First Drive : Dacia Sandero 0.9 TCe

AROnline and its merry band of readers seems to have adopted the Dacia Sandero as one of its own. As Britain’s cheapest new car weighing in at just £5995, it has a lot going for it – and if it has flaws, they’re forgivable for the money. Aren’t they?

John Slavin, Honest John

The Dacia Sandero takes the title of being Britain’s cheapest new car, priced from just £5995. It continues a long tradition of little-known manufacturers making a big splash with a small price tag: Perodua’s Nippa, Kelisa and Myvi models have all previously been Britain’s cheapest.

Those in the know will tell you that Dacia is Renault’s budget brand – think of it in the same way that Tesco has its ‘Value’ range. It occupies the space left as Hyundai, Kia and Skoda have focused more on value rather than list price, moved upmarket and got increasingly more expensive. Dacia keeps costs down by using proven Renault parts and it’s no surprise to see familiar Renault features inside and under the bonnet. Just like Dacia did with the Denem back in the 1980s.

The Sandero itself is about the size of a Ford Fiesta or Volkswagen Polo (which you’ll pay at least £9795 and £10,420 for respectively). Astonishingly, that makes the entry-level Sandero 0.9-litre Access model 40 per cent cheaper than the mainstream alternatives. But you’ll have to do without some modern car features that many buyers have come to see as ‘essential’.

So there’s no radio, no air conditioning and your arms will get a work-out with the all-round wind-up windows. But austerity isn’t imposed and other trim levels are more generous – Ambience is the next level up (priced from £6595) and comes with electric front windows, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, CD-player with USB compatibility, remote central locking and body-coloured bumpers.

What’s most impressive is that there’s more to the Sandero than just a headline grabbing price. Inside it’s roomy, with decent headroom and, at 320-litres, a reasonably large boot. But, you do have to remember that rear legroom is tight (though fine for kids) and all but the top models do without an adjustable steering wheel. Over time, that could become a false economy.

So where’s the catch? Well it’s clear to see where some costs have been cut, though this all adds to the no-frills honesty. Where other manufacturers spend millions to hide the bits they don’t want you to see, Dacia doesn’t, which is why the Sandero is so cheap. Inside, the plastics are hard and the layout is functional. Everything is clear and simple, but the switches don’t have the same precision as they do in more expensive, but smaller, rivals like the Volkswagen Polo or Up.

Cost cutting is evident in a more important area. The rest of the Dacia range only scores a middling three stars in Euro NCAP safety crash tests and while the new Sandero is yet to be tested, the brand is only aiming for three stars this time around. That said, Euro NCAP always tests the basic model, which doesn’t get the active safety measures often seen in higher trim levels, like the electronic speed limiter fitted to the top Sandero model. However, all models in the Sandero range do come with ESC stability control and four airbags as standard.

Performance from the 900cc TCe petrol engine is ideal for those who do the majority of their driving around town, with a good amount of low-down torque. For the size of the car and engine, the 0-60mph time of 11 seconds and top speed of 109mph aren’t bad at all and at lower speeds, it feels quicker than these figures suggest. This engine really suits the character of the car and it feels equally at home on motorways, twisting roads and built up areas. It’s a quiet engine and only makes a lot of noise at higher engine speeds – on the motorway the most audible noise is the wind rushing around the screen.

Another bonus for town driving is the light steering and, while it will roll in corners is it’s pushed a little, it does have a good ride. The simple suspension set up should be well suited to soaking up the lumps, bumps and potholes that are so common on British roads. The only real quibble is the slightly notchy and imprecise gear change.

Official fuel economy is acceptable, rather than impressive, with an official figure of 54.3mpg and emissions of 116g/km. That places it in VED band C, which equates to a free tax disc in the first year and currently a £30 annual bill afterwards.

The range also features a low-tech but well proven 1.2-litre petrol engine, which would be okay for short trips, plus a 1.5-litre diesel. It’s the cheapest new diesel on the market and falls into a low tax bracket thanks to 99g/km CO2 emissions. Official fuel economy is 74.3mpg but it just doesn’t feel as accomplished as the little 900cc three-cylinder, which is the pick of the range.

