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The Top Gear car review:Dacia Sandero
For:The value, just look at the value! It’s also big and surprisingly cheery
Against:Not great for design, quality, or crash safety
1.5 dCi Ambiance 5dr
What we say:
The cheapest new car you can buy. And, shocker, it's actually quite good
What is it?
Nothing more or less than Britain’s cheapest new car. And by a significant margin. The next step up the chain from the £5,995 Sandero is the much smaller and £1,000 (that’s 17 per cent) more costly Suzuki Celerio. You get a lot for your money with the Sandero. Well, a lot of metal. And a steering wheel. And some wiring for the stereo you’ll have to buy yourself.
Ostensibly a Romanian company, Dacia is in fact a Renault offshoot these days and has been selling cars across Europe for the last decade or more. Britain hasn’t had Dacias until fairly recently due to the conversion costs of right-hand drive, but a new plant in India (also a right-hand drive country) means the economies of scale are now in place.
Now be honest, you reckon it’s going to be dire, don’t you? It wears a Seventies price tag, so it’s going to drive like a Seventies car: British Leyland quality, dynamics and reliability. Wrong. It’s too early to comment on the latter, but we think it’ll be plenty robust. The mechanicals feel bomb-proof – well, apart from the five speed manual gearbox, which has a truly ropey shift action – but the engines do the job (the 1.5-litre diesel is smooth and pulls well) and the dynamics are, well, acceptable. It is a bit bouncy and the steering is vague, but at least it doesn’t do anything untoward. Small proviso – we haven’t yet driven the base model 75bhp petrol engine, but fear it might be a bit raucous and slow. Aside from that, the Sandero’s not exciting but it has a bit of honest charm to it.
On the inside
The same can be said of the cabin. It is kind of charming to get into such an unpretentious interior, one that’s so easy to understand and so simply laid out. No lane departure warnings here, no massage seats or radar cruise control, just… a car. Three pedals in the footwell, a steering wheel, some stalks, some controls for heating and the like and no chance of confusion. One of the most high-tech things could be the aftermarket stereo you have to fit to the base Access: no, it doesn’t have one as standard.
Overall it works, it’s cheap, tinny and brittle, but otherwise acceptable. And big. Four adults fit fine, the boot’s a good size and the doors are large. As many Brits are now finding out, who really needs any more for the money?
Dacia is a proven brand on the continent and is sold through all Renault’s 150-odd UK dealers. At which you will not be able to haggle. The price on the sticker is the price you pay – although you might find room for manoeuvre when it comes to options. And you will be wanting some of those, particularly on the price-leading Access. You can buy five or even seven-year extended warranties too, suggesting confidence in reliability. Last thought: it only has a three star EuroNCAP rating. Not good enough these days.