DACIA has updated its entire range, with the new line-up of cars getting a handful of small changes to the styling but also a brand new engine: a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol that powers the entry-level models, replacing the old 1.2-litre unit. The super-affordable £5,995 Sandero Access is available in the UK with the small engine, and Dacia’s UK boss reassured us that “we do sell some” of the stripped-back superminis. But we’ve tested the new Sandero in Ambiance trim. After all, most buyers will go for the higher specification, as it brings niceties such as air-con, a DAB radio and electric windows. At £6,995, the Sandero Ambiance is genuinely better value than ever. Because the price hasn’t changed yet there’s more kit, buyers are getting even more for their money. Plus, competitors have been slowly creeping up in price over the past few years, but Dacia has kept its costs steady.
Price is so important for the budget brand’s range, so we’re glad that the Sandero remains such good value. As well as the kit we’ve mentioned, the Ambiance model comes with USB and Bluetooth connectivity, remote locking, a new-look dashboard and hill start assist. It’s a basic but commendable kit list for a car of this price, although you’d hardly say this Sandero is packed with toys. The main changes for the facelifted model are the new headlights and tail-lamps, which now have a more distinctive signature, as well as reshaped bumpers and a new grille. The overall effect is subtle, but the car looks a bit more modern than before.
Inside, there’s a new steering wheel and some changes to the materials on the dash. It does improve things slightly, although the interior is still very basic and sparse. The new steering wheel doesn’t have a very high-quality feel, with a slightly sticky surface, but the rest of the materials inside feel robust and aren’t too scratchy. The driving position is comfortable enough, and the ride was good on our test drive in Croatia. No changes have been made to the suspension, so the Dacia should retain its smooth ride in the UK as well. We would say, however, that refinement at speed is compromised slightly by the new SCe 1.0-litre petrol.
While the new unit has a typically fun three-cylinder sound, it is louder in the cabin than the other engines, especially at higher speeds where it tends to drone away in the background. It sends a lot of vibrations through as well; the TCe turbo petrol engine is a better all-round choice. Claimed economy of 54.3m pg in the new engine doesn’t match the 57.6mpg of the pricier turbo, although we expect both to return similar figures in the real world. The 1.0-litre model does have a trump card to play, however: it sits in insurance group four, with the turbo engine in group nine.
That makes it a much better pick for young drivers, while the punchy dCi diesel is a solid choice for anyone else, claiming 80.7mpg. The SCe 75 engine feels lethargic in the Sandero, taking the car from 0-62mph in 14.2 seconds, and you need to rev it hard to get any performance out of it. Doing this isn’t as much fun as it is in rival 1.0-litre cars such as the Skoda Citigo. The Citigo really shows up the Sandero when it comes to handling as well, with the Dacia suffering from body roll in corners and lifeless steering.
The Skoda is a smaller car, sitting in the class below, and is quite a bit more expensive, but buy on a PCP and you will only be paying a little more per month. As before, there’s plenty of space in the Sandero, with the 320-litre boot expanding to 1,200 litres when you fold the 60:40 split rear bench. That’s much bigger than the respective 251 and 951-litre luggage capacities in the Citigo, and there’s fer more rear passenger space as well.