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First Drive: Dacia Sandero

By / 8 years ago / Road Tests / No Comments

Sector: Supermini Price: £5,995–£9,795 (Jan 2013) Fuel: 47.9–74.2mpg CO2: 99–137g/km

Dacia doesn’t really think the Sandero, a supermini it claims is the UK’s cheapest car, will be much of a fleet proposition, as it will lack the discounts and pack deals of other brands.

That might well be the case, but time will tell. After all, a good car at a keen price has generally found its way onto fleets one way or another, especially in times when businesses are looking for cost-effective motoring. So we shall see, because it’s actually a very good car, favouring function over frivolity, with clear, simple pricing policies and some useful engines.

Powering the Sandero are a choice of three units. The first, the 1.2 16V 75, is on offer with every trim level but too inefficient for fleets, while the more frugal, yet powerful, TCe 90 and dCi 90, can be had with both Ambiance and Lauréate styles.

The new three-cylinder TCe 90 with Stop/Start technology is capable of 109mph, with fuel economy of 54.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 120g/km, while higher mileage drivers may prefer the new dCi 90. This 1.5-litre diesel delivers 74.3mpg and 99g/km of CO2. These two engines also boast gearshift indicators and an ECO mode to limit engine torque.

Kicking off the Sandero range is the aptly named Access. At £5,995, few new cars come close for the same combination of price and space. But very few will see the road, I’d wager, with most drivers opting to spec up their cars to something a little more luxurious, as this model doesn’t even come with a radio.

For £600 more, the mid-level Ambiance includes radio CD player with fingertip remote controls, USB and AUX input, Bluetooth, remote central locking, electric front windows, body-coloured bumpers and 15” "Colorado" wheel trims.

The top-of-the-range Lauréate versions start from £7,995, but come with air conditioning, heated and electrically adjustable door mirrors, cruise control and electric rear windows as standard, while an optional fully-integrated 7-inch touchscreen navigation and multimedia system is £250.

Inside, some of the plastics are suitably cheap feeling, but it has one of the biggest boots in its class, at 320 litres or 1,200 litres with the rear seats down. As for the way it drives, well, the newer engines are willing enough, but the gearchange is notchy and it handles in a way that clearly illustrates it’s being held up by bits of Kangoo and previous-generation Clios.

Perhaps of more interest for the user-chooser on a budget is the Stepway version, which for £600 more than the equivalent Sandero, is sprinkled with a splash of style and sophistication. Sitting 40mm higher, with satin chrome roof bars and front and rear scuff plates, it is chunkier, and much more distinctive.

Dacia’s plan is to win a 1% share of the UK market this year, which means about 18,000-20,000 units of this bargain basement supermini, the slightly smarter Stepway version and the Duster SUV.

All Renault dealerships have signed up to sell the Dacia cars, which means that its network will hit the ground running with experienced people and good locations. Also, it looks like there will be some strong residuals too, thanks to the no-discount policy helping to keep confidence in process high, and Dacia’s view that retail owners will keep the cars a long time (being conservative swappers of their cars), which could mean a gentle trickle back onto the used market. The result might be some interesting leasing rates.

Verdict

Cheap to run, well-specced, spacious and comfortable, if fairly uninspiring to drive, Dacia's Sandero does exactly what it says on the tin. While fleets may not be ordering thousands of these things, there might be some useful job need/pool car roles for it in businesses after all.

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Steve Moody

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