The Laureate model, which is the top trim level, gets front and rear electric windows, electric mirrors, cruise control, satellite navigation and air conditioning. It’s competent enough but at this price it edges a little close to more well-known rivals like the admittedly smaller Kia Picanto. To get the best value from the Sandero we’d go for the £7,395 0.9 TCe Ambience with electric windows, remote central locking and USB/aux-in for audio.

Additionally, if you really can make do with a very spartan cabin and you want simple, white-goods transport (literally, it’s the only colour for base models) with the benefit of new car reliability and warranty then there’s a good case for the basic Access model. While it lacks a radio it comes with pre-wiring, so a £50 Halfords CD-player will slot straight in. For the price there’s nothing on the new market to match it for space.

Compared to more well known models, the Dacia Sandero is a passable car. It lacks polish and feels a little old fashioned, but if you add the low prices it offers it’s easy to forgive its flaws. Add to that some inexpensive finance deals and the Sandero makes a compelling case for itself.

Keith Adams


  1. The £6595 version will probably be the best seller of the range. Has the ‘mod cons’ and ‘wireless’. I wonder if Captain Slow will punt in his Panda for one?

  2. Too right, scrapes won’t show, lower ins group too. I really do believe it’s a brand to take seriously, they struggled to satisfy demand in France and some EU countries when Duster was launched, waiting list that would get the so-called upmarket German brands green with envy… I’d get one if I had a parking space at work, they’re win-win all the way thru the bank, after 3 yrs they’ll be worth something, I guess at least 2k, so losing 4K after 3 yrs isn’t that bad, that’s what a Fiesta loses when one clocks the first mile after leaving the showroom…
    YEP, A WIN-WIN CAR, That will be the Dacia…

  3. Not for me,even if i was unemployed i’d put the wife on the game first before buying one of these.Its not the worst car around by any measure,but i would never buy a new car again anyway.

  4. Renault mechanicals are pretty tough, only automatic gearboxes and electrical items ruin Renaults reliability in general. Thankfully things the £5995 version has precious little of.

  5. This would probably very good for someone who needs a car or a 2nd car in the family to commute a reasonable distance to work, for around town and keep for maybe 5-6 years. With the lower pay of many in the UK and Europe, many will have to move down to a lower priced car and this could be their answer vs. buying used.

  6. I know the saloon version of this car as the Renault Logon Taxies on the streets of Moscow.

    Simple they are, but they appear tight and sound after 200km of fighting on Moscow roads.

    Like Keith I would want a basic one as that is what this car is about. I don’t mind having to wind windows up and down or even central locking, but I will miss air con and disappointed thats not on the mid range cars.

  7. I think this will do well – mainly due to its honesty and the fact that Dacias are tough as old boots.

    Just because everyone else has moved upmarket it does not mean that the market for simple transport has gone.

    Would I buy one – no – because its just not my kind of car – I ‘need’ something big and luxurious. However, it would have been prefect for my mum!

  8. @10 Andrew Elphick,

    Why? From the sounds of it, a 0-60 in 11 seconds and a quiet engine (according to the review) seems very credible to me. These cars are not likely to be used as front-line Police cars (well, not just yet- wait for the Police budgets to really start to bite), nor by 21 year old wannabe Sebastian Loebs.

    For the typical demographic that tends to buy cars of this ilk, ie retirees and older drivers, young female drivers, second cars- who are never likely to see the rev counter needle go beyond 65% of its travel range (apart, obviously, from pensioners trying to inch their way into a parking spot for which valve-bouncing the engine is essential), 900cc seems very adequate.

    This car sounds very credible as a budget runabout- I think it will do very well indeed.

  9. Re my last post,

    Also bear in mind that insurance premiums for young females will rise greatly due to EU regs eliminating the sexual disparity between insurance costs- so a small engined car like this would most likely prove much cheaper to insure than, say, a 2 year old 1.4 Polo.

  10. I don’t see the point of this car, buying new means throwing tons of money away on depreciation, however cheap the car is. If you care about money, you buy secondhand. With a budget of £6000 you could get a far better used car than the Dacia, and if you pick one three or four years old, you won’t have many problems.

  11. I NEVER like 3 cylinder cars, and EVERYTHING that renault makes these days is atrocious the instant the warranty expires (often even before)

    There is still a lot to be said for cost and ease of repairs and it is even better if the car in question needs very few repairs.

