Dacia’s cheap-as-chips Sandero hatchback has been with us since 2013. For its first few years, it came in Access, Ambiance and Laureate trims and was powered by a choice of three engines: a 73bhp 1.2 petrol, a more modern 89bhp turbocharged 0.9 TCe petrol and an 89bhp 1.5-litre dCi diesel. From August 2015, all three were uprated to the Euro 6 emissions standard.
Today, prices start at around £2000 for a decent example such as the one-owner 2013-reg 1.2 Ambiance with 60,000 miles and a full service history we found. That’s not bad for a spacious hatchback with electric windows, remote locking and a stereo, albeit one powered by a low-tech petrol motor that costs £150 to tax and takes 14.5sec to haul the car from standstill to 62mph. At the other end of the price scale, we saw a 2016-reg 0.9 TCe Laureate with 5000 miles for £5900.
These are early Sanderos but the ones we’re interested in here are post-2017 models. There are a couple of reasons for that: the model was mildly facelifted (LED daytime-running lights and restyled tail-lights) and the engine line-up was tweaked. Out went the ancient 1.2-litre petrol, replaced by the 72bhp 0.9 SCe that, while no ball of fire, is smoother and, being a three-cylinder, playfully thrummy. The more powerful 89bhp 0.9 TCe survived the cull and is the more accomplished all-rounder. Indeed, unless you need the 1.5 dCi for its long-range economy, go for the TCe. It’s the most plentiful on the used market, too, so tracking down a good one shouldn’t be hard.
Returning to the engines, in 2020, the diesel was replaced by the 99bhp 1.0 TCe Bi-fuel. This dualfuel motor burns petrol and LPG, which is considerably cheaper. LPG economy is slightly lower but you’ll still save money. We found a 2020-reg Essential with 100 miles for £8950. Essential? This and higher-spec Comfort trim replaced Ambiance and Laureate in 2018. Access was dropped, too. In truth, the poorly equipped trim was only an excuse to get the model’s entry price as low as possible. Buyers weren’t fooled and, consequently, there are few used examples. Essential trim is our pick but no worries if you prefer Comfort, with its rear electric windows and upgraded steering wheel.
Towards the end of 2020, the first-generation Sandero was replaced by an all-new model. However, the older one is still a roomy, comfy and honest motor. The What Car? Reliability Survey reported a few issues, detailed in ‘Need to know’ (above). Thankfully, many used Sanderos are one-owner cars with full service histories and so any issues are likely to have been resolved. That being so, find a cherished 0.9 TCe and say hello to practical, easy-going motoring on a budget.
Engine Check the rocker box cover isn't leaking oil (the culprit is likely to be a failed gasket) and that the engine isn't hunting at idle ( a known problem).
Starter motor There have been a few reports of the starter motor and/or associated parts failing prematurely so check all's well.
Noise Take it for an extended test drive to satisfy yourself you can live with the road noise.
Body Some early cars were plagued by rust, fixed under warranty and finally cured by moving production to a different factory. Check the high loading lip for rubbing damage and that the boot lock works. Examine the bumpers for peeling paint.
Need to know
The 0.9 TCe has a timing chain rather than a cambelt so you don’t have to worry about changing it.
Check if the original owner chose the optional full-sized spare wheel over the standard-issue repair kit.
Also check if the first owner purchased the five- or seven-year optional extended warranty.
Cheap but not always cheerful: the Sandero was last in its class in the What Car? Reliability Survey. Bodywork, engine electrics and interior trim were the chief culprits.
Buy a Sandero registered before 1 April 2017 and, depending on the engine, you’ll pay between £0 and £30 in road tax. (Some 1.2s cost £150 to tax.)
Ones we found