Dacia Sandero Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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Wednesday 4th October


What is it like to drive?

The Sandero is only available with the one engine option these days: the ‘TCe 90’ turbocharged 1.0-litre with 89bhp, twinned with a six-speed manual gearbox. There is no diesel, because diesels are complicated and expensive, but you can instead try the ever so slightly more powerful (but no faster) ‘Bi-Fuel’ version - which allows the 1.0-litre turbo to run on LPG stored in a tank located where the spare wheel would otherwise have been. The CVT auto appears to have been deleted.

However, the TCe 90 in the regular Sandero is just fine. With a 0-62mph figure of 11.7 seconds in manual guise, it is far from fast. However, there’s something to be said for wringing out what little power there is on a motorway sliproad, and there’s a level of entertainment to be found in selecting the right ratio on the rare occasion you get a sniff of an overtake.

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It sounds like you’re overselling it…

You’re right, this isn’t a driver's car by any stretch of the imagination. But when you’ve got so little power under your right foot, you become less interested in gathering momentum and more focused on maintaining the momentum you’ve already got. And that’s, y’know, an interesting way to drive.

We digress. This latest Sandero feels peppier than the old car. Whether that’s down to a recalibration or shorter gearing (the previous gen only ever had a five-speed gearbox, whereas the new car has six) isn’t clear.

Is 89bhp enough power for me to get by?

Oh it’s more than enough power for the day-to-day, with no annoying peaks or troughs in the power delivery (though it does run out of puff at the top end), it doesn’t make too much noise and the noise it does make isn’t unpleasant. The new gearbox is a bit whiny but smooth and easy-going. And the brakes work (which may be a relief to some given the price). 

Cornering isn’t the least bit sporty either, of course. The Sandero rolls, but the steering is light and easy and the ride copes well enough with Britain’s uniquely terrible B-roads. It’s very easy to drive smoothly, despite a hazy clutch pedal and poor throttle calibration.

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Understood. There must be some nasty surprises in a car this cheap?

You’d think so, but there aren’t really. It’s a tidy, comfy, grown-up car to potter around in with a deal more finesse than its price tag would suggest. Even works on the motorway, where the new Sandero is noticeably more refined and stable than the old one. Bit of wind noise sure, but nothing the radio won’t drown out.

Dacia says the new, more rigid platform and new engine mounts mean fewer vibrations are transmitted into the cabin. It’s quieter in there too, thanks to more sound-deadening materials and better aerodynamics. While there is still more road and tyre noise than you’d get in a Fiesta or Polo, it really isn’t bad.

Highlights from the range

the fastest

Dacia Sandero 1.0 TCe Bi-Fuel Essential 5dr
  • 0-6211.1s
  • CO2112.0g/km
  • BHP100
  • MPG53.3
  • Price£8,870

the cheapest

Dacia Sandero 1.0 SCe Access 5dr
  • 0-6215.1s
  • CO2114.0g/km
  • BHP73
  • MPG55.4
  • Price£6,770

the greenest

Dacia Sandero 1.5 Blue dCi Essential 5dr
  • 0-6211.9s
  • CO298.0g/km
  • BHP95
  • MPG62.7
  • Price£10,390

Variants We Have Tested

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