    This is why I would still plump for the fiesta if repair cost was the issue and probably the yaris if reliability was the main thing.

    By either of these a year or 2 old for the same cost as a new sandero and you will be MUCH better off.

    French cars (with the exception of the older psa stuff up to around 2002) are terrible.

  12. @13 – Another of those daft “I dont see the point” comments when it is blindingly obvious that there is a point. Its cheap. People want cheap cars – waiting lists in other European market exceed those of Audi/BMW etal – there is obviously a point – even if you dont want one.

  13. The interior reminds of of our Getz, and the overall package is reminiscent of the old Felicia.

    Would we get one as the 2nd car?
    I’m in two minds. I like the price and the no-nonsenseness of it, however it could also end up being a 21st century Lada.

  14. @15

    Yes Paul, you are right. it is cheap. Thats a given.

    The point that both bartelbe and I both make is that it’s crap!

    There are many better things out there for £6000

    As an example you could get a mint condition, well loved rover 75 as your daily smoker AND an old land rover disovery or mint condition suzuki jimny as your winter car / play thing / off roader to keep the other one could, and STILL have CHANGE out of £6000

    Which is better?

  15. … So I bet Clio alloys slot straight on.. And Maplins finest central locking pumps fitted.. Cuz lets face it, not having central locking is just a pain now we’ve all got used to it…

    Base model + CD player + 2nd hand alloys + central locking = Happy Motoring.

    I’ll just add.. The alloys aren’t for show (though, they’d obviously be a nice upgrade)… I’m guessing base spec steels are skinny?… Wider rubber’s a must for any motorway driving,

  16. Ha.. you could even spray a rough set of clio alloys in that plastic effect “plastidip” rattle can paint and have them match the poverty spec bumpers..

  17. @17

    But with a second hand 75 and Disco you wont get any form of warranty, nor guarantee that you aren’t just inheriting someone else’s headaches.
    Not too bad for a petrolhead, but some people just want a new car that goes, and are a bit intimidated by garages.

  18. I’m impressed with the 11 second 0 – 60..
    That’s the same as a mk1 Fabia with the 16v 100hp 1.4…

  19. @19, Dr Bobby Love,

    I don’t see why wider tyres would give any real advantage to a car like this for motorway driving. Indeed in the wet and on ice and snow skinnier tyres in theory have an advantage in that there is more weight concentrated on a smaller contact patch so less chance of aquaplaning, etc, especially when braking. In the dry, wider tyres would have some slight advantage for braking, but on a car like this, which isn’t likely to be driven in the way that Civic Type Rs are, it would hardly be worth the extra insurance expense of modifying it- not to mention higher rolling resistance increasing fuel consumption.

    There is a good reason why rally cars use super skinny tyres for ice and snow.

    Apart from fitting a stereo, it makes sense to keep this car as standard as possible.

  20. True will, but you could just get some AA breakdown repair cover, and if you buy a known good car (say off a friend or neighbour) you shouldn’t have that much to worry about anyway.

    PLUS – with the savings of not going to the main stealer for servicing you can pay for your aa breakdown repair cover or a warranty from warranty direct or the like.

  21. Oh and another thing –

    If one of your 2 vehicles breaks down, at least you have another one you can jup into and drive 🙂

  22. Just checked out the manufacturers website- first page I tried to load from the homepage came up with a 404, but otherwise seems pretty good, if, like the car, somewhat spartan and workmanlike.

    Still, they are to be commended on actually listing specification points, such as turning circle, drag coefficient, even if they don’t then actually tell you what they are- they just leave it blank. The way most car makers websites work is that you wait forever for the ‘interactive’ home page to load, then try in vain to find answers to basic spec issues. To which the response is usually one of ‘We can see you are trying to gain basic spec data, so here instead is a picture of a happy family driving through mountains’… These other manufacturers intend to make gaining any meaningful information from their websites such a painfully frustrating waste of your time that presumably, you go to their dealer for information. In theory at least. God knows how many lost sales and bad will poorly thought-through websites cause.

