Dacia Sandero review

Category: Small car

A fine small car at a stunningly good price, let down only by a disappointing safety score

Dacia Sandero front cornering
  • Dacia Sandero front cornering
  • Dacia Sandero rear cornering
  • Dacia Sandero interior dashboard
  • Dacia Sandero boot open
  • Dacia Sandero interior infotainment
  • Dacia Sandero left tracking
  • Dacia Sandero front cornering
  • Dacia Sandero rear cornering
  • Dacia Sandero grille detail
  • Dacia Sandero headlights detail
  • Dacia Sandero rear lights detail
  • Dacia Sandero rear badge detail
  • Dacia Sandero wheel detail
  • Dacia Sandero interior front seats
  • Dacia Sandero interior detail
  • Dacia Sandero interior back seats
  • Dacia Sandero front cornering
  • Dacia Sandero rear cornering
  • Dacia Sandero interior dashboard
  • Dacia Sandero boot open
  • Dacia Sandero interior infotainment
  • Dacia Sandero left tracking
  • Dacia Sandero front cornering
  • Dacia Sandero rear cornering
  • Dacia Sandero grille detail
  • Dacia Sandero headlights detail
  • Dacia Sandero rear lights detail
  • Dacia Sandero rear badge detail
  • Dacia Sandero wheel detail
  • Dacia Sandero interior front seats
  • Dacia Sandero interior detail
  • Dacia Sandero interior back seats
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Introduction

What Car? says...

The Dacia Sandero is from a Romanian brand owned by a French car maker (Renault), but its name has its roots in Greek. It means warrior – and we have to admit it fights hard to give good value.

In fact, there isn't any new small car that undercuts the Sandero on price – even the tiny Kia Picanto is more expensive than the entry-level Sandero. What's more, a Sandero 1.0 TCe Bi-Fuel Expression – our pick of the range – still costs thousands less to buy than the most basic Skoda Fabia.

Okay, so it’s cheap. But does that make it a bargain, or are you simply getting a basic box on wheels? Well, if you saw the original 2013-2020 Dacia Sandero, you’d be forgiven for thinking the latter. The most modern thing about that was that it felt like it could travel through time. Sadly, straight from the 1990s.

Forget all that for this latest-generation Sandero, though. It’s based on the underpinnings of the latest Renault Clio so it’s thoroughly modern under the skin. There’s even an SUV-inspired version, called the Dacia Sandero Stepway, which we’ve reviewed separately.

Still, we’re talking about a car class that includes the Honda Jazz and the VW Polo. Can the Dacia Sandero really compete with the best small cars on anything other than price? That's a question we'll be answering in this review.

Overview

Often the verdict for a car costing this little would be ‘cheap but not great’. Not here, though. The Sandero is one of the great all-rounders and is especially strong when it comes to practicality, while our favourite TCe 100 Bi-Fuel engine adds the potential for lower running costs. Only a disappointing Euro NCAP safety score lets the side down.

  • Amazingly good value
  • Lots of space for passengers and luggage
  • Comfortable ride
  • Poor safety rating compared with rivals
  • There are more entertaining small cars to drive
  • Some other small cars are quieter
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Our Pick

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Dacia Sandero 1.0 Tce Bi-Fuel Expression 5dr review
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

Strengths

  • +Comfortable ride
  • +Easy to drive

Weaknesses

  • -Wind and road noise at motorway speeds
  • -Some rivals are more fun to drive

Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox

Dacia offers two versions of its turbocharged 1.0-litre TCe engine for the Sandero: the TCe 90 petrol and the TCe 100 Bi-Fuel. The TCe 90 offers a respectable 89bhp, and will officially sprint from 0-62mph in 12.2sec, much slower than the Honda Jazz but faster than the VW Polo 1.0 TSI 80. Still, it doesn’t feel as sluggish as that figure suggests, giving you plenty of low and mid-range shove to help you keep up with traffic.

The TCe 100 Bi-Fuel – which is our pick of our range – benefits from a bit more power (99bhp), and can run on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) as well as petrol. The official 0-62mph sprint is about the same for both engines, but if you run the TCe 100 Bi-Fuel on LPG it feels stronger from low speeds, and is also smoother and quieter.

If you want an automatic gearbox, you'll need to go for the TCe 90 and range-topping Journey trim. We’d avoid the auto 'box though, because it blunts performance somewhat.

Suspension and ride comfort

The Sandero has relatively soft suspension, which smooths out creases and folds in the road without bouncing you around in your seat nauseatingly, as the Citroën C3 does.

Dacia Sandero image
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Indeed, if you want a small car with a noticeably more comfortable ride, you’ll need to spend a lot more cash on a Peugeot 208 or VW Polo. Both of those rivals feel more polished on really calloused roads.

Dacia Sandero rear cornering

Handling

It’s fair to say that the Sandero isn’t the most exciting car to drive down a twisting B-road. If you want bigger thrills, buy a Seat Ibiza (used, if you can't stretch to a new one), which is a more fun little car to drive.

