Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
Dacia offers two versions of its turbocharged 1.0-litre TCe engine for the Sandero: a TCe 90 petrol and a TCe 100 Bi-Fuel. The former offers up a healthy 89bhp and a six-speed manual gearbox (with the option of a CVT automatic), and in our tests managed 0-60mph in a respectable 11.0sec. That’s slightly slower than rivals such as the Ford Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost 95 and Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI 95, but it doesn't feel slow at all. There’s plenty of low and mid-rev shove to help you keep up with traffic, even on a motorway.
The Bi-Fuel version of the same TCe engine (badged TCe 100 Bi-Fuel), benefits from a bit more power (99bhp) and can run on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) as well as regular unleaded. Thanks to the extra power (when running on LPG) it feels stronger from low engine speeds than the standard TCe 90 and, crucially, is also smoother and quieter. For that reason, it’s our pick of the range.
The third and final engine is the SCe 65, which is a 1.0-litre petrol too but is not turbocharged. Even without driving it, we're pretty confident it’ll be very slow (0-62mph officially takes a pedestrian 16.7sec) and worth avoiding.
Suspension and ride comfort
The Dacia Sandero has relatively soft suspension, which smoothes out creases and folds in the road without bouncing you around in your seat nauseatingly like a Citroën C3 does.
Indeed, if you want a small car with an appreciably comfier ride, you’ll need to spend a lot more cash because it’s only cars such as the Peugeot 208 and Volkswagen Polo that offer more polish on really calloused roads.
It’s fair to say that the Dacia Sandero isn’t the most exciting car to pedal down a twisting B-road; if you want thrills a minute, buy a Ford Fiesta (used if you can't stretch to a new one), which is a cracking little car to drive.
The Sandero is absolutely fit for purpose, though. Sure, there’s some body lean through tight twists and turns, but there's a decent amount of grip and the steering weights up enough through bends to give you confidence at higher speeds.
Noise and vibration
In terms of being able to drive the car smoothly, which is one aspect of refinement, the Dacia 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 your right foot.
However, even in Bi-Fuel form, Dacia’s 1.0-litre TCe is not as quiet as the Peugeot 208 equivalent (or those of many other rivals, for that matter), with whooshes from the turbocharger and a distinct thrum when you work it hard.
That fades away as you hit a steady cruise, though. Yes, you'd hear less wind and road noise at motorway speeds in a 208 or Volkswagen Polo, but compared with small cars at the lower end of the price spectrum, such as the MG 3 and Suzuki Ignis, the Sandero is a reasonably hushed mile-muncher.
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