First Drive

First Drive: DACIA SANDERO

The story:
The second generation of Renault-owned Dacia’s budget Sandero model – dubbed the UK’s most affordable new car - has arrived, bringing improvements to refinement, quality and technology
Category:Supermini
Key rival:MG 3
DACIA SANDERO TCE 90 COMFORT
Price:£11,365
MPG:53.3mpg
Emissions:120g/km
On sale:Now

Dacia, that most budget of budget brands, has launched an all-new Sandero and faux-crossover Sandero Stepway sibling, with one of its big selling points being much better quality than the first Sandero, which landed in the UK in 2013.

That first one was always very low-priced, but felt as cheap as the price suggested, whereas the new model is intended to move the game on significantly, especially in areas of cabin quality, refinement and equipment. There’s also a hefty price rise over the previous Sandero, although it’s still about as cheap as new cars can be.

The brand describes the new design as smoother, and shut lines and panel gaps have been improved, while the stance is altered by an increased slant to the windscreen, helping lower the car by 10mm. The wheels are also pushed further into the corners of the car for extra stability.

First Drive - April 2021 - Dacia Sandero - Image 1Other changes include LED headlights across the range, a new boot opening button hidden from sight, and improved aerodynamics that contribute to a cut in CO2. Indeed, the most popular engine – the 1.0 90hp – drops by 14g/km to 120g/km. There’s also a 65hp engine that’s only offered in the entry Access trim, giving the Sandero its £7995 entry price, while Dacia remains the only manufacturer offering LPG conversions; the Bi-Fuel Sandero costs £400 more than the regular 90hp model.

The extra cost has been put to good use, as is obvious from slamming the door and hearing a more reassuring thump than the previous tinny rattle. The plastics are still pretty hard, as may be expected, but this top-spec Comfort model has a neat run of fabric trim across the dashboard that, along with the chrome air vents also fitted from the mid-spec Essential trim, lifts the cabin.

First Drive - April 2021 - Dacia Sandero - Image 5The 8.0-inch touchscreen system is only on the Comfort spec and feels a little dated but at least it has a screen, unlike the lower specs that make do with media via the Dacia smartphone app using a slightly oddball phone holder.

Refinement is much better, albeit still a little off that of higher-priced superminis, and other plusses include great passenger and boot space and a tight turning circle.

paul barker

The verdict

The Sandero is still a very cheap new car despite the price increase, but that rise comes hand-in-hand with big upgrades that make it feel less like such a bargain-basement car.