over 1.3m sales due in the main to its “Shockingly Affordable” asking price. The five-door Sandero is Dacia’s cheapest model priced to compete with much smaller ‘city cars’. A quick glance at the second generation hatchback and you’d be easily forgiven for thinking it was a supermini – up against the likes of VW’s nineteen grand Polo and others.
The new Sandero is built on the Renault/Nissan Alliance CMF modular platform. This means the new Sandero is bigger and can feature ADAS safety technology like blind spot warning, emergency brake assist, parking sensors and hill start assist. A host of exterior bodywork design creases and smarter light clusters help deliver what I can best describe as a “That’s not a Dacia?!” styling. New ‘Y-shaped’ LED lights running lights housed in the headlight clusters give the Sandero an instant street presence that you would not expect in a budget offering. The Sandero’s new ‘auto’ headlights are brighter than the original and this is good news. From all angles the outside design looks perfectly acceptable – so there is no need to park it around the corner. So it is clear the exterior punches above its weight but what about inside? It’s been completely redesigned with more attention given to the materials used and how the driver interacts with the car. The steering has better adjustment and there are new seats – that are actually comfortable. The cabin is thankfully quieter too.
As you’d expect from a new platform there is more cabin space. Rear seat passengers get 42mm more legroom over the previous models, that’s best-in-class. The boot is bigger too at 328 litres and there is more occasional storage space – up to 21 litres throughout the cabin. The rear seats can split and fold to increase cargo capacity to 1,108 litres. The cabin is bright and quite basic with seating for up to five. The new dash and its layout is a vast improvement on the original. Manual window winders (or windy-windows as most older Irish buyers call them) hint at the no frills, keep the price low attitude the designers had In mind. Unlike the old car if you run your fingers along out of sight areas of the trim, you won’t cut yourself. The side mirrors are manually adjusted and this saves on the added weight and cost of electric motors.
The entry model’s sound system is out of sight – not in the ‘brilliant’ sense but the literal – you cannot see it! The controls are on the steering and there is a very handy phone holder (Media Control Smart Phone Dock) on the dash and close by USB socket. If a smartphone isn’t connected, radio and USB playback are available, with a display located between the dials with functions controlled via the steering wheel buttons. This simplistic approach to connectivity has to be applauded as it works well and costs next to nothing. With Sandero you can see how thought went in to keeping the cost of the car’s production so low.
The ‘three cylinder’ Euro 6D emissions compliant three engine range features a 1 litre 65hp ‘SCe’, more powerful turbo-charged 1 litre 90hp ‘TCe’ (new CVT automatic) and a six-speed manual Bi-Fuel 100hp turbo-charged 1 litre TCe that can run on either petrol or LPG from its two fuel tanks.
The Sandero has modest power and while a higher speed motorway run can be frustrating, in urban areas the car is perfectly adequate. You can nip about quite easily with an active right foot and frequent use of the five-speed manual’s 2nd, 3rd and 4th gears. Use the Sandero with restraint as most buyers will do and reasonable fuel consumption and emissions are possible. LPG (liquid petroleum gas) is a forgotten fuel in Ireland but popular in some European markets as it offers running cost savings. Finding an LPG filling pump is not that easy in Ireland but its good for some buyers to have the option. Dacia says it is the only car manufacturer to offer LPG and petrol Bi-Fuel options across its entire range of passenger cars. The cars are converted in the factory (so you still have some boot space!), guaranteeing safety and reliability with the LPG tank located in the spare wheel well and filling nozzle next to the petrol filler. This means there is no compromise in practicality. Dacia says “Running on LPG, the All-New Sandero Bi-Fuel releases on average 11% less CO2 emissions than an equivalent petrol engine”. This version gets a 50 litre petrol tank (the same capacity as the tank on petrol-only variants) and a 40 litre LPG tank.
On the road the new Sandero makes the most of its greater chassis rigidity and new suspension. It has vastly better handling than the original Sandero’s but still cannot hide its modest components when driven with any enthusiasm. Cornering will attract body roll but nothing too alarming. In all fairness most budget car buyers don’t look at the Sandero as a GTI substitute. Three cylinder engines are always eager to please and feel lively about town. The Sandero will deliver reasonable performance but you will need to work the gearbox and use anticipation to maximise progress. With its very low price point in my mind I really liked driving the Sandero and this is what most owners will feel too.
Irish buyers have embraced the Renault owned Romanian brand in a relatively short period of time with over 10,000 customers to date. The new Sandero, priced from just €12,990, is available in Essential and Comfort grades (eight-inch MediaNav centre display and wireless CarPlay/Android Auto) and comes with a three year, 100,000km warranty and roadside assistance. Residual values of the original have defied car badge snobs who believed they’d drop like a stone, when its is in fact, quite the contrary. The new Sandero with its vastly improved exterior design and no nonsense interior means it will be very popular with those on a budget who want a new car.