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The UK’s cheapest car is reborn: Dacia unveils all-new Sandero

Mark Nichol

29 Sep 2020

Dacia has officially unveiled the all-new Sandero and has taken the UK’s cheapest new car upmarket. A bit.

This is the brand-new Dacia Sandero, the third generation of a model that for the entirety of its existence in the UK has been the cheapest new car on sale. The last generation version, on sale from 2013 and the only one we’ve had so far in the UK, had a list price starting below seven grand. That was amazing value considering it’s about the size of a Ford Fiesta and with more interior space; it’s not a shoebox on wheels.

That said, base models always felt a bit like that, with a standard equipment list that didn’t even include a radio meaning that in reality most buyers actually spent more than £7000 on their new Sandero.

Known as a versatile and no-frills model, and based on the Renault Clio (Renault owns Dacia), the last Sandero came as a standard five-door hatchback, a pseudo-SUV ‘Stepway’ model with raised ride height and some plastic cladding, and an estate. All three of those body styles remain available for this version and have been revealed today.

And while it’s tempting to think that the Stepway version is a niche interest that makes up a fraction of Dacia sales – as per similar stuff like the VW Passat Alltrack and Audi A4 Allroad – that’s far from the case. The Stepway makes up 65% of the sales total of a car that’s been the best-selling nameplate in Europe for the last couple of years, with 2.1m sold.

According to Dacia the new Sandero has a “more sophisticated design and more features than ever with enhanced comfort,” and on the first point at least it’s hard to disagree. The images Dacia has supplied with the car no doubt show an upper spec model, but as you can see there’s now a set of fancy LED daytime running lights and a generally more rakish appearance marked by broad shoulders and a shallow glasshouse. THe interior is dramatically improved, now featuring "cloth" in Dacia's words. Really though, it does look a world apart and will probably feel that way too, in a hollow and scratchy sort of way.

Talking about car platforms is boring, we know this, but it’s relevant here because the Renault Group CMF chassis that underpins the new Sandero – the first time Dacia has used it – means this one is roomier and more versatile in drivetrain terms than the outgoing one, while being the same size on the road. It also means this Sandero has more safety features than ever, and comes with a new automatic gearbox option.

The chassis is more rigid than before, a fundamental safety feature, and LED headlamps are standard fit across the range. All versions get six airbags, ESP, emergency brake assist, blind spot warning, and hill start assist. Interior equipment is still…basic, it’s fair to say, although all cars do this time come with a radio, at least. Yay. And with two whole speakers, no less.

According to Dacia the specification has been chosen “in line with what customers want and need in their cars…without adding unnecessary costs” which is a lovely way of saying “you’re getting the basics and no more”. So, you get a smartphone holder, and if you buy at the bottom of the range and your car doesn’t have a touchscreen, instead you can use an app called Media Control to control the radio and media playback. Standard cars come with 15-inch wheels whose trims are designed to look like alloys.

One clever touch in the Stepway is that the roof rails can be turned 90 degrees so that they form a roof rack without having to employ an adapter of any sort. If we could embed that gif with the bloke tapping his temple here, we would.

The other benefit of the CMF platform is that Dacia can use the latest generation of Renault engines, meaning the Sandero will come with 1.0-litre petrols in a few power outputs. There’ll be a 64bhp base model badged SCe, a turbo version called TCe with 89bhp and a 99bhp TCe BiFuel model that can run on LPG too. A five-speed manual is standard, with the higher powered turbo engines getting a six-speeder as standard or a CVT automatic optionally.

No word on prices yet but we doubt Dacia will be able to keep the thing below £7000. We reckon they’ll add £500 to that, which will still mean it’s the cheapest new car on sale.

Mark Nichol

29 Sep 2020