The Dacia Sandero is Britain’s cheapest car. But is it a bargain?

Published: 15 March 2021

It’s Britain’s cheapest new car
But no one buys new cars with cash
We crunch the numbers for you

A bargain is a bit like pornography. Hard to describe but you know it when you see it.

The Sandero looks about right. It’s famously the UK’s cheapest new car. And £7995 is a pittance considering the cheapest Ford Fiesta you can buy is more than double that at £16,640.

It can’t be that simple, can it? Dig down into the numbers, spec choices and the finance and the Sandero, surprisingly, is still a bargain.

How do you make sure you’re getting a bargain?

The £7995 model is called Access. This does without alloy wheels, air-con, body-coloured bumpers and even electric windows.

The cheapest Fiesta, the Trend, may well cost twice as much but there is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, alloy wheels, and lane-keep assist.

For this kind of kit level you’ll need to upgrade to Comfort for the Sandero. Starting at £11,595, it’s still more than £5k cheaper than the Fiesta.

Is the Dacia Sandero a bargain?

Here’s where it gets interesting. For the previous-model Sandero, mid-spec Essential trim made up 70% of sales. Access models accounted for less than 10% of sales.

So most people aren’t falling simply for the ‘cheapest car in Britain’ tagline and are upgrading to actually get some bells if not all of the whistles.

The numbers

Even with an eye-watering 6.9% APR rate, buying a Comfort model outright on a 48-month contract will only cost £13,696.

That’s still less than the cheapest Fiesta, despite the Ford coming with an eye-catching 0% APR deal.

How is Dacia making it so cheaply? The Sandero shares a platform with the current-generation Renault Clio and Nissan Juke.

The Clio’s exhaust is longer. Really cheap Sanderos do away with infotainment screens. It makes do with 16-inch wheels to make the wheelarches cheaper.

The Dacia Sandero may well be Britain's cheapest car...

Dacia won’t talk profit margins. But it’s apparent that one of the reasons the Dacia is cheaper is because it’s had Renault and Nissan do the hard work. The Juke and the Clio got first dibs on the gubbins while the Sandero swept up the platform like a thirsty and scraggly student minesweeping at the SU.

Case closed

Around 90% of new-car sales are financed, not bought in cash. And Dacia’s finance deals have long been a bit rubbish.

Current PCP (Personal Contract Purchase) deals, where you can decide whether to buy the car outright at the end, are saddled with a huge 6.9% APR.

Slam dunk then. Easy to see how Dacia is making money. It does the hard work of making the Sandero as cheap as possible through ingenuity. Then it doesn’t need to make a profit on the cars, only on the finance.

It is a bargain then. But if you want to buy outright, do it with a bank loan.

By Murray Scullion

Petrolhead, journalist and traveller. Loves fast old cars and new tech. Deputy editor of sister site,