2021 Dacia Sandero Review

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Could Dacia’s budget hatchback ruffle feathers in the Australian market?

Dacia claims its focus is making quality new cars at an affordable price. Well, it’s job done with the latest Sandero.

Dacia is Renault’s budget car brand and could soon be a new entrant to the Australian market. Cars in its range include the Duster SUV, Sandero hatch, and new Sandero Stepway crossover. Brands like MG have shown that affordable with some bells and whistles works, so why not this budget Romanian car maker? Available already in right-hand drive in the UK, the Sandero maintains its position as being the UK’s cheapest car to buy, with key upgrades only adding to its appeal with cost-conscious buyers.

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They say the most simple ideas are often the best, and Dacia’s well-judged, value-for-money family hatchback is right up there. And Dacia has been around a long time too.

There were a lot of momentous events that occurred back in 1966 and it included the birth of Romanian car manufacturer Dacia which, after arranging a licensing agreement with Renault, was able to start production of its 1100 model (based on the Renault 8) and kick start its mission of producing modern, robust family cars that were still affordable to buyers.

Fast forward to 1999 and, with Renault taking a controlling stake in Dacia, the next few years saw the production of the Logan family sedan sold across mainland Europe, and the introduction of the Sandero and Duster model ranges. However, it wasn’t until 2013 that Dacia was officially launched in right-hand drive, offering new levels of family car affordability for the UK. In fact, its first TV advert proudly announced: ‘We don’t do frivolity, function’s our thing’, before stamping the equivalent of a $11,300 Sandero list price across the screen. For those on a budget, it was a hard proposition to resist.

Dacia has now sold over 200,000 cars in right-hand drive and that could soon be boosted with new Australian offerings. Crucially, prices are still extraordinarily low, but the manufacturer has implemented a raft of engineering changes and tech updates which provide the Sandero with a modern, more up-to-date feel.

The Sandero now sits on a modified version of the Renault Clio’s CMF platform which helps to improve the driving experience, while the new car’s chassis is lighter and stiffer than before. Interior quality and tech have both increased, too, which is arguably an even bigger factor in persuading small car buyers to part with their cash.

With a fresh new look and a little extra finesse, the Sandero now asks serious questions of buyers looking towards a ‘traditional’ small hatchback purchase like the Toyota Yaris or Kia Picanto. They rival the Dacia for size, but can’t compete on price.

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Engine choices are limited to the SCe 65 1.0-litre three-cylinder unit, producing a humble 48kW, while the turbo charged TCe 90 variant is probably a more astute choice with 66kW and a useful extra slug of torque. The TCe 100 Bi-Fuel unit, which offers cost-saving LPG tech, completes the lineup but is unlikely to make it.

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Entry-level Access trim means you’ll have to forego the niceties of air-conditioning, a radio and automatic central locking to get that low, low price tag, while the rear manual wind-up windows can best be described as nostalgic. Moving up to a mid-spec Essential car brings back air-con and remote central locking, along with cruise control, DAB and Bluetooth connectivity, with the top-of-the-range Comfort version feeling relatively palatial with chrome trim accents, upgraded upholstery, a rear-view camera and an 8-inch media touchscreen controlling the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functions.

It is priced at the equivalent of just under $15,000 in the UK which alludes to a potentially attractive price here. For that, you can have a new, but admittedly rather basic, family hatch on your driveway, while moving up a little brings the TCe 90 Essential version which could well be the sweet spot in the Sandero range. Even the top-spec Comfort car isn’t that pricey. And, if you’re after a little extra SUV style, the Sandero Stepway model comes with a raised ride height and rugged exterior trim for only a small price premium, and that could well be where Dacia might make an impact if it does come to Australia.

Final Verdict:

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