BARGAIN BUY: Baby Dacia is a whole lot of car for little cash

Philip Hedderman

So, this is the cheapest five-door hatchback on sale in Ireland today?

Yep, for a tenner short of €10,000 you could get behind the wheel of this Romanian-born, French-built wagon with a Mexican-sounding name.

And if that weren't enough to tempt you then it also comes with a 5-year, unlimited mileage warranty.

So without further ado . . . I give you the Dacia Sandero.

But first, a history lesson.

The Romanian part of the conundrum began back in 1966 when a murderous dictator decided he wanted to create his own car company – building a vehicle for the people.

Hmmm, sounds a bit familiar ... but there the comparison ends.


Unlike Herr Hitler, the skills to build and mass produce automobiles just weren't available so Mr Ceausescu simply bought the rights to reproduce old Renault models – namely the 8 and the 12.

The cars were so bad they made rival Ladas look like luxury limos.

But that was then.

Since 1999 the regime has been taken over by the French car giant and they are hoping to do here what VW achieved with Skoda.

Now that's a big ask, but on first impressions, this is not a bad effort. From a design point of view it's neither radical or indeed ugly.

The front looks aggressive-ish with a chunky snout, chrome inlays in the grille and wide-eyed headlamps – all complimented by an angular, lower bumper housing the fog lamps.

The rear neither excites nor offends and minus the badge looks pretty much like the back end of a Clio.

Inside though, the budget starts to get a little tight.

The first thing you're greeted with is a wall of hard, grey plastic which is sporadically broken up by smatterings of silver hard plastic.

Just as one is starting to become irritated a little bit of Gallic charm – like the chrome trim around the clocks – eases the pain.

The more you explore the more this contrast of dark and light becomes evident.

There are familiar Renault touches everywhere from the long gearknob, to almost every button, switch and lever.

It's not enough though and the dark triumphs on this occasion.

While it's not the best cabin I've ever sat in the seats are comfy and there is plenty of room for 5 adults.

It gets the thumbs up for practicality too – boasting 320 litres of bootspace which expands to 1,200 with the rear seats folded flat.

The baby Dacia pronounced Datcha not Dassia is available here in two trims – Alternative and Signature. The basic model comes with Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Emergency Brake Assist (EBA), four airbags, daytime running lights, 60/40 split folding rear seat, electric front windows and Radio with CD, MP3, USB and Bluetooth.

For an extra €2,000 the Signature gets 15" alloy wheels, leather steering wheel, 7-function trip computer, cruise control, front fog lights and rear electric windows.

Engine-wise Irish customers can choose between two petrols and one diesel.

Firstly there is the pocket rocket 900cc, three-cylinder turbocharged petrol generating 90bhp or you could opt for the 1.2litre, 75bhp or the diesel 1.5 litre with 90bhp.

We tested the 1.2 litre petrol which left us more than impressed.

The 75bhp has plenty of grunt to deal with the day-to-day stuff and it cruised like a big saloon on a weekend trip to Belfast.

A sixth gear would have been nice but this was outweighed by the cruise control.

She was amazing on fuel too returning 48mpg while the emissions were a reasonable 135g/km – meaning road tax of €280 a year.

Go for the diesel and you'll get Hybrid-like figures of almost 75mpg and a CO2 count of 99g/km, which in the UK would be zero tax.

The only drawback we could find was the NCAP safety rating which Renault themselves reckon won't be any better than the 3 stars granted to the previous model in 2008.