Dacia Sandero Hatchback (2016 - ) review
The Sandero is a family sized hatchback that’s based on proven Renault mechanical components. It’s not the most cultured of motors, but it scores an A+ for affordability.
The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.5
By modern family hatchback standards, the Sandero falls short on refinement, material quality and driving pleasure, but it is truly incredible value for money. Providing spacious, airy and comfortable accommodation, alongside affordable running costs and a three year 60,000-mile warranty, it allows those constrained by a tight budget to delight in the experience of owning a brand new car.
- Amazingly cheap to buy and run
- Far more spacious than similarly priced city cars
- More comfortable than you might expect
- Utilitarian cabin finish
- Poor refinement
- Cheapest model is very basically equipped
Interested in buying a Dacia Sandero?
How good does it look?
Select the entry-level Sandero, called Access, and you can have it in any colour you like, providing it’s white. It also gets industrial grade dark plastic bumpers front and rear, and as such, does look a bit like something a courier company would employ. Adding a dash of modernity, the latest cars get a fresh lighting theme that includes Dacia’s signature daytime running lights, featuring a quartet of Oxo-cubed incarcerations in each cluster.
From second-rung Ambiance trim upwards (which is still amazingly cheap), you get a more extensive colour chart to choose from and body-coloured bumpers. It’s amazing how much a full coat of paint and a splash of chrome ups the levels of sophistication. It’s worth noting that only the dearest models have alloy wheels as standard: they are options on Ambiance trim and of course, being a Dacia, they are encouragingly affordable.
What's the interior like?
The latest upgrades to the Sandero include a posher looking, softer feeling, four-spoke steering wheel, with integrated control buttons for cruise control and speed limiter buttons on higher Laureate versions. But don’t get too revved-up, as it still only moves up and down and provides zero in and out adjustment. While the seat materials feel robust rather than plush, a splash of satin paint around the air-vents and centre console, and a dab of chrome on the door release handles helps lift the overall interior ambience. There’s a holster-style pocket on the side of the front passenger seat to stop your mobile from flying around the cabin, while further back, as well as a 12-volt power socket, there’s a useful bottle holder located in the rear of the centre console.
Overall, although we’re obviously not talking Volkswagen Group quality, in much the same way as the exterior, the interior of the Sandero looks reasonably smart and modern, but it pays not to look too closely as the quality of the plastics is nothing to write home about.
How practical is it?
As well as being big on value, the Sandero is big on space. There’s plenty of room up front and those in the rear – especially if they are familiar with being crammed into the rear of a supermini – will feel like they’ve won the lottery thanks to generous head-, leg- and elbow-room. What’s more, because the Sandero has such large side windows, it feels even bigger than the tape measure suggests. Judged by supermini standards, the boot is pretty capacious too, at 320 litres, although that figure falls a fair bit short of the 380 litres you’ll find in a Volkswagen Golf. While flipping the 60/40 split rear seat backs frees up a useful 1200-litres of load space, the backs of the seats don’t fold entirely flat, so you’re left with a pronounced step in the load area.
What's it like to drive?
The Sandero’s underpinnings are not the most sophisticated, and although it’s a fairly comfortable thing to swan around in, the body control is on the sloppy side and the suspension sounds quite clattery when encountering lumps and bumps around town. There’s also a fair bit of roll in corners to contend with, and because the steering is especially slow, you have to give it a good old tug well in advance when you want to change direction. No matter which engine you choose, a fair bit of mechanical row comes through the Sandero’s engine bay bulkhead and overall, the cabin sounds quite open to the elements, so you’ll also have to put up with a fair bit of wind- and road-noise when you get up to motorway speeds.
How powerful is it?
The good news is that Dacia sources its engines from Renault and it is first in the queue for the 74bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine. The bad news is, because of the Sandero’s fundamental lack of sound proofing, the engine always sounds pretty darn vocal. Emitting an obvious three-cylinder crackle from the get-go, it gets increasingly shouty when worked hard. Despite the obvious noise, and a fair bit of discernable vibration both through the pedals and the steering wheel, to its credit, it makes a fair fist of dragging the Sandero along at a respectable pace. The other petrol option is a three-cylinder 0.9-litre turbo unit which makes 89bhp. Obviously, it’s stronger than the 1.0 and pulls very keenly from low revs, but the power delivery does tend to stutter from time to time. The 89bhp 1.5-litre diesel is the brawniest of the bunch, and is capable of a surprising turn of pace when required. However, it will add a fair bit of cash to your invoice and it’s very noisy, both at idle and when worked hard.
How much will it cost me?
Naturally, it’s the purchase price that grabs all the headlines, and rightly so. This is the UK’s cheapest car – costing significantly less than models from other so-called ‘budget’ brands, such as Kia, Hyundai and Suzuki. Such low purchase prices also mean depreciation is not that huge, while all the engines promise good fuel economy. The diesel-engined models even emit around the 90g/km CO2 mark, making them very affordable company cars, and all models –especially the 1.0-litre petrol powered versions – command encouragingly low insurance groupings.
How reliable is it?
Dacia may be a relatively unknown brand in the UK, but its cars are based on proven Renault technology. In short, we don’t expect any unforeseen problems from the Sandero. For anyone who doesn’t share that view, longer warranties are available, extending the standard three years’ cover to five or seven years.
How safe is it?
Although all models come with full electronic stability control, we don’t consider the four airbag tally sufficient in this day and age. Also, the four-star crash rating the Sandero achieved is rather disappointing, especially when you consider how closely parent company Renault works with EuroNCAP, and how most modern small family hatchbacks have no problem achieving a maximum five stars.
How much equipment do I get?
As you might expect, the cheapest Access trim is very basic indeed. There’s no seat height adjustment even on the driver’s side, you’ll need to wind the windows up and down manually and it’s also only available in white. Ambiance is not much dearer, but brings a host of desirable kit, including air-conditioning, electric front windows, remote central locking, Bluetooth and a CD stereo with Aux and USB inputs. You also get chrome rings around the air vents and dials. Stepping up to the top Laureate trim adds a height-adjustable driver’s seat, all-round electric windows, cruise control and rear parking sensors.
Clearly, the Sandero is not the most refined car and it’s certainly not big on frills, or thrills, but it does offer plenty of space, the reassurance of a comprehensive three-year-warranty, and phenomenal affordability, so it’s difficult not to think of it as an absolute bargain. We’d suggest going for the Ambiant trim to get the added comfort of air-conditioning. Not only will you recoup a fair chunk of your additional outlay, it’ll also make your Sandero a lot easier to dispose of come resale time.