Finally I know why James May loves the Dacia Sandero so much
When a car can be bought for as little as £6,995 brand new, it generally perks my interest. Is it going to be hilariously badly built, is the ride quality going to be that of a slammed MX5? Ushered into the new Dacia Sandero Stepway Techroad (y'know, the new limited edition one) I wasn't really sure what to expect - at £11,660 OTR it's probably the best 'value for money' car on sale in reality... but was it going to be up to the expectations James May himself had set for me.
Inside is a surprising mix of new and old, what you know and what you love
Technology wise I was immediately surprised because realistically it comes with absolutely anything you want and/or need in a new vehicle - and a bit more. Reversing camera with sensors, a 7" infotainment screen with DAB and Apple Carplay, navigation, aircon (seriously, for this price?!) and even more. Whilst the interior wasn't 'premium' it also didn't feel 'cheap'.
The seats are comfortable, the headroom is decent, the rear legroom is more than acceptable and the boot space is more than you could need for general life. All for a bargain price?!
A blast from the past, the interior is alike to older 'Clio'esque' design traits - not a bad thing though..
The performance won't pin you in your seat, but it won't let you down either
The vehicle I drove was powered by a mighty 0.9 petrol engine - producing 89bhp and 103lb ft of torque, however thanks to the Sandero being relatively light the 0-62mph time was 11.1 seconds and it topped out at 104mph. Not Lamborghini fast by any means, however it's far from being slowest on the road and it won't let you down when you need it to merge onto the motorway / nip out at a junction.
Cornering wise I was surprised as the Sandero genuinely loved being thrown around, gripping into corners and occasionally showing you controllable understeer when you'd gone a little far. The steering had an analogue feeling, a nice change from the slightly robot feel of some newer cars - meaning you really felt what was going on. The pedal feel was good if a little on the spongy side and the tiny engine loved being revved constantly.
I can't comment honestly on economy as I was on a closed track, however on paper they claim 42.2-45.6mpg, a figure I believe is very achievable for the plucky little machine.
The 'Limited Edition' gets LED rear lights, something which looks great and should be standard on them for me...
Aesthetically it's pleasing on the eyes
Whilst Dacia won't be winning any design awards for the Sandero's design language being 'forward thinking' and 'game changing', the design is far from that of some competitor vehicles which make you throw up in your mouth on sight. The front is nicely rounded with modern stylistic traits, the grille brings the entire front together in a rugged but loved type of design.
The side of the standard car is good old 'plain Jane' in a good way, nothing too bulbous or overly accented. On the Stepway you get arch-flares for the more 'SUV' look, however it isn't a Rocketbunny by any means - it's nicely done. The rear is smooth with great lines, the LED rear lights on the Ltd Ed make the entire rear look really up-to-date... all for that bargain price?!
Diamond-cut alloys finish off the exterior for me, giving it rugged yet sporty designed wheels - capable on road or off (in theory), nicely protected by the tyres (none of this alloy outside the tyre rubbish) so your lovely 'smooth' finish isn't ruined in 5 seconds thanks to potholes.
For the price, you simply can't get any better (new) from anywhere else
I've searched high and low to find a competitor vehicle on sale which matches what the Sandero does, from a technology to budget point of view at minimum. I couldn't find anything new to even come close, as anything which sort of did - then looked like a Homer Simpson had designed it and brings me back to throwing up in your mouth instantly on sight.
The Sandero is so stupidly good because it looks decent, the amenities are more than acceptable, the comfort is surprisingly plush and the price is absolutely unquestionable. You can design your 'perfect' Sandero too as there are plenty of options, engine variant etc to choose from. It can be exactly what you want it to be... for half the price of the competition.
Do I want one? Yes!
The Sandero is that ever reliable friend who's always there for you no matter where or when - so I can see now exactly why James May loves it... because now, I love it too.