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All-new Dacia Sandero 2021 review

The understated Sandero could become a European great amongst hatchbacks.

The all-new Dacia Sandero

The all-new Dacia Sandero

The all-new Sandero embodies Dacia's DNA. The model has been the best-selling car in Europe for four years, with over two million units sold since 2004.

Dacia has now revamped the popular Sandero line-up, with this second-generation model, continuing to meet expectations with an affordable price. While the external dimensions of the outgoing Sandero remain the same, the car looks more robust and modern. It also offers enhanced levels of practicality, technology and quality.

Thanks to a new platform, there are more features, including enhanced active and passive safety systems; updated engines with a Bi-Fuel LPG option; a better automatic transmission and an up-to-date six-speed manual. More on all that later, though.

Dacia's engineers have developed the vehicle from scratch to provide tangible benefits without hiking the price. All the new features are boxed in a contemporary exterior design with LED lights and attractive wheel designs. Fundamentally, Dacia is good at offering simple, roomy, robust and reliable motors with no frills.

As alluded to earlier, all versions of the all-new Sandero feature LED lighting. The lights come with a Y-shaped signature at the front and a four-element lighting signature at the rear. Not only do the Dacia's front lights add character, but they also illuminate more of the tarmac ahead. If you're a bit of an anorak, you'll appreciate the fact they provide a 37 per cent increase in beam length and a nine per cent boost in beam width.

A number of clever touches ensure 2021's Sandero offers you a more sophisticated experience. The door handles are simpler to use, an electric tailgate release is now featured in high-grade versions, and better-quality chrome grille elements are in place. Redesigned wing mirrors slash wind noise and enhance cabin refinement, too.

Interestingly, innovative new Flex wheels, designed to replicate alloy wheels, are also fitted to the Sandero. Don't knock them until you try them - the Flex wheel trims are stylish and far more affordable than alloy wheels, should they need to be replaced.

Sitting inside the new Sandero, it's immediately apparent that the interior is like day and night when compared with the old model. Premium materials are now in place, as well as improved ergonomics for better comfort. The interior changes don't end there. There's a tactile fabric panel across the dashboard that extends to the doors – and the air vents are slimmer. Back seat passengers are well looked-after too, with an additional 42mm of legroom over the departing model, delivering best in-segment legroom.

The new model's boot has swollen to 328 litres too. This means there's more space for everyone's belongings. If that's not enough, then the 21 litres of storage room spread throughout the cabin should seal the deal for you. The seats fold and split to extend the capacious boot area to a capacity of 1,108 litres. This is ideal if you need to carry long objects or need a big enough vehicle to take stuff to the local recycling centre. Essentially, the latest Sandero offers the practicality of a supermini for the price of a city car.

With Dacia's new Alliance Common Module Family (CMF) modular platform, improved fuel efficiency and a pleasing aerodynamic design, 2021's Sandero combines better driving comfort with lower carbon dioxide emissions. Behind the wheel, the model delivers satisfying handling, and sharper steering precision, resulting in easy-as-pie driving in all conditions. The CMF platform combines greater rigidity and resistance with less weight too. Furthermore, it complies with more stringent crash safety test regulations.

Getting down to the nitty-gritty, the Sandero is fitted with a new front axle and rectangular suspension arms. These provide more shock absorption and the above-mentioned improved steering. Anti-roll capacity has also been enhanced, and the wheelbase extended for better cornering stability. But that's not all; the engine mount has been amended with a stiffer and lighter cradle to dampen vibrations in the cabin.

The spread of engines available in the all-new Sandero is fully compliant with the Euro 6d standard which came into being on the 1st of January 2021. You get the SCe 65 – a 1.0-litre three-cylinder naturally aspirated unit, coupled with a five-speed manual transmission. Then there's the TCe 90 – a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged engine hooked up to a six-speed manual or CVT automatic. Finally, there's the TCe 100 Bi-Fuel. This powerplant is a new LPG bi-fuelled 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged engine paired with a six-speed manual box.

Dacia is the only motor manufacturer to offer LPG and petrol Bi-Fuel options across its full line-up of passenger cars. The vehicles are converted in the factory, guaranteeing reliability and safety with the LPG tank housed in the spare wheel-well and the filling nozzle located next to the petrol filler. This means there's no compromise in practicality whatsoever.

Running on LPG, the Sandero Bi-Fuel releases around 11 per cent less carbon dioxide emissions than a comparable petrol unit. Moreover, it can travel over 800 miles when sipping from both LPG and petrol tanks - 40 litres for the LPG tank and 50 litres for petrol. Servicing frequency, costs and Dacia's manufacturer warranty period is the same as the pure petrol variants.

To save fuel on the all-new Sandero model, stop/start is fitted as standard to reduce pollutants, noise and vibration. On versions kitted out with the CVT auto transmission, depressing the brake pedal at a standstill is enough to engage the function. In contrast, manual Sandero models need to be in neutral, and the powerplant restarts instantly.

The six-speed manual box is new to the Sandero, and the gear ratios have been perfected to maintain torque over the range of use. Sixth gear has been extended to lower fuel consumption at motorway pace too. The latest Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) delivers slick acceleration and a more engaging driving experience. Coupled with the TCe 90 engine, fuel consumption and emissions are lowered compared with previous auto Sanderos. This is possible due to improved engine management and a lighter gearbox.

To ensure everyone on board enjoys the Sandero's more refined driving experience, special attention has been given to the aerodynamics and acoustics. Due to the rigidity of Dacia's CMF platform, the transmission of vibrations into the cabin has been cut by 3-4dB. Furthermore, eliminating the cavities between the doors and the body has slashed the airborne noise that used to be an issue in the outgoing Sandero. Insulation has also been enriched; Dacia has increased the absorbent surfaces under the bonnet from 12 to 48 per cent.

If you're shopping on a budget, you really do need to have the new Sandero on your list of cars to test-drive. 2021's offering is light years better than the models of old. Indeed, so much has been done to develop the car that we're surprised it hasn't been renamed. Well done, Dacia; yet again, you've shown the world that a decent car doesn't need to break the bank.

Spec panel
Model Dacia Sandero
Price £11,495
Engine 1.0-litre, 3-cylinder turbo petrol
Power (bhp) 98 (0-62 mph in 11.7 seconds)
Transmission Single-speed auto, FWD
Top speed 114 mph
Fuel economy 53.3 mpg
CO2 emissions 120g/km

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Tim Barnes-Clay

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