As five-seat hatchbacks go, the new Sandero from Renault-owned Dacia is very, very cheap.
Renault bought Dacia from the Romanian State back in 1999. From modest beginnings, selling less than 5,000 cars, Dacia sold 350,000 last year! The Romanian firm's catchphrase is "Shockingly Affordable", and as Europe's fastest growing carmaker it offers new car buyers a tempting proposition for those on a budget.
So how does it do it?
Dacia's are built using tried and tested bits and pieces from Renault's parts bin. Sandero is closely related to the Renault Clio.
The exterior is surprisingly good-looking. I am genuinely surprised by Sandero's modern exterior, because the last generation of the front-wheel drive car was laughably dull. Sandero's exterior styling now shows hints of VW Polo and a few other, more expensive machines. The big thing for buyers to note is that the Dacia Sandero isn't embarrassing anymore.
Inside my top spec Sandero, there is a reasonable amount of space for a Supermini, but you must remember that Sandero is priced as a Town/City car and compared to its class rivals is pretty big inside. Material and trim quality is better than the price-tag suggests. However, there are a couple of spots where I wouldn't want to run a finger along for fear of getting cut (like the side window air slots on the dashboard).
The switchgear is all Renault, with the cruise control/limiter switch set low in the centre of the dash. There you will also find the front electric window switches. The rear electric window switches are found (and I mean found - as in you will need to search for them) behind the handbrake. This positioning means Dacia saves cash on having to route the wiring loom through the doors, and if that means a cheaper car for punters then well done Dacia.
The 320-litre boot is a decent size. Under the carpet you'll find a spare wheel-well, but my test car only featured a repair/inflation kit, which in the real world is less than useful!
On the road, Sandero corners with a lot of body roll. Steering is light and geared for a neutral feel. Sandero uses a five-speed manual gearbox that features quite a long-geared fifth. My test car had all the bells and whistles, including the higher output petrol engine which can hustle along when needed.
The UK gets an even cheaper, but lower-specified Sandero which does without colour-coded bumpers and mirrors. Worse still, it has manual-winding windows (shock horror!) - but it only costs £5,995. I think Dacia Ireland has missed a trick by not bringing this ultra-cheap version to Ireland, as now more than ever motorists know the value of their euro.
A chunkier crossover Sandero, 'Stepway', is coming in May for a premium over the standard hatchback. Stepway will fill the gap between the Sandero and the very affordable Duster.
Dacia is a budget brand delivering modest, functional motoring at a very low price.
Dacia Sandero may be very cheap, but it's not bad.