Parkers overall rating: 4.2 out of 5 4.2
  • Three-cylinder petrol with three levels of performance
  • No hybrid or diesel, but there's an LPG option
  • Highest-spec required if you want an automatic

There are four possible engine & gearbox combinations available in the Sandero, but they're all based around the same three-cylinder, 1.0-litre design. There's no diesel, and unusually these days, no hybrid - but Dacia's answer to reducing CO2 is to go for LPG as an alternative fuel, and it's very effective.

The only engine available in the Access model is the SCe 65, which lacks the turbocharger of the other models. You can have that engine in the Essential model as well as the Access.

It's not just the power that's reduced though, it has a five-speed gearbox meaning plenty of noise on the motorway.

The TCe 90 adds a turbo, and is the only option if you want the CVT automatic. It is essentially the same engine as the SCe 65 apart from the turbo, but in manual form it has a six-speed gearbox meaning it doesn't have to work as hard at higher speeds.

However, unless you're chasing the very cheapest cash cost for a new car, we'd go straight to the Essential TCe 100 Bi-Fuel.

It's only £400 more than the non-LPG version, there are no downsides to the installation unless you really wanted a spare wheel, and you'll save money in the long run if you make use of the LPG system. It's refined at motorway speeds, and thanks to the clean burn of LPG slightly less damaging environmentally.

 

Engine Power and torque
0-62mph time
Top speed
SCe 65 65hp, 95Nm 16.7secs 98mph
TCe 90
90hp, 160Nm
11.7secs
107mph
TCe 90 auto
90hp, 142Nm
13.4secs
101mph
TCe 100 Bi-fuel
100hp, 170Nm
11.6secs
114mph

 

Three-cylinder turbo engines are no longer unusual - and the character of the Sandero's unit (also found in the Renault Clio) is exemplary, complete with eager revving, a pleasant sound and a need to work the gears for the best performance or economy, as desired. Consider fifth and sixth as taller ratios for relaxed cruising, and the Sandero's ability to entertain is easy to discover.

Performance in-gear of the 100 TCe is entirely acceptable. Unless you're fiercely aggressive the Sandero's ability to pick up from 40mph to 60-70mph without changing down is quite reasonable - it has ample power for its light weight, after all - and if you drop a couple of gears you can catch the engine's peak torque and surge ahead. It's involving, but you're not forced into a given style of driving to make progress.

The LPG system is seamless in operation, and so thoroughly developed that the trip computer displays range, distance travelled and mpg averages in exactly the same manner as it does for petrol. As the name suggest the TCe 100 produces more power and torque when using LPG.

Handling

  • Lack of driver assistance is refreshing
  • Secure handling. biased towards comfort
  • Well-weighted controls, reassuring feedback

When every mainstream car seems to be pursuing firm, track-like handling to meet the needs of stability controls and marketing alike, the basic nature of the Sandero gains a real edge for those who enjoy driving, yet want their passengers to enjoy the trip too.

It's almost the perfect blend for daily transport on a budget. The suspension has enough travel to deal with British roads, enough damping to be comfortable without being wallowy or bouncy, and enough sophistication to corner quickly and safely when desired. The steering isn't hot-hatch sharp, but it is direct, predictable and easy to use at low speeds.

For most people this is enough - but if you fancy yourself a bit of a racing driver when the right road appears, there's some fun to be had as well thanks to the purity of the engineering.

What matters most is how grown up and 'not cheap' the Sandero feels in day to day use. The brakes are confidence-inspiring and easy to control, the steering is free of shakes, unwelcome fidgeting on poor roads or twitchyness, and the body roll is well controlled. Without a raft of computers and clever dampers and diffs interfering, the Sandero feels very natural.

The main downside to how the Sandero drives is a susceptibility to crosswinds; the tall, quite boxy shape and unintrusive stability control results in a bit of movement on windy days.