2017 Dacia Sandero Review

The Sandero was introduced to the UK after years of success on the Continent. It’s built – by Renault-owned Dacia in Romania – on a simple premise: to offer the most car for the least money. It fulfils the brief like a sledgehammer cracking a nut, with incredibly low prices, minimal pretence, plentiful space and a carefree no-fuss attitude that isn’t bothered what anyone thinks.

Did you know? The price for the cheapest Sandero has stayed the same since 2013, making it one of the market’s only inflation-busting cars

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Verdict: (5.8/10)
There are two ways to appraise the Dacia Sandero. One of these is to bemoan its lack of technology next to other superminis, to criticise its blandness and to lambast its poor road manners at speed. The other is to look at how practical and honest a new car you get for so little money, in which case the Sandero is a world-beater. Both points of view are beyond dispute, so it just depends which side of the fence any potential buyer stands.
Design & Exterior
Interior & Comfort
Technology & Connectivity
Performance & Handling
Safety Features
Spec & Trim Levels
Running Costs & Fuel Economy

We Like
Amazing value for money
Impressive reliability
Lots of interior space
We Don’t Like
Dearth of equipment
Poor refinement
Bland styling

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Design & Exterior: (4/10)
Dacia’s designers weren’t tasked with a difficult job. Boxy dimensions are there to provide as much passenger and luggage space as possible within a given footprint on the road, and what good would it do to add an elaborate or dramatic front end to this shape? This is the geography teacher of cars; utterly boring to look at, even if you do still remember the water cycle. Its uncluttered, straightforward looks do have some appeal, though.
Steel wheels are standard on all models, so none match the look of a mainstream supermini without upgrades. At least the top-spec Laureate car has body-coloured door handles and mirrors. Ambiance models have black, bare plastic ones, and the cheapest Access grade even has unpainted bumpers and no wheel trims. It looks either terrible or no-frills charming, depending on your outlook.
The Stepway adds some rugged faux-SUV charm and lifts the styling from the absolute base level of the Sandero. It isn’t sold in the basic Access trim, and has wheel arch trim extensions as well as roof rails. For 2017, Dacia has given it a mild refresh: LED running lights at the front and cherry-coloured tail lamps. Subtle stuff, but you’ll spot the difference out on the road.

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Interior & Comfort: (5/10)
The interior is unbelievably basic by 2017 standards. Plain, mid-grey plastic covers the entry-level dashboard and centre console, dotted with blank switches, simple plastic dials for air movement and round air vents in a feeble attempt to add style. On the most expensive models the console is upgraded with some shiny plastic surrounding an infotainment screen, but overall the layout couldn’t be more basic.
Better news comes from the seats, which are harder than Citroen’s latest efforts but softer than those you’ll find in German and Korean cars. They offer a good compromise for a wide variety of uses, from scratching around town to 50-mile motorway slogs. They’d need better under-thigh support and more padding for your lower back if they were going to be any better for long trips.
A cabin based on low-rent materials and simplicity excels for practicality. Without the fear of damaging any expensive surfaces, the Sandero can become as utilitarian as you like. With the back seats down it’s a handy van, for instance, and 60:40 split rear seats are standard. The 320 litres the boot offers is more than you get from a Ford Focus hatchback.
Steel wheels mean no worries when it comes to kerbs. Urban parallel parking holds no fear when the worst-case scenario is scuffing a cheap wheel trim. The beauty of the Sandero is that it’s a car you don’t have to worry about or fear for. It’s purely about utility and it can’t lose too much value even if it does pick up a few knocks. No other brand produces cars that take a weight off your mind like Dacia does.
Boot space

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Technology & Connectivity: (5/10)
It’s rare to see an equipment list so sparse these days. The Access grade doesn’t have electrical power for anything – not the mirrors, the windows or the central locking. There is no stereo, but there is pre-installed wiring to allow an aftermarket CD player to be slotted into the dashboard.
Further up the range there is remote central locking, manual air conditioning, electric front windows and a nice surprise in the shape of a well-featured stereo. It only has four speakers, but Bluetooth, DAB and USB compatibility match the very best in the class – even if the system’s ease of use doesn’t.
At the top of the range there’s a touch-screen media interface that makes hooking a smartphone to the car much easier. There’s also cruise control, rear parking sensors and a seven-function trip computer. It’s hardly luxurious, but it ticks some of the basic boxes.

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Performance & Handling: (5/10)
Unsurprisingly, none of the three engines on offer have any significant pace to speak of. The turbocharged 0.9-litre TCe 90 is the best of the bunch, but there’s a strong argument for the ancient 1.2-litre SCe 75 because it’s considerably cheaper to buy in the first place (and has been updated for 2017 with a bit more refinement and economy). All three engines vibrate when the revs rise, but the diesel is the worst. In fourth and fifth gears full throttle from a low speed makes the car shake in a way cars haven’t since the 1990s.
On the other hand, the Sandero goes, stops and steers perfectly well. It’s not exciting but nor is it incompetent. It’s happier around town than it is at high speed, but it carries out its daily duties without complaint. It’s well suited to patient drivers with no need to rush. Performance and handling aren’t significant factors when buying this car, so the cheapest engine makes the most sense.
Recommended engine: 1.2 SCe 75
0-62 MPH
14.2 seconds
Fuel economy
54.3 mpg

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Safety Features: (4/10)
Neither the Sandero nor Stepway have a lot to talk about in the safety category. It has a four-star Euro NCAP safety score, but this dates back to 2013. Laureate spec adds height-adjustable seat belts to the three height-adjustable headrests included with Ambiance, and all Sanderos get ABS with electronic brake-force distribution for safe stops.
The software and safety systems are taken from old Renault products, but that means the Sandero gets stability and traction control, with hill-start assist to hold the car for two seconds after the driver lifts off the brake pedal, allowing them to find the clutch bite point before the car starts to roll back.
Elsewhere, the passenger-side front airbag can be switched off, there’s a warning for when the driver’s seat belt is undone and a tyre inflation kit in lieu of a spare wheel. At least a warning triangle included as standard. The new Sandero has also been upgraded with LED daytime running lights on all models, making it more visible.