The Sandero is absolutely fit for purpose, though. Sure, there’s some body lean through tight twists and turns, but you get a decent amount of grip and the steering weights up enough through bends to give you confidence at higher speeds. It's far more confidence-inspiring to drive than the soft and wallowy C3.

Noise and vibration

In terms of being able to drive the car smoothly, which is one aspect of refinement, the Sandero has no real vices. The clutch has a clear biting point, the brakes are not too sharp and the engine picks up cleanly and smoothly when you squeeze the accelerator. 

Even in Bi-Fuel form, Dacia’s 1.0-litre TCe is not as quiet as the equivalent engine in the Peugeot 208 (or those of many other rivals, for that matter). You tend to hear whooshes from the turbocharger and a distinct thrum when you work it hard. That fades away as you hit a steady cruise, though.

What doesn’t fade away is the wind and road noise at motorway speeds which, while not outrageous given the price, is louder than in the 208 or Polo.

“On the motorway, I'd say the Sandero rides smoothly 80% of the time, with it only upset by expansion joints, which tend to send shudders up through the steering wheel” – Will Nightingale, Reviews Editor

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

Strengths

  • +Comfortable driving position
  • +Good infotainment system in upper trim levels
  • +Decent interior quality given the price

Weaknesses

  • -Some rivals are nicer inside
  • -Rear visibility could be better

Driving position and dashboard

The Dacia Sandero has a height-adjustable driver’s seat and central armrest, with a steering wheel that adjusts up and down in the entry-level car and also telescopically if you go for one of the two higher trims. Therefore you shouldn’t struggle to get comfortable behind the wheel.

You won’t have any problems seeing the instrument dials, and all the dashboard controls, including those for the air conditioning, are simple and clear. In fact, the Sandero is better than some posher small cars in that respect. For example, the Peugeot 208 has fiddly touch-sensitive dashboard buttons.

Visibility, parking sensors and cameras

The windscreen pillars on the Sandero are not too wide, but the rear pillars are quite chunky and the back window is a little shallow. While the same is true of many rival cars, the Skoda Fabia offers a clearer over-the-shoulder view when you’re reversing.

You get rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera if you go for the Expression trim we recommend. Impressively, automatic LED headlights are standard across the range to improve visibility in the dark – although only for the dipped beams.

Dacia Sandero interior dashboard

Sat nav and infotainment

The Sandero in entry-level Essential trim has a DAB radio with controls on the steering wheel, Bluetooth and a USB socket, so you can connect your phone to the car. Information is shown on a small screen on the dashboard but it’s fairly basic by modern standards, with no touchscreen interface.

To get one of those, you'll need to go for our favoured Expression trim. The 8.0in colour touchscreen system comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring (so you can use apps from your phone on the infotainment screen), while Journey trim adds built-in sat-nav. 

The screen is mounted helpfully high up on the dashboard and is tilted towards the driver, with some touch-sensitive buttons down the side that you can use as shortcuts between functions. We’d prefer physical shortcut buttons, but the Dacia operating system is easy to get used to and responds to your prods and swipes way faster than the system in the Toyota Aygo X.

Quality

If you want a plush interior, have a look at the Peugeot 208 and the upcoming Mini 5-door. They both look and feel really upmarket inside by small car standards.

They’re far more expensive than the Sandero though, which – bearing in mind its price – is well-finished inside. True, the plastics are hard, but then they are in the pricier Hyundai i20 and Skoda Fabia too.

Besides, the plastics in the Sandero are not unappealing to look at and, if you go for Expression trim or up, there's some tasteful fabric trim on the dashboard to lift the ambience.

“It may be a small detail, but I think the chrome edges to the air-con dials make the Sandero feel more upmarket than its bargain pricing would suggest.” – Darren Moss, Deputy Digital Editor

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

Strengths

  • +Lots of interior space
  • +Big boot

Weaknesses

  • -Honda Jazz's rear seats are far more versatile

Front space

The Dacia Sandero is one of the biggest small cars available. In the front, it beats the Honda Jazz for leg room and almost matches it for head room. You’d have to be mighty big to feel cramped (some of our testers are well over six feet tall and didn’t have any problems), and the Sandero is wide enough that you won't keep bumping elbows with your passenger.

There’s a good amount of storage space, including a large glovebox, a couple of cupholders, reasonable-sized door bins and various other cubbies. You get a moveable armrest from Expression trim, but it doesn’t have storage space within it, like the VW Polo’s.

Rear space

The Sandero is similarly roomy in the rear; it doesn't have quite as much leg room as the Jazz, but six-footers will still have a gap between their knees and the seat in front.

There's absolutely loads of head room and, because the Sandero is broader than many rivals, it's one of the best small cars for carrying three people in the back. The rear door bins are quite small, though.

Dacia Sandero boot open

Seat folding and flexibility

There's not much to get excited about here, to be honest. All Sanderos come with 60/40 split folding rear seats – which is par for the course among small cars – but there's no ski hatch or any other handy features.

