Dacia Sandero

Ambiance TCe 90

Dacia Sandero, front
Dacia Sandero, front
Dacia Sandero, front
Dacia Sandero, side
Dacia Sandero, side
Dacia Sandero, rear
Dacia Sandero, rear
Dacia Sandero, interior
Dacia Sandero, interior
Dacia Sandero, interior
Dacia Sandero, boot
Dacia Sandero, boot
Dacia Sandero, engine
Dacia Sandero, key

WITH the then coalition Government's austerity measures hitting hard, Dacia's arrival in the UK car market in 2012 could not have been more perfectly timed.

As households looked to save money wherever possible the family car was an obvious target for many, but the move upmarket of brands such as Skoda, Hyundai and Kia had left a gap in the bargain basement.

The Renault-owned, Romanian car maker marched eagerly into the breach with its cut-price offerings and in the three full years since sales have gone from strength-to-strength, with more than 26,000 vehicles sold in 2015.

That was a rise of 9.9 per cent on the previous year, outperforming the market as a whole - which grew by 6.3 per cent - and meant that sales had risen every year since launch.

The Sandero has played a crucial part in that success with 16,403 being sold last year, including the more rugged Stepway crossover version.

It's low price is obviously the Sandero's unique selling point with Dacia seeking to make a virtue of what it calls its ‘back to basics' approach and affordability.

Entry-level Access models are still available for £5,995, the same price as at launch and less than £300 more than a brand new five-door Ford Fiesta 1.0-litre Popular would have cost you in 1989.

For that sort of money in 2016, of course, expectations should be realistic - but there is plenty to commend the cheap and cheerful Sandero.

To start with, it's not too bad to look at - clean, unfussy panels, a rising shoulder line and bold grille give it a purposeful look that is not out of place alongside much more expensive superminis.

It is also one of the roomiest cars in its class with good head and legroom for four adults, five at a pinch, and a boot which, at 320 litres is one of the biggest in the supermini segment. With the standard 60/40 split rear seats folded down load capacity rises to an impressive 1,200 litres.

Interior fixtures and fittings are fairly functional and utilitarian and soft touch surfaces are pretty much non-existent - but everything feels solidly screwed together and hard-wearing.

Power comes from a choice of three proven Renault Group engines - the TCe 90 turbocharged three-cylinder petrol in my car, a 1.2-litre petrol and Renault's global top-selling 1.5 dCi diesel in 90ps form.

All offer impressive day-to-day running costs with good fuel consumption and low emissions, the TCe and dCi units benefitting from automatic start-stop functions.

Add low insurance ratings into the mix and clearly the savings with the Sandero don't stop as soon as you leave the showroom.

Performance is not the priority in this price range and my car's 0-62mph time of 11.1 seconds won't set the pulses racing. Once warmed up, though, progress is spritely and surprisingly refined, with the characteristic rumble of the three-cylinder power pack fading into the background.

The steering is a little vague and the upright, boxy stance of the Sandero means it has a tendency to roll a little in fast corners but all models get stability and traction control to ensure you stay on course and the supple suspension offers a largely comfortable, relaxed ride and driving experience.

Equipment is limited with such niceties as air conditioning, trip computer, alloy wheels and a height adjustable driver's seat and steering wheel only available if you step up to range-topping Laureate cars, while a touchscreen and satnav will cost you extra.

The mid-range Ambiance model I drove does at least cover most of the basics with electric front windows, auto door-locking, remote central locking, radio/CD player, Bluetooth and an AUX socket and a USB port to connect iPods and other gadgets and would be the recommended choice above the very sparsely kitted out Access version.

FAST FACTS

Dacia Sandero Ambiance TCe 90

Price: £7,595

Mechanical:90ps, 898cc, 3cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 109mph

0-62mph: 11.1 seconds

Combined MPG:57.6

Insurance Group: 6

C02 emissions:109g/km

Bik rating:18%

Warranty:3yrs/60,000 miles

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