Dacia Sandero long-term test review

The Sandero is Britain's cheapest new car, but what's it like to live with every day? We're running one for a year to find out...

Dacia Sandero long-term test review
  • The car Dacia Sandero 0.9 TCe 90 Ambiance
  • Run by Jimi Beckwith, special contributor
  • Why it's here Britain's cheapest car has received a midlife facelift. It's here to show us just how much it's improved and if cheap can indeed be cheerful.
  • Needs to Impress a wide range of people without the lack of dignity that comes with so many budget cars. Practicality and small running costs are musts.

List price £7995 Price as tested £8640 Miles covered 13,000 Official economy 57.6 Test economy 48.2mpg Options fitted Height adjustment pack (£50; now standard), metallic paint (£495), emergency spare wheel (£100)

25 April 2018 – A Stepway to heaven

I had an identically specced Dacia Sandero Stepway for a few weeks while my original Sandero was having its wounds tended to, giving me the perfect opportunity to compare the two.

The Stepway adds a smattering of SUV styling to the Dacia Sandero formula, but let me say straight away that despite its more in-vogue looks, the cheaper regular Sandero is the better car.

In hatchback form, it’s quieter and costs less to run – even versus the 1.5-litre diesel Stepway that we tested – and cost less to buy. The Stepway rode more harshly and wasn’t as refined, although it was marginally better-equipped, with alloy wheels, roof bars and metal trim inside.

There will be those who see the appeal of the Stepway, of course, but without the benefit of four-wheel drive to go with its slightly raised ride height, it’s something of a frivolity away from the no-frills formula of the wallet-friendly Sandero. In the recent snow it didn’t bat an eyelid, although with the same front-wheel-drive set-up in both cars, the standard Sandero would likely have been just as untroubled by the white stuff.

With both cars, there are compromises to be made on build quality, and where my car had intermittent rattles, the Stepway had a persistent squeak from the interior when moving off the line.

Dacia has clearly been ahead of the mark with the rufty-tufty-looking Stepway, though, with similar offerings like the Kia Picanto X-Line and Ford Fiesta Active arriving to the party far later.

Nevertheless, the smart money goes on the standard Dacia Sandero. The Stepway offers more style, marginally more equipment and a higher ride, yes, but if it’s pure budget motoring you’re after, the regular Ambiance-spec Sandero remains an unbeatable package.

I was somewhat dismayed when I recently heard that Dacia had increased the Sandero's entry-level price by £1000 (although our mid-range Ambience model is unaffected). But you have to put these things into perspective – £6995 for a brand new car is still heroic value for money.

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