Britain's cheapest new cars tested: costs
The Dacia Sandero, Citroën C3 and Kia Picanto may all be cheap, but which of them will make you feel the most cheerful if you buy one? Let’s find out...
Buying and owning
Costs, equipment, reliability, safety and security
If you’ve saved up a big pile of cash so you can buy your new car outright, the Kia Picanto will be the cheapest in the long run. That’s partly because it’s available with the biggest discount (of around £750) but also because of its relatively cheap insurance and servicing bills. We’re talking small margins, though. Over three years of ownership, the Picanto will save you roughly £462 over the Dacia Sandero and £947 over the Citroën C3.
Most buyers, however, will go down the PCP finance route, and here the Sandero has the advantage. Put down a £2000 deposit on a three-year term with an annual limit of 10,000 miles and you’ll pay just £194 a month. You’ll need to find an extra £6 a month for the Picanto and £35 more for the C3.
We’ve already mentioned the Sandero’s abundance of visibility aids, but it’s also the only one here with automatic wipers and keyless entry as standard. The C3 matches its other niceties, such as cruise control, a speed limiter and dipped-beam LED headlights, leaving the Picanto looking sparse by comparison. Its only standout feature is a set of 14in alloy wheels, whereas the Sandero and C3 make do with steel wheels.
When it comes to safety kit, the C3 impresses with a standard-fit lane departure warning system and speed sign recognition, but unlike the Sandero and Picanto, it doesn’t come with automatic emergency braking (AEB), which we would argue is a much more important safety feature. And you can’t add it as an option on the C3 You; you have to step up to the significantly more expensive Elle trim to get it.
Both the C3 and Picanto scored four stars out of five for safety when tested by Euro NCAP in 2017. However, this was under a much less stringent testing regime than we have today, so it is impossible to compare those results directly with the Sandero’s disappointing two-star score from 2021. If safety is your priority, the much pricier Honda Jazz and Toyota Yaris – which were each awarded five stars – have far more sophisticated active safety systems.
The Sandero and C3 didn’t feature in the latest What Car? Reliability Survey, but Dacia ranked a respectable 10th out of 32 brands, with Citroën close behind (11th). Kia was seventh overall, but the Picanto itself had a less impressive showing in the small car class, placing mid-table (15th out of 28 models). The latter does, however, get a class-leading seven-year/100,000 mile warranty, versus the three years/60,000 miles offered by Citroën and Dacia.
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