Dacia for frugal, functional and foxy cars

IMG_0005-1To convert a savvy FOXY Lady Driver into a customer, a new car must either be better than the rest in her mind, come highly recommended by her friends or represent a really good deal. The Dacia Sandero scores particularly well on the last count as there isn’t another new supermini out there for as little as £5999 on the road.

I first saw a Dacia at Goodwood’s Moving Motors Exhibition last summer. It was a 5 seater SUV, called the oddly named Duster, for just £8995. It was going down a storm.

For those who don’t know this already, Dacia (said to rhyme with Thatcher I’m told) builds the cars in Romania, is owned by Renault and comes with the latest skills, technology and market insight you’d expect as a result of this parentage.

The car I drove was supplied by award-winning dealership Lifestyle Europe with Dacia dealerships in Brighton, Eastbourne and Tunbridge Wells. As you can see from the photograph the car already has a 2013 Best Car Award from What Car! That’s an excellent start…

And with such low prices the Dacia philosophy is clearly ‘functionality over frivolity’ with the invitation ‘You Do The Maths.’ The point they are making is that you get a lot of car for your money for starters but if you’d like to pay more for further options and accessories, you still can.

Good looks and model choices

IMG_0004-1The entry level £5995 Sandero version is called the Access and it comes in Glacier White with 15 inch steel wheels and a 1.2 16v 75 engine.

The Laureate is Dacia’s top of the range (prices from £7995 to £9795) and the Ambiance is the in-betweener (prices from £6595 to £8395) each with their own trim levels, a choice of petrol and diesel engines and accessory options.

The Sandero competes with supermini big sellers the Ford Fiesta and the VW Polo when you’d be paying nearer to £10,000.

That’s a big difference to any motoring budget even after you compare like for like in terms of options.

When it comes to looks, it’s probably fair to say that the Sandero wouldn’t stand out in a crowded car park but it’s still a perfectly good looking car as you can see.

The Laureate model I drove had the frugal TCe 90 petrol engine and came with front and rear electric windows, electric mirrors, cruise control, satellite navigation and air conditioning.

Value for money

This is where the Sandero performs best. It’s such good value. I suggest you drive the basic model for starters and see what you get… then decide what you REALLY need in terms of extras. The basic comes in a fashionable white, you get a comprehensive package of safety features and, if you like, you can save money by fitting your own car radio and audio system instead of buying more expensive branded options.

Both diesel engines are VED/tax exempt, you’ll enjoy combined fuel consumption of 74.3mpg and business drivers are taxed at 13% for Benefit In Kind (BIK).

All Dacias come with a 3 year or 60,000 mile warranty and you can pay to extend this to 7 years/100k mileage for £850. Clearly terms apply but they wouldn’t offer this unless they knew the car to be reliable (see FOXY Facts below for more detail).

Driving performance

IMG_0008I test drove the Sandero on a combination of city, rural and motorway roads in Sussex.

Yes the gear change was a tad sluggish I thought but it coped well in Brighton’s stop start city traffic and flew on the motorway when given its chance.

For the size of the car and engine, the 0-62mph time of 11 seconds is quite quick and at lower speeds, it feels even quicker.

It’s a quiet engine, the steering is light and the suspension made this a more comfortable ride than my everyday car in what I call ‘Pothole Country’ ie where I live in West Sussex.

Practicalities

Once you’re in it, the car seems bigger than it looks. The dashboard is smart (it had the MediaNav fitted) and there were two cupholders and handy storage trays. Ideal for five adults, it’d be a great family car with two ISOFIX child seat fittings in the back. The rear seat splits so you have even more storage space than just the ‘best in class’ 320 litre boot. Good for visits to IKEA, it’ll easily cope with the typical family supermarket shopping run and all the gear you’d need for a camping holiday. The Media Nav was easy for me to use (this is an option costing £225) including Bluetooth connectivity and having got used to parking sensors, I’d probably want these as part of the Protection Pack option adding £225 here.

Sadly, another car with poor handbag space in our quest for safe and accessible storage here. Under the seat again after I’ve dug out the money I need for the Dartford Tunnel…

Summary

When it came to test driving this car I had expected to ‘feel’ its cheapness. I quickly realised I couldn’t and neither will anyone else. I enjoyed the drive, appreciated the frugal and functional role that Dacia is filling in these tough economic times and I thoroughly recommend the Sandero as fabulous value for money for a family car.

Providing you do the maths first, pick only essential options and do without ‘nice to have’ bells and whistles, you’ll be buying a reliable new car with a Renault pedigree at a bargain price.

Steph Savill

FOXY FACTS

IMG_0012Model tested: Dacia Sandero Laureate TCe 90

RRP: The entry model, the Dacia Sandero Access 1.2 16v 75 costs from £5995. The Laureate range starts from £7995 and the car I drove included a range of options including metallic paint (£495), 15 inch alloys (£425), a Protection Pack with parking sensors, carpet mats and a boot liner (£225) plus the 7 inch Media Nav touchscreen multimedia system with Bluetooth, USB and AUX connections (£250).

Buying discounts: You don’t get discounts when a car is as cheap as this one but you should expect a good trade-in if you have a low mileage car in good condition to deal over…

Fuel economy: The TCe 90 engine does 44.1mpg (Urban cycle), 65.7mpg (Extra urban cycle) and 56.5mpg (Combined cycle). The Laureate’s diesel dCi90 engine manages a combined cycle of 74.3mpg which is even more impressive.

Insurance group: The cars range from a very low insurance group 2E to a not much higher group 10E depending on the engine and spec.

Road tax/VED: The standard tax rate for the TCe 90 is £30 after a free first 12 months. The two diesel engines are both tax exempt.

Safety: Euro NCAP always tests the basic model and rates the Sandero as 3 stars overall. This overlooks the fact that this car gets 5 stars in the child protection and 4 stars for adult protection categories. Nor does it say that all models in the Sandero range come with ESC stability control, anti-lock brakes and four front airbags as standard.

Reliability: All Dacia models are thoroughly tested so they can cope in different environments and weather extremes. Not just that but Dacia has access to skills and technology from within the Renault-Nissan Alliance. So perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised to see that Dacia came in second in Germany’s 2010 JD Power Customer Satisfaction survey – behind Audi and ahead of BMW my goodness.

Environmental C02 rating: 116gsm.