RUMMAGING around the automotive bargain basement, it soon becomes clear that there’s really only one contender for best buy under £10,000.

The updated Dacia Sandero still has a starting price of less than £7,000 and it is only the top-of-the-range diesel-engined models that bust that £10,000 tag.

For most buyers, it will be a choice between a couple of petrol engines and the three trim levels. Inevitably there are compromises to be made but make no mistake, the Sandero still provides an exceptionally good ride for your money.

The new front end design showcases double optic front headlights and LED daytime running lights as standard, plus an attractive honeycomb grille. You get the feeling that the Sandero is moving up in the world – and it is, but without breaking the bank.

Chunky, yet with a quite sleek silhouette, the Sandero pulls off the trick of being city car small yet able to house five people and carry a decent load. Its vital statistics are a length of 4,058mm, width of 1,732mm, height of 1,518mm and a 2,589mm wheelbase, With the rear seat in place the boot offers 320 litres – one of the highest in the supermini class - and with the rear seat folded that figure almost quadruples to 1,200 litres.

There are some nice touches inside, such as a satin-effect chrome finish for the air vent surrounds, trim strip and centre console fascia, and a new steering wheel that offers improved integration of the cruise control and speed limiter buttons for the tested Comfort version.

Additionally, there are new upholstery fabrics, textures and patterns to convey a greater impression of comfort and quality, the front electric window switches have been moved from the centre console to a panel by the door handles and numerous stowage spaces are included.

But the biggest surprise is the inclusion of technologies more common in cars costing considerably more. The top-end Comfort version gets a seven-inch touchscreen touchscreen multimedia system that includes satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, DAB radio and Apple Car Play and Android Auto compatibility as standard, together with rear parking sensors. For an extra £200 you can have a rear parking camera too, and still have change from your £10,000.

In contrast, the seven-function onboard computer uses woefully outdated graphics and desperately needs upgrading, and don’t expect anything other than dull, hard plastics for the dashboard.

Like all its sister Dacia models, Sandero is built on the company’s B0 platform. And when you realise that most Dacias are also sold as Renaults globally, you come to realise how impressive the economies of scale are.

Designed and built to cope with roads that are in an even worse state than our own, there’s a robust suspension set-up that does a good job in soaking up bumps and knocks and the improved soundproofing makes for acceptable noise levels. Just don’t expect a satisfying clunk when closing the doors.

The Sandero range benefits from some of the best engines and technology that Groupe Renault has to offer and is available in entry-level Access and Essential and Comfort trim levels, priced from £6,995. In Essential trim, priced from £7,795, the Sandero features air conditioning, the most affordable new car in the UK with air-con, electric front windows, DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity, body coloured bumpers and 15-inch wheels.

Top-of-the-range Comfort trim, available from £8,795, features 15-inch ‘Lassen’ wheel trims, heated and electrically adjustable door mirrors and technologies on the inside such as the touchscreen, cruise control and electric rear windows.

Dacia has added the new generation Blue dCi 95 to the Sandero range. The diesel engine is available with a five-speed manual transmission across two trim levels, Essential and Comfort, priced from £10,395.

Petrol power comes courtesy of two engines. The first is the SCe 75 1.0-litre three cylinder engine, which produces the same power as the outgoing 1.2-litre unit, yet is up to 10 per cent more efficient. The SCe 75 1.0-litre engine delivers 43.5-45.6mpg fuel economy and CO2 emissions of 120g/km. It allows the Sandero to accelerate from standstill to 62mph in a pedestrian 15.1 seconds on the way to a top speed of 98mph.

The second petrol unit, tested here, is the more responsive 898cc three cylinder TCe 90 petrol turbo engine, offered in all except Access trim. Packing 90 hp, the engine allows the Sandero to complete the 0-62mph sprint in 11.1 seconds and a top speed of 109mph, yet also delivers average fuel economy or more than 50mpg and CO2 emissions of only 123g/km. Drivers are helped to make the most of each engine’s potential with a gearshift indicator and an Eco mode that limits engine torque and can reduce fuel consumption by as much as 10 per cent. All three engines are mated to five-speed manual transmission.

The TCe 90 is surely the pick of the bunch, with adequate acceleration, a composed ride at between 50 and 60mph and satisfactory fuel economy. For urban drivers seeking a cheap small car with plenty of big car features, it’s a no-brainer.


Dacia Sandero Comfort TCe90

Price: from £9,795

Engine: 0.9-litre petrol, producing 90hp

Transmission: Five-speed manual

Performance: 0 to 62mph in 11.1 seconds; top speed 109mph

Economy: 52.3mpg

CO2 emissions: 123g/km


Performance: ***

Economy: ****

Ride/Handling: ***

Space/Practicality: ****

Equipment: ****

Security/Safety: ***

Value For Money: *****