Dacia Sandero half-year test: 'Simple and super' | CAR Magazine

Dacia Sandero half-year test: 'Simple and super'

Published: 15 June 2022 Updated: 15 June 2022

► We live with Britain’s cheapest car
► Dacia Sandero long-term test diaries
► It’s cheap, but is it also cheerful? 

Month 6 of our long-term test: a car for tough times

Truly, the world has gone mad. We’ve trucked around for half a year in the Dacia Sandero, and I discover it’s lost less than £1600 in depreciation. This kind of residual value was the preserve of hot new Porsches in the past. 

Our TCe 90 supped fuel at 41.9mpg, which was mildly disappointing for a small rurally-based hatchback, but it required no oil or fluids other than screenwash. I was surprised by the requirement for a dealer visit at just 7k miles, but that was triggered by the annual calendar, not the odometer; Smiths Peterborough efficiently completed the inspection service while I waited, for the princely sum of £75.

They also replaced my punctured tyre, which ruptured the weekend before the service. Smiths quoted as cheaply as anyone for the replacement Bridgestone (£74), so won my business. The car returned clean and tidy, though an occasional misfire at around 2000rpm when the engine is cold persisted.

Undamped Dacia Sandero glovebox has simple nylon strap

Most people who sampled the Sandero struggled to notice any cost-cutting. Yes, the doors are quite tinny when they close, the glovebox’s damping hangs on a simple nylon belt (above) and the flimsy plastic boot handle feels like it’s fallen off the seconds shelf at a Playmobil factory. But the whole package is impressive: the cabin feels minimalist and modern with its simple design, textile-trimmed dashboard and large smartphone-powered screen – it’s very on-point for these austere times.

Nothing fell off or broke and every trip was a lesson in motoring modesty. Our TCe 90 had just enough power and torque, but I wouldn’t fancy the entry-level SCe 60 with a third less oomph. 

I’ll remember the Sandero for its back-to-basics joy: the well-judged manual gearbox, whose top sixth gear provided quiet and relaxed cruising, the keen handling that enjoyed being hustled down a B-road as much as mooching around town, and the eager 1.0-litre turbocharged triple that rarely felt out of puff and only needed refuelling every 480 miles.

Clever wheel trims look like alloys

Even the plastic wheel trims impressed (above): I’m not sure I’ve seen a more convincing clip-on cover that does a better job of looking to the passerby like an alloy wheel.

This is a small car big on character, generous of space and low in price. Its price has gone up since its launch, and smaller rivals are now nibbling at its price. It remains extraordinary value, though, and its rational appeal is only magnified as penny-pinching becomes prudent for us all. It’s simple and super.

Dacia Sandero Comfort TCe 90 logbook

Price £12,045 (£12,890 as tested)
Performance 999cc turbocharged three-cylinder, 90bhp, 11.7sec 0-62mph, 111mph
Efficiency 53.3mpg (official), 40.1mpg (tested), 120g/km CO2
Energy cost 16.3p per mile
Miles this month 491 
Total miles 7720

Count the cost: Dacia Sandero depreciation

Cost new £12,890 
Part exchange £11,292 
Cost per mile 19.7p 
Cost per mile including depreciation 62.5p

Month 5: A weekend in the life of the Dacia Sandero long-term test

Join us on a typical weekend in the life of our Sandero. Here’s a postcard from our exploits around Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire:

1) Retrieving boot space

Molly our golden retriever checks out Sandero boot

Molly’s a great judge of boot space – and for a modest hatchback, she’s pretty comfy in the Sandero’s loadbay, once we’ve removed the parcel shelf and she’s scrambled over the boot lip.

2) Easy-like navigation

Apple CarPlay navigation works a treat in Sandero

On longer runs, map-reading is a cinch thanks to smartphone integration: clip mobile in holder and Apple CarPlay does the rest – beaming maps on the built-in screen and directions on the phone itself.

3) To Silverstone!

CAR's Tim Pollard visiting the new Silverstone Interactive Museum

Dog walk completed, it’s time to head to Silverstone to visit the new Interactive Museum, rammed with interesting race cars and hands-on explainers about how gearboxes and suspension work. Recommended.