  23. @17 Problem with that approach is the insurance bill. I remember watching some TV programme where a young lad wanted to buy his first car. He was looking at a Corsa, Fiesta, usual sort of thing. That odd looking Dominic Littlewood character then suggested with the same money he could have a decrepit Range Rover V8. Yes, a very sensible choice as a first car for an 18-21 year old Dom!

  24. @29 I have never heard one that runs really nicely

    @29 Classic insuranc eon the disco and buy a fiesta with the othrt £3000. Sorted?

  25. @30, Alan Mitchell,

    I’ve driven a Corsa, a Polo, and an Audi A2 diesel with 3 cylinder engines. The Audi was by far the most vocal, but was a very characterful engine nonetheless, and got the lightweight A2 moving with indecent haste. The other two were mildly warbly, muted, and pretty much as refined as most inline fours.

    As for your comments about buying a Disco and a 75, well even with classic insurance the running costs of either car (never mind both) would be far higher than this little Dacia. Both cars are far too large for many people, and thirsty too. The only people who would want to do as you suggest would be dedicated petrolheads who are prepared to be inconvenienced by the servicing and reliability issues of these cars, or who are handy enough to do their own basic servicing. By comparison, a new car like this (in theory) should be painless to own, with only scheduled services, and the likelihood of very good reliability and economy. And to many people, a brand new car of relatively modest abilities is considered a much better buy than a second hand car with better talents- I’d rather have the latter but each their own.

  26. Fair point Chris. Some people do like a new car.

    What about buying a 1 year old kia rio then, with the balance of the 7 year warranty remaing.

    Better car, same cost-ish

    And for the people worried about fuel prices on my classic car idea, swop 75 and discovery for a fiesta and a jimny

    Alternatively, if you want just one used car with £20 tax, then buy a daihatsu sirion 1.0se or a subaru justy 1.0

    Lots of the daihatsus will still have the balance of their 5 year warranty in place, and you can go to the toyota stealer to have it serviced if tou wish.

    Finally, if someone is STILL stupid enough to want a BRAND NEW car, go and buy a perodua myvi. It’s based on the daihatsu steak I mentioned above. Basically a toyota yaris for not much more money than that renault crap at the top of this page.

    Bye Bye Sandero

  27. Of the three-cylinder engines I’ve tried this is among the best, but it’s still got the familiar offbeat thrum when you’re accelerating, which I don’t particularly like – but that’s just my opinion, some love the ‘broken flat-six’ noise. It’s fairly quiet at a cruise or when idling though.

  28. The firm I work for gives us £4000 a year (£3000 after tax) and 45p/mile, for up to 10000 miles (roughly 32p after fuel cost. From there on we get 25p/mile (12p after fuel cost).For my use of 15,000 miles/year I thus end up with £6800/year.
    BUT….The car must be under 4 years old.
    Thus, the base model makes perfect sense to me, I would get paid £20,400 for it over 3 years.
    That’s why I drive a Chevrolet Aveo, bought nearly new for £5400 and took 11 months to pay for itself.I use the profits to support my older cars.
    That’s my case for thinking it has a place here and is on my list.

  29. It was interesting chatting to Mr Adams about Dacia, and I to share his views that it will sell. Surely you have noticedthe subliminal messages that Renault UK have been putting out for several years now over the pending Dacia launch. Do you actually think James May’s plugging of the brand is an accident? Nope, it’s product placement in the world’s biggest car show. I expect Renault to flood all the redtops with full page colour adverts very shortly, with large, headline grabbing prices, along with billboards. They are already using a very clever tagline ‘You do the maths’, as Renault know full well everyone is belt tightening

  30. @36 Yorkiebusdriver,

    You don’t happen to know the name of their publicity and marketing guru? There is a little-known Birmingham car import and basic assembly company that could use his input on the side- I’m sure Santa would give him a nice Chinese dinner and maybe some dim-sum too if he’s a very very good boy…

  31. To those people suggesting you get a 10 year old 75 / ZT instead of one of these, you seem to forget that the point of owning in acar is not walking or waiting for the AA.

    I had a ZT260 from new and despite the fact that is was loved and spoiled like no car i have ever owned, it was still the least reliable car I have ever owned which in 24 k had 5 roadside recoveries plus 6 other warranty claims.

    I don’t believe that 75/ZT are like wine and improve with age.

