By Mike Torpey on 2016-09-04 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Ambiance Prime TCe
THERE'S something refreshingly retro about the Dacia Sandero.
Not because it looks old fashioned or has an attractively old fashioned price. It's actually down to simplicity.
Some drivers or passengers used to a flight deck of buttons and switches or a grotto effect dashboard may be disappointed.
But to many the ease of use of everything in the Sandero's cabin is a breath of fresh air.
Don't expect much in the way of mod cons, to use a retro expression, and definitely no heated massage seats, high end sound systems or parallel parking set-ups.
But then with a starting price of £5,995 the not so little Dacia costs £1,000 less than the next cheapest car on the UK market, the Suzuki Celerio.
Of course in most cases you get what you pay for, but if there's an example out there of actually getting more, then in new car terms it's the Sandero.
A pair of petrol engines - the 0.9 in this car and a 1.2-litre unit - plus a 1.5-litre diesel are up for grabs, though you have to pay an extra Â£2,600 for the latter.
And frankly you don't need diesel; the 0.9 petrol may sound weak as it only develops 90bhp but it's a lively little unit offering a quite spirited experience in urban conditions.
Okay, the Sandero can't claim up to the minute, state of the art technology, its steering feels a bit wallowy and handling is anything but pin sharp.
But the more you drive the car the more you come to appreciate its simple pleasures - it's smooth, it's comfortable and it's efficient with low emissions and a realistic fuel return of 45-50mpg.
Trim grades comprise Access, Ambiance, Ambiance Prime and Laureate, entry level offering 15-inch steel wheels, power steering, a 60/40 split folding rear seat and daytime running lights plus pre-wiring for a sound system, though that's extra.
You also get a heated rear screen, rear wash-wiper, tinted windows, rear door child locks and a 12v accessory power socket along with a gearshift indicator, rev counter and a Thatcham-approved engine immobiliser, though Access is only available with the 75bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine.
Go up to Ambiance and the likes of electric front windows, auto door-locking, remote central locking, lights in the boot and glovebox, Bluetooth, Aux and USB plus an audio system with a radio/CD player that can read MP3 files from disc join the party, while Laureate adds more again.
That said, opting for top spec Dacia models seems to defeat the object. For instance diesels start at £8,395 and the test car was specced up with accessories that took it to £9,515.
Go basic, or one up from that, and you're onto a surefire winner.
There's no stinting on load space, either. With the rear seat in place the boot offers 320 litres - one of the highest in the supermini class; with the rear seat folded that figure soars to 1,200 litres.
: 3 yrs/60,000 miles
Dacia Sandero Ambiance Prime TCe 90
Mechanical: 90bhp, 898cc 3-cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via five-speed manual transmission
Max Speed: 11.1 secs
C02 emissions: 109g/km
Bik rating: 18%
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