4) Living the Porsche dream

Visiting Porsche Silverstone in our Dacia

Have driven past Porsche Silverstone hundreds of times. Teenage son and I stopped this time, to ogle GT4s and Anniversary 911s. Kudos to the dealership team: they welcomed this humble Dacia driver with open arms.

5) That space is Taycan 

Porsche Taycan costs SEVEN times as much as our Dacia Sandero

We didn’t buy a Taycan (sadly). But the Sandero has rubbed shoulders with Porsche’s electric pioneer before at Bauer Towers. Thing is, you could have SEVEN Dacias for one Taycan 4S…

6) Puncture repair kit

Uh-oh: puncture on our Dacia Sandero

Back at base, disaster strikes… A sharp slice of gravel punctures a tyre. Happily, our Sandero comes with the £250 full-size spare, so we dodge cans of gunk, spacesavers and other annoyances and are quickly on our way.

By Tim Pollard

Month 4: Still a bargain, despite the price rises

Sandero: it's Romanian for great value

Wily manufacturers rarely want to promote their stripped-out boggo models, but Dacia did eventually agree to let us run the actual cheapest car on sale today: the Sandero Essential. And then someone from HQ rang to explain how a range restructure meant they could no longer swap our Comfort spec for the Essential.

Blame the pandemic. Blame the chip shortage. Blame Brexit, oscillating exchange rates and market forces – I think the fact that the entry-level Sandero has leapt from £7995 at launch in 2020 to £9845 last year and now £10,145 speaks volumes about the trends reshaping the small-car market.

By Tim Pollard

Dacia Sandero Comfort TCe 90 logbook

Price £12,045 (£12,890 as tested) 
Performance 999cc turbocharged three-cylinder, 90bhp, 11.7sec 0-62mph, 111mph 
Efficiency 53.3mpg (official), 41.8mpg (tested), 120g/km CO2 
Energy cost 15.8p per mile 
Miles this month 837 
Total miles 6439

Month 3 of our Dacia Sandero long-term test: basic, in a good way

Dacia Sandero long-term test review 2022

You’re heard me raving about the Sandero in the first couple of reports: I’ve quickly fallen for its back-to-basics charms. But what’s the Dacia actually like to drive? The tiny 1.0-litre triple starts up unobtrusively at the push of a button and performs like a bigger engine; only when you really extend the revs does it betray its three cylinders, with their thrummy soundtrack. The acceleration figures don’t sound much, but they are fine for the journeys we typically make.

There was an occasional misfire or loss of power around 2000rpm when the engine was cold in the depths of winter, but otherwise the Sandero has behaved faultlessly. The gearbox proffers a neat, accurate change, the disc front/drum rear brakes provide decent retardation and the Sandero can be hustled along a snaking back road with some vim.

If there’s one dynamic nit to pick, it’s the secondary ride quality: this supermini bumps and jars a little too much for my liking, the damping never quite settling on Northamptonshire’s more potted back roads.

By Tim Pollard

Dacia Sandero Comfort TCe 90 logbook

Price £12,045 (£12,890 as tested) 
Performance 999cc turbocharged three-cylinder, 90bhp, 11.7sec 0-62mph, 111mph 
Efficiency 53.3mpg (official), 43.3mpg (tested), 120g/km CO2 
Energy cost 15.6p per mile 
Miles this month 918 
Total miles 5602

Month 2 living with the Dacia Sandero: simple pleasures

Author Tim Pollard at the wheel of his Dacia Sandero

One month in and there’s a joyful simplicity to the Sandero that brings a smile to my face every time I get behind the wheel. There are no lane-keep-assist cameras blindly following faded road markings, no electronics to fidget the steering, no beeps or bongs telling me off for not following protocol. It’s an oasis of calm and a reminder how creeping autonomy is eroding trust in the driver. 

Not here. You have to do nearly everything yourself in the Dacia, from tugging on the physical handbrake to selecting gear. The Sandero reconnects you with the art of driving, from the simple pleasures of mastering clutch control to the inherent rightness of physical heating knobs.

It does everything you need. And it seems buyers are slowly cottoning on. I’m seeing Sanderos around in some numbers and JATO data shows it assumed best-seller status in Europe last summer, quietly overtaking the VW Golf and Toyota Yaris to take the top spot as buyers realise that going back to basics makes an awful lot of sense in these economically challenged times.

