The Dacia Sandero has made a lot of headlines since it was launched earlier this year, but this our first chance to drive the real attention-grabbing model in the UK.
The Sandero Access comes with a 1.2-litre petrol engine and little else. However, with an asking price of just £5995 it isn't just the cheapest model in the Sandero range, it's the cheapest new car in Britain.
What's the 2013 Dacia Sandero 1.2 Access like to drive?
The Sandero 1.2 is competent, but no more than that. Around town the four-cylinder 74bhp petrol engine (borrowed from the Renault Clio) is surprisingly refined. In fact, at low revs it's a smoother companion than the three-cylinder turbocharged petrol motor that's available in higher-spec Sanderos.
Get up to speed, though, and the 1.2 engine becomes extremely vocal. At a 70mph cruise you'll be pulling not far off 4000rpm and there isn't a great deal of soundproofing, which makes matters even worse. Plenty of road- and wind noise gets the cabin, too.
The rest of the package is passable. The steering is reasonably direct and has a reasonable amount of feel by modern standards, but there's also a fair amount of body roll in corners. The relatively soft suspension set-up that's to blame for this does manage to cushion you from the worst potholes at low speeds, but it struggles to stop the car from bouncing around on faster, undulating roads.
The Sandero's claimed average economy of 48.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 135g/km compare unfavourably with those of rivals.
What's the 2013 Dacia Sandero 1.2 Access like inside?
If you don't like frills, you'll love the Sandero Access's cabin – which is to say that beyond a steering wheel, three pedals and a few switches for the heating and ventilation (not air-conditioning, which isn't even available as an option), things are decidedly bare. There's no central locking and all windows are manually operated. You don't even get a stereo.
Nor, it must be said, are the materials particularly luxurious. The dashboard is a hard one-piece moulding, and the centre console is a solid wall of grey (complete with blanked-off switches, as if to remind you that you're sitting in the cheapest edition).
The Sandero does well on space, though. It's roomy compared with most £13k superminis, let alone the city cars that come closest to the Dacia's price.
Four adults will be reasonably comfortable on longer journeys (there's loads of head-, leg- and shoulder-room) and the boot is larger than a Ford Fiesta's, at 320 litres. In this area, the Sandero has other sub-£10k cars completely trounced.
Should I buy one?
If you have six grand and not a penny more to spend and have your heart set on a brand-new car, the Sandero 1.2 is your only option. You needn't feel too bad about life if you end up choosing it, either, because you'll be getting an absurd amount of space and practicality for the money. The fact that the driving experience and cabin quality is a grade or two behind the class norm probably won't bother you too much.
Dacia history suggests, however, that buyers gravitate towards the more expensive models, and we'd do the same. Spend £600 to move up to Ambiance trim and you'll get Bluetooth and a CD player.
True, the 0.9-litre turbo engine makes the Sandero feel even more like a modern car and is more at home cruising at motorway speeds. However, it costs another £800 (12% more) than the equivalent 1.2, and we think that's too much of a premium at this end of the market.
What Car? says...
Our reviews are based on hard data and thorough testing in the real world.
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