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First drive: Dacia Sandero. Image by Dacia.

First drive: Dacia Sandero
Cheap yet surprisingly cheerful new Dacia Sandero makes a lot sense.

   



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| First Drive | Malaga, Spain | Dacia Sandero |

Overall rating: 4 4 4 4 4

Dacia's Sandero supermini is a refreshingly simple, honest and surprisingly enjoyable supermini - for city car money.

Key Facts

Model tested: Dacia Sandero Laureate TCe 90
Pricing: 8,795
Engine: 0.9-litre three-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, five-speed manual
Body style: five-door hatchback
Rivals: Hyundai i20, Kia Rio, Proton Satria Neo
CO2 emissions: 120g/km
Combined economy: 54.3mpg
Top speed: 109mph
0-62mph: 11.1 seconds
Power: 90hp at 5,250rpm
Torque: 135Nm at 2,500rpm

In the Metal: 4 4 4 4 4

Simple, plain lines and good proportions add up to a smart, inoffensively styled supermini that will age well. That's no bad thing when you consider many owners will hang onto it for a while. It might be cheap but it doesn't really look it, the headlamps and front grille not shouting penny pinching at all, nor do the neat rear lights. It's certainly not all flat stamped panel cost-cutting, the flanks having some crisp detail lines over the wheels and the boot lid nicely shaped, too.

It's a paragon of simplicity inside. There are obviously some Renault buttons and bits, but the material quality is higher than you'd imagine given the price. Sure, it's all fairly hard to the touch, but it looks good and the fit and finish is fine too. A smattering of chrome around the dials lifts the instrumentation in the otherwise workmanlike cabin. There's decent space, and a usefully sized boot, though the seats feel a bit light on padding.

Driving it: 4 4 4 4 4

The neat looks are a surprise, but then so too is the driving experience. Powered by Renault's three-cylinder 0.9-litre petrol engine you'd be forgiven for expecting little and being delivered less. That's simply not the case, as the 90hp engine is eager and surprisingly strong in its torque delivery, while the five-speed manual transmission features well considered ratios for the engine's output. It's peppy and enthusiastic up through the mid-range and remarkably refined too. Only above 4,000rpm does it get a bit vocal and even then it does so with that pleasingly characteristic off-beat growl that defines three-cylinder engines. Though it's a triple there's little vibration through the firewall and wind and road noise are both decently contained, too - at least at UK motorway speeds.

The suspension and relatively high side-walled tyres add up to a ride that's supple and forgiving, allowing the Sandero to smother bumps where others would jolt and jar. Ultimately the suspension is less sophisticated and controlled than you'll find in most superminis, but you'll happily trade off some accuracy and body control for the way the Sandero shrugs off lumps and bumps.

It's all refreshingly entertaining. The steering (an hydraulic power assisted set up), like the suspension, isn't the last word in accuracy, but turn the wheel and after the suspension takes up a bit of slack it turns in decently enough. It's all refreshingly old school and really rather entertaining in a perverse sort of way. The gearshift isn't the last word in speed and precision, either, but again it's not so bad it's notable, the Dacia's driving experience adding up to a whole that's far greater than the sum of its inexpensive parts would have you believe.

What you get for your Money: 4 4 4 4 4

While this 0.9-litre three-cylinder TCe 90 Laureate cannot match the 5,995 entry price of the very basically specified Access model powered by a 75hp 1.2-litre engine, it's still a sub-8,000 proposition. The specification includes air conditioning, cruise control with a speed limiter, a leather steering wheel, electric windows all round, electrically adjusted and heated door mirrors and a CD player with MP3, Bluetooth, USB and aux-in connection. Dacia also offers the opportunity to raise the standard three-year, 60,000-mile warranty to a five- or seven-year package.

Worth Noting

The Dacia Sandero has yet to be crash tested, though Dacia concedes it anticipates a three-star rating from the EuroNCAP. Even so, the Sandero does come with front and side airbags, ABS, Emergency Brake Assist, stability and traction control and ISOFIX anchor points in the rear seats for child seats.

Summary

Dacia is doing great business in the rest of Europe and it's not difficult to see why after experiencing the Sandero. It's simple, honest transport that's cheap to buy and run. That it's a decent drive, looks good and feels solidly built only adds to its low-cost appeal in these tougher economic times.


Kyle Fortune - 5 Dec 2012



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2013 Dacia Sandero. Image by Dacia.2013 Dacia Sandero. Image by Dacia.2013 Dacia Sandero. Image by Dacia.2013 Dacia Sandero. Image by Dacia.2013 Dacia Sandero. Image by Dacia.



2013 Dacia Sandero. Image by Dacia.
 

2013 Dacia Sandero. Image by Dacia.
 

2013 Dacia Sandero. Image by Dacia.
 

2013 Dacia Sandero. Image by Dacia.
 

2013 Dacia Sandero. Image by Dacia.
 

2013 Dacia Sandero. Image by Dacia.
 

2013 Dacia Sandero. Image by Dacia.
 






 

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