What Car? says...
Ever wondered what the cheapest new car you can buy is? Well, here’s your answer: the Dacia Sandero.
You get plenty of space for your small outlay, too, because the Sandero is one of the roomiest in the small car class, both for people and luggage. It’s available as a five-door only, but there’s a range of engines and trims to choose from.
The trade-off is a distinctly last-generation interior, a meagre list of standard equipment, particularly for the entry-level model, and driving dynamics that aren’t quite up there with more expensive rivals, such as the Ford Fiesta and Skoda Fabia.
So, is the Sandero a bargain or would you be better stretching your budget a little? Read on over the next few pages for our in-depth impressions and to find out which engines and trims make the most sense.
If you've already made your mind up, head over to our deals page to ensure you don't waste a penny.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
There are two petrol engines to choose from: a 1.0-litre non-turbo or a turbocharged 0.9-litre. The 1.0-litre copes well around town but needs revving quite hard whenever you venture onto faster roads. At higher speeds, particularly on the motorway, you find yourself continually swapping gears to get the most out of the engine.
The 0.9-litre unit has noticeably more torque – or low-rev pulling power – so you don't need to rev it as hard to get up to speed. This is especially noticeable with a few passengers aboard. The turbocharger can cause an annoying delay between putting your foot down and the acceleration actually arriving, but it's still much quicker than the 1.0-litre engine and is our pick of the range.
Suspension and ride comfort
There's nothing particularly sophisticated about the way the Sandero rides. However, its suspension is fairly soft and manages to smother most bumps pretty well, and even potholes don't send particularly nasty jolts through the car.
Compared with rivals such as the Ford Fiesta, the Sandero isn’t particularly sharp or entertaining to drive. There's a pronounced degree of body roll in tight corners and it doesn't feel particularly eager to change direction. The steering is fairly slow, but it's at least accurate and weights up consistently as you turn in to bends.
However, the fact that the Sandero doesn’t get your pulse racing isn’t the end of the world. Most important is the fact that its handling is secure and predictable – most will find it an easy car to drive.
Noise and vibration
The Sandero delivers precisely the level of refinement you would expect of a car this cheap. That is to say, not very much.
All versions suffer from lots of engine noise; both petrols get thrashy at high revs, although at least the 0.9-litre turbo doesn’t need working as hard as the 1.0-litre, so is a touch more refined in practice. Road surface imperfections are enough to make the steering wheel buzz in your hands, too.
A notchy gearshift also disappoints, and both wind and road noise are intrusive at higher speeds.
The Dacia Sandero Stepway adds a better ride to the Sandero ha...
The MG 3 handles well, is keenly priced and well equipped, but...
The Suzuki Swift has tidy handling and a strong turbo engine...
The Kia Rio is a competent supermini, but it’s pricey, and it...