By Tim Pollard

Dacia Sandero Comfort TCe 90 logbook

Price £12,045 (£12,890 as tested)
Performance 999cc turbocharged three-cylinder, 90bhp, 11.7sec 0-62mph, 111mph
Efficiency 53.3mpg (official), 44.0mpg (tested), 120g/km CO2
Energy cost 14.3p per mile
Miles this month 968
Total miles 4684

Month 1 of our long-term test: getting to know the Dacia Sandero

Dacia Sandero long-term test by CAR magazine 2022

The Dacia Sandero could well be the perfect car for these troubled times. In this winter of discontent, as supermarket supplies dry up, fuel runs out and pandemics rage, where better to retreat than the back-to-basics simplicity of Britain’s cheapest new car? 

Colleague Anthony ffrench-Constant was surprisingly smitten when he first drove it in our 2020 launch review and now we’ve the chance to put it to the ultimate test: real life during this country’s dreariest months.

First things first, we need to explain that this particular Sandero is not the cheapest model. Quite the opposite, in fact. It’s the range-topper. Dacia restructured the range in autumn 2021, by which we mean it’s raised prices, pared back choice and adjusted specs. And currently there aren’t any available in boggo Essential spec in the UK. CAR’s a persistent type, though, and after we pushed Dacia relented and agreed to build us an entry-level model in UN white on steel wheels – so in the meantime we’re tooling around in this fancy £12,045 Comfort version.

It should be a fascinating half year, topping and tailing the Sandero range. We’ll be testing this rather fetching Iron Blue model for a few weeks before it’ll miraculously turn into the entry-level car that catches all the headlines with its RRP of £9845. That’s miraculously cheap for a small car, even if it has risen by nearly £2k in the past year of turmoil. In case you were sleeping and missed the super-inflation that’s affected all superminis, Ford won’t sell you a new Fiesta for less than £16k these days. 

Of course, nobody pays list price any more. At the time of writing, Dacia is offering a PCP of £99 a month over three years for our range-topping Comfort, after you put £4026 down. Some smartphone contracts will match that each month.

Our Dacia Sandero is the Comfort TCe 90

So we’ve established it’s cheap, but is it any good? Our initial impressions are entirely favourable. This five-door hatch looks crisp and Euro-smart and modern, and you wouldn’t know its 15-inch wheels weren’t alloys, so clever are its hubcaps. 

As you approach, the Sandero unlocks automatically; its keyless entry is possibly the best I’ve yet used – unlocking and latching perfectly as you approach and leave without having to touch the handle, with just enough of a thudding bolt that you know it’s secure. Honestly, it’s better than the entry systems on most premium cars I test.

Slide inside and the dashboard is crisply styled and does all the basics well. It’s a joy to be back in a car with physical switches, heating controls that don’t require a touchscreen and – praise be! – a manual gearlever and handbrake. This cabin doesn’t feel at all dour and cheap: the plastics are well judged and lifted by some clever technical fabrics running across the dashboard, and there’s a media screen that’ll sync wirelessly with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to bring your ents and mapping with you. Will I wish it had an expensive built-in system? We’ll see.

First impressions are that the Sandero drives well, with a joyful simplicity to the controls, perfectly reasonable performance from the tiny sub-1.0-litre triple and the chops to survive the cut-and-thrust of a motorway schlepp as much as thriving around town. It’s surprisingly roomy, too, with lashings of space in the back seats and boot for carrying my family and their associated teenage clobber around.

So if you see me driving around sporting a huge grin as the world around us falls apart this winter, you’ll know why. I might just have chosen to live with the bargain of the decade, when austerity done right couldn’t be more in sync with these troubled times.

Dacia Sandero Comfort TCe 90 logbook

Price £12,045 (£12,890 as tested)
Performance 999cc turbocharged three-cylinder, 90bhp, 11.7sec 0-62mph, 111mph
Efficiency 53.3mpg (official), 120g/km CO2
Energy cost n/a (we’ve not filled up yet!)
Miles this month 128
Total miles 3716

More Dacia reviews by CAR magazine

By Tim Pollard

Group digital editorial director, car news magnet, crafter of words