  32. @39 It wouldn’t be Austin Rover online if a Rover product was not suggested! 🙂

    Maybe they are a bit of a rotting cheese rather than a fine wine, but hey! I love mine and would buy another.

  33. The sweetest triple of all is in the Daihatsu Sirion and very nippy,this car will sell to the dead and dying and folk talk like it will set the sales chart alight-you must be on enough drugs to jump start the sixties,do you have any?

  34. The no frills £ 5995 version only comes with the 1.2 engine, which is far less complex than the 0.9. The 1.2 might be an ageing unit, but it is proven in Clios and Nissan Micras and has less to go wrong. Again another reason for someone who wants new car reliability at a very low price, wants 45-50 mpg and isn’t bothered about electric windows to buy the basic Sandero. This is the new Lada Riva, but with a 21st century driving experience.

  35. @44,Its Nissans own chain driven donkey in the micra,it shares front hubs and other nonsense with the clio though.

  36. One of these or a second hand clio? This i think. Cheap and cheerful and with parts that u can get ur hands on.

  37. Cheap no frills transport… if that’s what people want, this will fit the bill. Personally if I bought one (no intentions though), I would pay extra for the higher spec versions.

    I notice that the Sandero Access model only comes in solid white. According to Ford’s website, they now charge £200 extra for White paintwork on the Focus… and more for metallics.

  38. I put this on a another forum, but posting it here in case anyone from Dacia is listening. What chance of doing the Tesco value model with rubber mats on the floor and a full-length sunroof, please?

  39. I have seen photos of a Rover Streetdaft type Sandero, which is going to hit showrooms at £7995, complete with chunky alloys and tyres, jacked up suspension, and roof rails, plus black plastic lower skirts. It’s one version I do not like the look of to be honest

  40. @48, Jonathan Carling,

    Sort of like a modern-day Citroen 2CV?

    Trouble is, you can never really get the charm of an old-school Noddy Car (2CV/Dyane, Renault 4, Minor, etc) with modern plasticky cars. Citroen themselves tried it with the Visa Club back in the 80s- basic spec, 2 cylinder engine, etc, and apart from the characterful engine, it had none of the other talents of that car. And it looked pretty much like a 4 cyl Visa. I had one for a while- it was a pain in the arse. Didn’t hold the road like a 2CV (although it rolled like one), and looking as it did, nobody queueing up behind you understood why you had to hesitate at junctions unless there was enough space to slowly ease out and painfully build up speed.

    Of course, the Sandero wouldn’t have the performance impediment of the unlamented Visa Club (how many left? None I hope) but like that car, it would have even less of the cheerful charm of Old School Noddies.

  41. @14 totally agree.. If you were the sort of person that wants to save money on buying a cheap reliable car AND want mod cons, then you would probably be better off getting a 2-3 year old Toyota Yaris since a looked after example will still be as good as new AND would cost you the same price as a new Sandero. Even at 1 year old, a Yaris with mod cons will be worth the same as a mid range Sandero AND will still have warranty available.

    Sure there’ll be a market for those that want a cheap new (or is that old?) car but sensible people in the know, won’t go anywhere near it and head to the nearest used approved Toyota dealership.

  42. @48 Chris baglin – I had a Visa too, 1124cc Super E. Loved it but wished I’d had a 2cyl version! I thought at the time that not offering the Visa with a long roll-back roof was a missed opportunity. Don’t suppose Dacia will go down that route, but it would at least provide something different on the market!

  43. @53, Jonathan Carling,

    A Visa with a fabric roof would probably have split in two when the roof was rolled back! It didn’t have a separate (albeit flimsy) chassis, a la 2CV, so probably wouldn’t have been strong enough.

    The Visa Cabriolet needed an extra transverse cross bar as well as substantial strengthening of the area above the doors and windscreen.

  44. I think it will sell in the way Lada used to shift plenty of Riva’s, and probably to a similar clientele. Personally I would want aircon on any car I buy, otherwise am happy to have a no frills car for the daily commuting grind and something nice for fun, weekends, towing the caravan etc. However I can’t see why they cannot make a cheap car that is also fun to drive with decent handling etc. It costs no more to manufacture albeit may cost a bit more to engineer. Given a budget of £6-7k I would probably buy used Polo/Fiesta/Rio etc at auction but do see why people who are not remotely car enthusiasts will buy this. I can see the Duster 4×4 selling even better, its a hell of a lot of car and undercuts anything else in its class by quite a margin, even the Yeti doesn’t get close on the spec count albeit is much nicer to drive.

