I’m going to come right out and say it: running a Dacia Sandero for a few months is a dream come true. Granted, Britain’s cheapest new car might not find a slot in many people’s fantasy garage, but I have a thing for cars at the bottom end of the market. Give me a £7,995 small car over a supercar with a six-figure price tag anyday. I guess I must be wired in a different way to most car enthusiasts.
It’s worth pointing out that this isn’t the £7,995 Sandero. As keen as I would have been to find out what it’s really like to ‘own’ the cheapest model, I’ve taken custody of a Sandero in flagship Comfort trim. It’s also the bi-fuel model which, when you factor in the cost of Iron Blue metallic paint (£560), increases the price to an extravagant £12,555. Still stupidly cheap, especially when you consider that the entry-level versions of the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa cost £17,045 and £16,815 respectively, in five-door guise. A budget of £12,000 is barely enough for a mid-range city car in 2021. Few companies are keen to fly the budget flag these days, so thank goodness we still have Dacia to offer some good, old-fashioned value for money.
You can’t get alloy wheels on the new Dacia Sandero without opting for the rugged Stepway version. Our test car rides on so-called ‘flex’ wheels; essentially steel wheels designed to look like alloys. The visual trick must work, because a few people have expressed surprise when I pointed out Dacia’s smoke and mirrors approach. Comfort trim also benefits from an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, automatic wipers, keyless entry and start, electric windows, soft-feel steering wheel and LED light signature with daytime running lights. Power is sourced from the same 1.0-litre turbocharged unit you’ll find in the latest Renault Clio. I make this point, because this new Sandero is based on the same chassis as the Clio, rather than relying on an older platform, like in the old days. That’s a significant development, because it means the new Sandero no longer feels like a hand-me-down from the Renault mothership. The TCe 100 three-cylinder petrol engine produces a useful 99bhp, but the big news is that it can run on LPG (liquified petroleum gas). With a strong wind behind you, a light right foot and a bit of luck, Dacia says it’s possible to squeeze 924 miles out of the 50-litre petrol and 40-litre LPG tanks. I should be able to reach Scotland from my home in Devon without filling up. Needless to say, I will be attempting this as part of my test duties.
LPG costs around 64p per litre, so it’s around half the price of diesel. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the Sandero offers a claimed 39.8mpg in LPG mode, so it’s less economical than petrol (52.3mpg). Still, CO2 emissions drop from 123g/km to 109g/km, so it’s swings and roundabouts.
First impressions are excellent, but I’ll need to ditch my Sandero fanboy cap to present a series of balanced reports. It feels like a car at the budget end of the market, but the gap between the Sandero and other superminis is narrower than before. The strips of fabric on the dashboard and doors feel surprisingly upmarket, while the infotainment system is refreshingly simple to use. Top marks to whoever decided to add a smartphone bracket and USB charging port to the section alongside the screen – clever thinking. Some of the interior plastics are straight out of a chocolate box, but this probably means more to other people than it does to me. For now, I share Ian’s view that the Sandero is the “bargain of the century”, although I will address the lowly Euro NCAP rating in a future update. For now, this fanboy is exceptionally happy.
Date arrived 12th May 2021
Economy (combined) (Petrol) 52.3mpg
Economy (combined) (LPG) 39.7mpg
Economy (On test) (Petrol) 42.5mpg
Economy (On test) (LPG) 34.0mpg