The Dacia Sandero has been making plenty of headlines in 2013, thanks to the sensational value for money it offers.
However, this diesel model could work out even more affordable than the petrol versions, because it promises free road tax and at least 20 miles per gallon more.
Priced from 8395, the diesel costs 1800 more than the equivalent 1.2 petrol. Compared with other diesel cars, though, its an absolute bargain, undercutting the cheapest diesel Fiat Panda by a whopping 2700.
Whats the 2013 Dacia Sandero 1.5 dCi like to drive?
From a performance point of view, not bad at all. The 89bhp engine pulls with impressive strength from 1750rpm, and there isnt much fade in the power delivery as you rev it hard. More importantly, though, the engine is gutsy enough below the 1750rpm mark to make life easy when youre just pootling along.
The one exception to this is on the motorway, where the tall fifth gear hampers progress. Let your speed drop below 50mph, and youll find yourself decidedly short of go unless you drop down to fourth. Still, if you oblige, youll be impressed with how quickly the little Dacia picks up speed again.
However, while you wont be disappointed with the engines performance, you will be with its refinement. Whether its idling or being revved hard, it subjects you to a loud, uncultured grumble. Even more problematic, though, is the amount of vibration thats transmitted into the cabin. You feel it though the steering wheel, pedals and your seat, and it never goes away.
Youll also find that the diesel has slightly heavier steering than petrol Sanderos, making low-speed manoeuvres that bit more bothersome. On the plus side, the extra weight gives you a shade more assurance at higher speeds.
The steering still feels rather remote and artificial, though, and combined with the cars slack body control and limited grip, theres not a lot of fun to be had. The ride isnt ideal, either, being lumpy and low speeds and floaty at high speeds.
Still, a car this cheap is never going to be the last word in dynamic excellence. Whats far more important is that the Sandero is always easy to drive, and rarely uncomfortable.
Whats the 2013 Dacia Sandero 1.5 dCi like inside?
Like every Sandero, its big. It has more interior space than most supermini rivals, let alone the city cars with which it competes more closely on price. Headroom is generous all round, and theres enough legroom in the back to comfortably accommodate a pair of six-foot adults.
The boot is bigger than you get in most superminis, too, and it has a usefully low lip. The seats fold down to extend your cargo space, but they dont lie flat.
As youd expect in a budget car, the cabin does show signs of cost-cutting. Most of the plastics feel rather cheap and unappealing, and those in the footwells mark quite easily. Still, everything feels solidly assembled, so bits shouldnt start falling off as the miles pile on.
The dashboard design is simple, which means its easy to find and use the various controls. The large windows give you a good view out, too, but the Ambience-trimmed car we tested has no height adjustment for the drivers seat or steering wheel. As a result, finding a comfortable driving position could prove tricky for some people. You do get such adjustments in the range-topping Laureate trim, but the range of movement is still quite limited.
The diesel engine isnt available in entry-level Access trim, but thats no bad thing because that version is just too basic; you dont get a stereo or even a light in the boot.
Ambience trim comes with most of what you need, including smarter body-coloured bumpers, remote locking, electric front windows, Bluetooth, a USB socket and remote stereo controls. The only thing thats missing is air-conditioning, which comes with Laureate trim, along with electric rear windows and cruise control.
Should I buy one?
That all depends how much youre prepared to forgive the Sandero in return for that low price. For us, the ride and handling are acceptable, as are the cheap interior plastics and limited equipment.
However, the diesel is the noisiest and roughest version of the Sandero, and its also the most expensive youll have to do lots of miles before you earn back that extra outlay in fuel savings. Thats why the 1.2 Ambiance remains our favourite.
What Car? says...
Engine size 1.5-litre diesel
Price from 8395
Torque 162lb ft
0-62mph 12.1 seconds
Top speed 107 mph
Fuel economy 74.3mpg