By Patrick James on 2017-06-18 - The author has been a motoring writer for more than 16 years. Formerly motoring editor at the Coventry Telegraph, he now produces motoring copy, on new car launches and road tests on a freelance basis.
Ambiance dCi 90
DACIA may still be relatively little known in the UK, but it is one of the fastest growing brands.
Why? Well, it has slotted into that budget market occupied in previous decades by Korean brands and the likes of Skoda.
There are four models in the current Dacia UK line up, the Duster MPV, the Sandero supermini, the crossover-oriented Sandero Stepway and the Logan five-seater estate, all of which have seen recent upgrades.
The Romanian brand, owned by Renault, offers cheap motoring, but with the backing of one of Europe's top manufacturers behind it and benefits from both older and newer technology.
Dacia says everything about the brand centres on "eliminating the unnecessary" and giving customers the option to "pay for what they value".
With a starting price of a smidge under £6,000 for the upgraded Sandero, the same as before, you can see what they mean.
The base Active is a seriously cheap car. It is also fairly well stripped back with pre-wiring for an audio system, headlights-on warning light and buzzer, 12 volt socket, engine immobiliser, daytime running lights, power steering, gearshift indicator for better economy, rear wash wipe and heated window and tinted glass.
Safety measures are pretty good with four front airbags, ISOFIX child safety anchors, ABS with traction and stability control and rear door childlocks.
The Ambiance diesel model tested here does whack the price up to just over £9,000, but it's still great value.
It adds electric front windows, auto door-locking, remote central locking, lights in the boot and glovebox and an audio system with a radio/CD player, Bluetooth for hands-free phone calls and audio streaming, plus an AUX socket and a USB port for iPods and bits and pieces.
Unlike many cheap cars of the past, the latest Sanderowith its new honeycomb grille, bumpers, new larger front and rear lights, including LED Daytime Running Lights, and new wheel trims, looks like a perfectly normal car.
It is a plus-size supermini with five doors which make it feel more like a family hatchback, it is also easy enter and exit with minimum head ducking and leg stretching.
The interior has also been upgraded, but overall remains a simple no frills affair, with sturdy plastic finish where you would find soft touch finish on competitors and a functional dash and switchgear layout, some of which are familiar from the Renault stable. Neat touches include a new steering wheel, two-toneupholstery and chromed bezel surrounds to air vent surrounds.
There is a surprising amount of headroom for all occupants, while legroom is excellent in the front and pretty decent in the rear.
In practical terms, the rear seats split 60:40 for that extra stowage capacity. It swallowed a huge amount on trips to the local tip. With the rear seat in place the boot offers 320 litres - one of the highest in the supermini class - expanding to 1,200 litres with the rear seats folded.
The engine range from Renault now includes the TCe 90 turbocharged three-cylinder petrol unit that made its debut in the current Clio, the 1.2-litre 16v petrol and the Renault top-selling 90bhp 1.5 diesel in the model driven here.
This refined diesel is tried and tested and with its stop/start feature delivered excellent fuel economy, with a 80.7mpg claimed and emissions of 90g/km. The fuel level had barely reached the three-quarter mark after a week of varied motoring.
In addition is pulls well for its 90bhp and is refined and quiet on the motorway. The gearbox is a bit notchy and steering feels fairly lifeless, but it still proved a decent driving experience.
The ride is pretty good as well. Definitely on the soft side, which apparently is designed to cope with roads that are in an even worse state than our own in places like Brazil, Morocco and Iran. So it is designed for comfort and that is what you get.
There are four trim levels - Access, Ambience, LaurÃ©ate and LaurÃ©ate Prime.
Dacia Sandero Ambiance dCi 90
Mechanical: 90bhp, 1,461cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 5-speed automatic gearbox
Max Speed: 107mph
0-62mph: 11.8 seconds
Combined MPG: 80.8
Insurance Group: 10
C02 emissions: 90g/km
Bik rating: 20%
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles
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