What if I told you, that you could walk into an Irish dealership and buy a brand-new car with a 3-year warranty for less than €13,000; and that you don’t need a loan of Marty McFly’s DeLorean to do so! Well firstly, you would probably think there was a catch, but I can assure you there isn’t because two weeks ago, Dacia Ireland invited me along to check out their new Sandero range.
Now ordinarily my level of anticipation for an event such as this, would be about as low as a snake’s belly. The previous Sandero model was an ‘okay’ car. It was cheap but not particularly cheerful. In fact, the fit and finish of the old version was in keeping with Dacia’s Eastern Block roots. That being said, the considerable leap forward which Dacia achieved from their first to second generation Dusters was enough for me to raise a brow out of curiosity.
There is no questioning that the price of the average new car in Ireland is bordering on the ridiculous. Week-in week-out, I’m shocked by the ‘model tested’ prices of the various press offerings I drive. It seems that €30,000 will only get you a decent ‘C’ segment hatchback. Take for example, the Volkswagen Golf where the mid-spec ‘Life’ version starts from €28,280. Considering the high depreciation costs associated with all new cars, you’d have to question where the value is for the average motorist. What if Renault’s sibling brand could make Duster-esque advances with the new Sandero and still offer them at cheap-as-chips prices?
The Essential-trimmed Sandero is priced at €12,990. For that you get hubcaps (although Dacia prefers to refer to them as Flexwheels), wind-up rear windows and little manual toggles to adjust the side mirrors. You get a radio with steering wheel mounted controls, just as well, because there is no central head unit. In the absence of a fancy touchscreen, you get a small flap on the dash to hold you phone and a USB port to charge it. You also get as much hard black plastic as you could ever wish for. Under the hood is a naturally aspirated 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine paired with a five-speed manual transmission. It puts out just 65 horsepower and 95 Nm of torque, but without all those heavy electronic features it doesn’t actually feel underpowered on the road.
If for one moment, you’re prepared to give it a little consideration, the base model Sandero makes more sense than any other car on the market. However, what if you like your comforts and your technology? What if you want something a little more robust and your budget stretches beyond 12,990 euro but not quite to the point of your average family hatchback? Well, that’s where the Dacia Sandero Stepway comes in.
The Sandero Stepway – which sits 174mm above the ground – with its crossover styling certainly has more road presence than its frugal little sister. It’s got all the bells and whistles that are absent on the base model Sandero and then some, including a set of very clever roof rails.
I test drove the Stepway with the TCe 100 Bi-Fuel engine. Dacia is the only car manufacturer to offer LPG and petrol Bi-Fuel options across its entire range of passenger cars. The cars are converted in the factory, guaranteeing safety and reliability with the LPG tank located in the spare wheel well and filling nozzle next to the petrol filler.
Running on LPG, the All-New Sandero Bi-Fuel releases on average 11 per cent less CO2 emissions than an equivalent petrol engine but is also capable of travelling more than 800 miles when utilising both petrol and LPG tanks – 50 litres for petrol (the same capacity as the tank on petrol-only variants) and 40 litres for the LPG tank. The manufacturer warranty period, servicing costs and frequency are the same as the petrol versions too.
If there is a catch, and there generally always is! It must be the Sandero’s EuroNCAP safety rating. Overall, the car scored just 2-stars out of 5. However, it’s important to but some context on the matter. Dacia explained that the cars’ two-star pedestrian EuroNCAP score does not reflect the individual four-star and three-star ratings for passengers and crash safety technology as the test automatically defaults to the lowest rating.
Sandero prices: €12,990- €18,290. Sandero Stepway prices: €15,990- €21,290.