The Jazz, by contrast, does all sorts of clever tricks, with rear seat bases that flip up like those in a cinema. Then again, it costs nearly twice as much as the Sandero to buy.

Boot space

While the design of the Sandero's boot could be improved by reducing the size of the lip at the entrance, you can’t argue with its size.

Officially, you get 328 litres of space below the parcel shelf, and we managed to fit six carry-on suitcases inside. That's more than most cars in the class (including the Jazz) and a match for the Skoda Fabia.

There's some exposed bodywork around the boot entrance that's easy to scuff and scratch when lifting heavy items in and out. We'd recommend investing in some protective film to stop that happening.

“While they might have three rear seatbelts, a lot of small cars feel horribly cramped if you try to fit more than two people in the back. However, I'd happily spend time in the Sandero's centre seat.” – Doug Revolta, Head of Video

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

Strengths

  • +Great value for money
  • +Efficient engines

Weaknesses

  • -Disappointing safety rating
  • -So-so warranty

Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2

If you go for entry-level Essential trim, the Dacia Sandero is the cheapest new car available in the UK. We'd recommend stepping up to Expression trim though, which is still very good value compared with equivalent versions of the Skoda Fabia and all of its other rivals. The only new car that gets close on price is the rather lacklustre Citroën C3.

So, is the Sandero expensive to run? Not at all. It’s predicted to lose its value at about the same rate as most of its rivals, including the Fabia, but faster than the Honda Jazz and Toyota Aygo X. The thing is, because of its much lower sticker price, monthly payments if you buy on PCP finance will still be much cheaper than those rivals'. That’s especially true if you take advantage of one of our Dacia Sandero deals

On our real-world test route, the TCe 90 petrol returned an impressive 47.1mpg. The Toyota Yaris will do better than that but you’ll need to do a silly number of miles to get a return on the extra investment. The TCe 100 Bi-Fuel (our pick of the engines) isn’t as efficient on paper, but LPG is a lot cheaper than unleaded. There are cars that emit less CO2, but the Sandero’s low list price keeps company car tax down.

Equipment, options and extras

Even with entry-level Essential trim, you get a respectable amount of standard kit. That includes body-coloured bumpers, 15in steel wheels with wheel trims, cruise control, front electric windows and air conditioning.

Even so, we’d recommend going for mid-range Expression trim if you can. It’s still astonishing value but comes with lots of extra toys, including rear parking sensors, automatic lights and windscreen wipers, keyless entry and a touchscreen infotainment system.

Top-spec Journey trim gets some nice additions, including 16in alloy wheels, automatic air conditioning and built-in sat-nav, for another small step-up in price. It’s certainly tempting, but we’d still stick with Expression trim because it saves you money and gets everything you need.

Dacia Sandero interior infotainment

Reliability

Dacia did pretty well in the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey finishing in 11th place out of 32 brands included. That places it above Citroën, Fiat, Skoda, Peugeot, VW and Renault.

The Sandero as a model performed relatively well against its rivals in the small car reliability category of the survey, too, sitting in the middle of an 18-strong field and above the VW Polo.

Every new Sandero comes with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, which is par for the course in this class. Hyundai and MG both offer longer warranties as standard, while Toyota offers an impressive 10-year/100,000-mile warranty, providing you service regularly at an approved service centre.

Safety and security

The Sandero received a disappointing two out of five stars for safety after being tested by Euro NCAP in 2021.

Its rivals were tested in 2020, so it’s hard to directly compare scores, but the Honda Jazz and Toyota Yaris were both in another league – both were awarded five stars – so they’ll potentially keep you safer in an accident. They also have far more sophisticated active safety systems.

In comparison, the Sandero has to make do with just automatic emergency braking (AEB), tyre-pressure monitoring, six airbags, hill-start assist, Isofix child-seat mounts and e-Call emergency assistance.

On a recent road trip, I averaged almost 50mpg in a Sandero with the 1.0 TCe 90 engine.” – Dan Jones, Reviewer


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FAQs

  • No. Dacia builds the Sandero using proven older technology from parent firm Renault but it has been heavily re-engineered in key areas.

  • The Sandero offers loads of space in the front and more than enough space in the rear for three people sitting next to each other, making it perfect for driving the whole family around. It’s safety rating isn’t great, though.

  • No. In fact, Dacia has just added a new trim level to the Sandero range. Badged Journey, the new top trim adds 16in alloy wheels, built-in sat-nav and automatic air conditioning.

  • No. The Dacia Sandero Stepway is essentially a more rugged-looking and higher-riding Sandero. It's more suited to the 'urban jungle' than an actual jungle, though, and costs more to buy. We think the regular Sandero is the better choice.

At a glance
New car deals
Save up to £328
Target Price from £13,536
Save up to £328
or from £165pm
Swipe to see used car deals
Nearly new deals
From £12,497
RRP price range £13,795 - £17,295
Number of trims (see all)3
Number of engines (see all)2
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)petrol, hybrid
MPG range across all versions 49.6 - 53.3
Available doors options 5
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £727 / £987
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £1,453 / £1,974
Available colours