When it was launched, the Dacia Sandero was the cheapest car in the UK. This ‘bargain basement’ stigma has stuck to Dacia’s supermini-sized five-door hatchback ever since, with some unkind reviewers referring to it as little more than a ‘box on wheels’. We’ve discovered there’s much more to the Dacia Sandero than meets the eye. Its stylish looks, impressive practicality and Renault underpinnings make it a worthy competitor in its class.
With an exterior that has more than a passing resemblance to the Renault Clio it’s based on, the Dacia Sandero looks more upmarket than in its previous incarnations. And is far from the cheapest-looking car in the (virtual) shop window.
A handsome front-end, featuring slimmer headlights and an updated grille, gives the car a much-needed hint of aggression, while its tapered roofline and raised rear haunches lend it a stylish, if functional, look.
With an exterior that has more than a passing resemblance to the Renault Clio.
What’s it like to drive?
While it’ll come as no surprise to learn the Dacia Sandero is far from the most thrilling car to thread along your favourite B-road, it handles pretty well when stacked up against its nearest rivals. Thanks to its relatively soft suspension, the Sandero irons out rough, pitted surfaces, while decent levels of grip and nicely weighted steering do a good job of negotiating higher-speed corners.
This is a car that’s always going to be more at home in town, where its compact size is perfect for squeezing down narrow streets and getting into tight parking spaces. The Sandero’s peppy engine and pliable, refined ride mean that motorway journeys shouldn’t be a problem – although we wouldn’t recommend it for a cross-Europe dash.
It handles pretty well when stacked up against its nearest rivals.
When it comes to the driving position, Dacia has got the basics just right. A height-adjustable driver's seat comes as standard on all models, so getting comfortable behind the wheel shouldn’t pose much of a problem. All the instrument dials and dashboard controls are clear and easy to see from the helm and, thanks to thin front windscreen pillars, there’s a good view out.
The Sandero’s Essential trim includes, well, the essentials - manual air-con, front electric windows, a stereo system with DAB radio, and...that’s about it. The Comfort versions offer a wider array of features, including Dacia’s MediaNav 7-inch touchscreen with built-in sat-nav and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with smartphone mirroring. The optional Comfort Pack adds an upgraded steering wheel and front centre armrest.
While the interior suffers from a surplus of hard plastics, the Sandero’s build quality is in line with pricier rivals. It’s well screwed together and entirely functional, with some pleasingly tactile trim inserts livening up the cabin’s somewhat stark, utilitarian feel.
The Sandero’s interior space belies its exterior dimensions. As it’s quite a broad car for its class – measuring 1.7 metres wide – there’s a surprising amount of room inside the cabin, with 3 normal-sized adults able to fit along the rear seats. Head and legroom up front is on a par with rivals, and comfort levels are generally good.
There’s a decent amount of space for wallets, phones and loose change in the passenger cabin too, with a large glovebox, reasonably sized door bins and a couple of cupholders standard across the range. The Sandero’s boot space is generous, with enough room to take a couple of carry-on suitcases and shopping bags.
For larger loads you can drop the 60-40 split rear seat, which creates as much space as you’d get in a compact van. Most impressive when you consider the Sandero’s supermini-sized dimensions.
Running costs and reliability
The Dacia Sandero offers great value in the small five-door hatchback class. Thanks to its low initial purchase price it will have lost considerably less in depreciation than its nearest rivals, and it’s relatively fuel-efficient as well.
The Sandero’s petrol-engined models – the TCe and the slightly less powerful 1.0-litre SCE –should return between 47 and 48.7mpg. The TCe 100 Bi-Fuel petrol and LPG engine should deliver 49.5mpg, and is perfect for longer trips due to the low cost of LPG. Carbon emissions figures for all models are in line with the competition.
Dacia has a good reputation for creating tough, no-nonsense cars that stand the test of time. Additionally, the Sandero uses reliable, proven mechanical parts from Renault that have been largely trouble-free, with any previous problems rectified by now.
What we love
We love the Dacia Sandero’s no-frills character. This is a car that doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is – namely a good-looking, deeply practical vehicle that will get you from A to B in safety and comfort. The Sandero is perfect for parents with small children and it has some great safety features as standard, including four airbags, stability control and Isofix child seat mountings. It’s cheap to run as well.
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Town and country drivers
The Sandero may be cheap, but it offers great value against other rivals in its class. It’s well-built, decently equipped and offers a more than acceptable driving experience. Yes, it may be a little basic for some. For practical motoring on a budget? The Dacia Sandero can’t be beaten.
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