THE second wave of the latest car price war rolled in this week with the unveiling of another bargain basement model from budget brand Dacia.
The Sandero supermini follows the July introduction of the Duster crossover. Believe it or not there is a waiting list for the Duster – proof if needed of how buyers are responding to cut-throat pricing.
Again, price is the big focus with the Sandero, with the 5dr coming in at €9,990 (plus a maximum €600 delivery charge).
And the buyers expected to be most energised by it are those with older cars. For example, many of those who have ordered a Duster (75pc) own motors aged 10 years and upwards.
The Romanian maker, owned by Renault, started out with 10 dealerships here but is now moving towards doubling that in the near future. It expects to sell a total of 1,200 cars between the Sandero and the Duster this year. It has already had 2,000 people test drive the Duster.
The Sandero (1,733mm wide, 4,058mm long) has the sort of sturdy looks you'd associate with the likes of a Volkswagen Polo and certainly there is a decent amount of cabin room and a fair-sized boot.
Standard equipment (Alternative level) includes four airbags, electric front windows, daytime running lights, electronic stability control (ESC), emergency brake assist (EBA), 60/40 split folding rear seat, radio with CD, MP3, USB and Bluetooth. The higher Signature trim adds 15ins alloys, cruise control, front fogs, manual air con and rear electric windows.
There is a standard three-year warranty but you can extend that to five years unlimited for €369.
And there is a finance deal which puts you in the supermini for €99 a month. As you can see from the panel, there's a good spread of engines now. The diesel 90bhp (99g/km) is likely to attract a fair bit of attention.
But also worthy of note is the new TCe 90 three-cylinder (898cc, 90bhp, 116 g/km) turbocharged petrol (which we drove this week). The 1.2-litre petrol completes the line-up.
So what was it like to drive? I took the higher level trim for a spin around Wicklow and, while necessarily limited in time and scope, I couldn't find anything major to whine about. I mean do you start complaining about mere moderate handling in a car for under €10,000?
I kept reminding myself that this is a car that will feel like an unbelievable improvement to someone who has been driving a 10-year-old motor for a long, long time.
Ultimately, it does what it says on the tin: gets you around with moderate ease for a moderate price. These days a lot of people will settle for that. The cabin in the driven version was fine but I would alert you to a couple of grey plastic inserts in a version of the entry level model that would not be to my liking and, I felt, cheapened it.
A small enough quibble, I agree.
So what's next? Well, there will be a Logan MCV in the second half of the year and a souped-up Sandero (called Stepway) early next year.
There is no doubt we are witnessing the dawn of a budget-price era. Dacia says it aims to be in the Top 10 here by 2015. It will be interesting to see how existing marques respond.