  45. I think the one big problem for me is that it is manufactured by reggie. It will be crap. Everything reggie makes turns to dust. Crap I tell thee!

  46. Every car turns to dust Mr Mitchell, and anything VAG makes nowadays is pants when it comes to quality and reliability, BMW reliability is not all it is cracked up to be, and Mercedes still haven’t got to grips with building cars of quality since the acountant/South African rotbox debacle either

  47. Re post 58, BMW still stick to rear wheel drive, even for the 1 series. This makes the driving experience interesting to say the least. For such a progressive car maker, they stick with technology most manufacturers abandoned for small cars in the early 80s.

  48. Agree with everything said in post 58. The 3 pointed star died with the last w124 if you ask me. Thing is though, NOTHING is as bad as reggie

  49. @58,Dynamics wise,BMW are almost peerless,i just dont like the cars much no more,i prefer the equivelant Mercedes,the C class just feels “right” the reliabilty issues surrounding these cars is mostly due to engine and engine sub-system problems almost unheard of twenty years ago,thats why in the near future diesels will have additive based exhaust after treatment instead of solely DPF’s.

  50. I’m from Colombia. I own a 2009 Sandero. Never got any trouble with it. Logans and Sanderos are very popular in third-world countries like Brazil, Egypt or India. Why?

    Well, they’re built tough, they have heavy duty suspensions, and the car itself is designed to be cheap to be made and cheap to mantain. That’s why they have old Clio engines, some pieces are shared with Micras and Twingos, and lacks lots of electrical gizmos. Dacia is going to sell Sanderos by the thousands at Britain.

  51. Francis @ 4 –

    As is the case with all super budget NEW cars. Something far superior, but not brand new, always seems the more desirable option. Your wife must be glad that you hold the same view!!

  52. @62: “Hmmm. Need a car? Only have £5995 to play with? Simples – 2nd hand Ford Focus…”

    Aside from a certain group of Meerkats wanting their hackneyed catchphrase back…

    “Need a car? Need to budget carefully and don’t have money to cover unexpected maintenance and bills?”

    If you’ve not got much cash for a car and are tempted by £99/month for a brand new car with a real manufacturer warranty, taking that same £99/month on a used car (which will need to be about five years’ finance) is going to feel like a REALLY bad move when you need to fork out several hundred pounds a year just replacing wear and tear items.

    If you’ve got £6K cash in hand, you may as well just spend £1000 and wait for the car to die (or maintain it properly). For the majority of users who treat cars as consumable, rationally and logically the Dacia makes considerably more sense.

    However, buyer perceptions of status, perceived quality, etc. – yeah, there will be a huge number of people who do consider the £6K used car a better choice for the pure reason that “it’s a better brand”. In the same way that Heinz beans sell at anything up to 10x the price of a tin of other beans.

  53. @56 – I had one of those – quite a handy little design, very clever. You could flip the forward section of the roof open.

  54. Having just test driven the 0.9 TCe Petrol model, it’s brilliant!!! Suits the car down to the ground, excellent pull and even a fun to drive. Captain slow would say it was ‘peppery’. I was ordering the diesel but in two minds now as the little three cylinder was so good!

    As to the ‘buy a used merc, vw, focus, etc,’ argument, that’s completely missing the point. Test drive one, then comment on the car. It’s as good as anything out there that is designed for the same market, it’s obvously not a merc 500sl, but it is as good as my vw golf I currently drive.

  55. I recently seriously considered the Sandero’s bigger brother the Logan. Tried all three, the 0.9 certainly was pokey enough in a reasonably sized car. Thing is, I like a few toys – not full electric everything but a few nice bits, and alloys. I was then looking at the Laureat top-of-the-line job. But the price was north of 11k for a new one, and nearly new were not much cheaper. Long story short, ended up with a nearly new (3 months) Astra J, less than 10k, all the toys of the Dacia and a much bigger car for the family. They are nice cars, but yes the lower spec ones are the ones that make the most sense if that’s what you’re after.

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