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Specs and Trim Levels: (4/10)
Access models, with their unpainted bumpers, are only sold in flat Glacier White. There are seven optional metallic colours for Ambiance and Laureate cars, some of which add something to the plain Sandero’s style, others of which don’t.
Cinder Red and Cosmos Blue are the brightest and best colours to apply to this car, giving it a little more character and making it look less cheap and cheerful. The ones to avoid are Mink, Chestnut and Pearl Black, which do the car no favours, while the pale silver Mercury and darker Slate Grey are an acceptable middle-ground.
Trim Levels
Laureate is the top-spec choice for both models, bringing with it a lot of the features found on other, more expensive superminis. Body-coloured exterior trim is one of them. A leather-covered gear knob is another, but the main feature of the most expensive Sandero is its touch-screen with UK and Ireland satellite navigation. Western European mapping can be added for an extra cost.
Ambiance trim reverts to unpainted mirror housings and door handles, but hangs on to body-coloured bumpers. It maintains remote central locking, air conditioning and electric front windows, plus DAB radio and a USB port, but loses access to some of the optional extras exclusively reserved for the Laureate.
Access is a remarkable trim level insofar as there is no other car on the market that has so little standard equipment. The lack of a stereo is unheard of these days. The basic car is cheap, but it’s no more than a four-wheeled box with a primitive heater and anti-lock brakes. In reality, most Sandero buyers avoid it and go for an Ambience instead.
Size and Dimensions
At just over four metres long the Sandero is hardly going to cause any problems. Its body is wider than many superminis by a couple of millimetres, but that helps it feel as spacious as it does. Almost any garage should swallow the Sandero without any trouble, and the extra millimetres of the Stepway are still not enough to add limitations.
4058-4081 mm
1733 mm (1994 mm)
1518-1618 mm
Max towing weight without brake
From 520kg (1.0 SCe) to 580kg (1.5 dCi)

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Running Costs & Fuel Economy: (9/10)
Age-old technology and relatively low weight of 969kg for cars with the simplest SCe 75 engine mean that fuel economy is as good in the real world as most other superminis. The official figures state that an average of 54-58mpg should be possible in the petrols, although in real life that tends to be more like 45mpg with a mix of driving.
The diesel, on the other hand, is outstandingly efficient. Stop-start is fitted as standard and helps it on the way to an official 80.7mpg. A realistic benchmark to aim for is 65mpg, but with a lot of town driving that will drop below 50mpg.
Insurance isn’t as cheap as you might think, simply because of the relative lack of safety gear on the Sandero, but such low purchase prices mean extremely cheap finance, leaving plenty of money in the kitty for running costs.
Reliability and servicing
Dacia performs surprisingly well in dependability surveys, owing largely to the dual facts that there’s so little to go wrong in its cars and that most of its parts have already spent long lives in Renault cars, having the majority of their faults ironed out. The Sandero is one of the most reliable hatchbacks in Europe.
Up to 12 months or 12,000 miles – lb140 est
Up to 24 months or 24,000 miles – lb220 est

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Pricing: (10/10)
This is a car without frills, navigation system on top-spec models excepted. Any car that can deliver impressive space for up to five people in a supermini-sized package is worth a look, and with prices starting from a barely believable lb5995, including three years and 60,000 miles worth of warranty, it’s tough to see how anyone could ever offer better value – as long as luxury and equipment aren’t priorities.
Ambiance models, with air conditioning and a few of the bits and pieces most people really wouldn’t want to do without, starts from only lb6995, rising to lb7795 for the perky turbocharged petrol and lb9195 for the diesel. Clearly, the strongest financial case falls for the basic SCe 75 engine.
Laureate trim only uses the two turbocharged engines and starts from lb8995. For the diesel it’s lb10,395, which is still thousands of pounds cheaper than some superminis’ entry prices.
As for the Sandero Stepway, which again uses only the turbocharged power units, Ambience opens the range at lb8795, lb1000 more than the equivalent Sandero. That price increase carries right across the Stepway range, making the most expensive Laureate model lb11,395: an absolute bargain.

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Cost Conscious
1.2 SCe 75 Access – it’s a whole, functional car with bags of utilitarian practicality for less than lb6000
Company Car Buyer
1.5 dCi 90 Laureate – the smartest looking trim grade meets the smart engine choice for high mileage
First Time Driver
0.9 TCe Ambiance – affordable pricing, not too precious and the basic desirable features are included
Suzuki Celerio
Smaller, but still cheap and very well equipped for its size, with standard alloy wheels on mid-range models
Skoda Citigo
Light on equipment but a grown-up drive from this multi-talented and thoroughly enjoyable city car
Ford Fiesta
The best-selling car in the class is great to drive and its high list prices are often heavily discounted
Renault Clio
A more modern, more refined and better-specified car than the Sandero that’s also much prettier
Citroen C3
Similar square-cut remit but extra style and sophistication, a higher driving position and a temptingly cheap entry price
What others say
What Car?
“The Dacia Sandero demands compromises, but it’s likeable and offers more practicality than anything else in this price range.”
Auto Express
“Alternatives at this price are hard to pin down, because the entry-level Sandero undercuts even the cheapest city cars, yet offers much more space.”


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