A Dacia never fails to please and surprise us. So cleverly made with existing, well honed Renault technology and “savoir faire”, they are built to offer you very nice transport at a very attractive cost.
When we heard that the latest Sandero is not only offered with the new generation Renault TCe 3 cylinder 90 HP petrol engine, but also with the recent Renault “Easy-R” automatic transmission, we were very keen to test it for you. Just read and look further…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
Indeed, this Sandero is equipped with the very latest Renault technology. Under its engine hood lives the petrol engined 3 cylinder TCe unit, which delivers here a healthy 90 HP with uncanny smoothness. The Renault engineers have succeeded in eliminating all vibrations and the result is a velvety, turbine like engine with a very charming sound, revving like a thoroughbred unit when called for, but just as willing to pull nicely at very low revs.
A very much state of the art high tech turbo engine, which combines liveliness with very good economy indeed. To tell you right here, we drove the Sandero on a long trip to the south of France with an average consumption hovering around the 5,8 liter mark per 100 km, which is no small feat when one considers that we traveled at legal maximum cruising speeds with two passengers and their (sizeable) luggage on board.
This Dacia will cruise happily all day at 130 km/h and accelerations are quite good, with 0 to 100 acceleration done in 11,1 seconds. Top speed is a very creditable 175 kmh, so this Sandero holds very well its own on Autoroutes, and thanks to its well adapted gearing, it will take long hills well in its stride, although when fully loaded it pays to shift down a gear. But on top of all that, it has with 140 Nm plenty of torque and will accelerate quite well in the various gears.
A remarkable transmission: the “Easy-R”…
When it comes to sequential automatic transmissions, this version designed by the Renault group scores very high indeed. We all know that this type of transmission warrants excellent efficiency, and does not cost a drop of extra fuel in comparison to a manual box. It takes however a sensitive hand and foot to operate it truly smoothly, but the good news is that the Renault transmission is very forgiving and smooth to begin with and its very logical setup makes one get the hang of it very soon.
Indeed, only after a few kilometers, the expert manipulation of this box had no secrets for us. Actually, when driving in a rather sporting manner, this box will change up and down more cleverly and smoothly than most of us mere mortals will ever be able to.
Especially when changing down a gear (or two) at speed before a bend for example, the transmission will adapt the engine revs in an expert and fast double clutch movement to the chosen lower gear, in the typical way and manner of an experienced rally driver.
The engine revs eagerly up on the throttle blip actuated by the transmission, and yes, one feels rather like Carlos Sainz for a moment… with indeed the engine responding to this exercise with a nice sounding staccato!
The gear lever movement is, like we pointed out, most logical: nudge the lever forward, and the box will change down a gear, push it back, and it will change up. On the dashboard display, the chosen gear is clearly shown. All this of course when you choose to use the box in “manual” mode.
Flicking the lever to the right, actually in its normal position in line with the Reverse and Neutral positions, the box will do all the work, and chooses itself when to change up or down. You just sit back and enjoy. Soon one finds out when the box usually changes gear, and one can lift the throttle in anticipation, so this will smoothen you drive markedly. When you are using little power and driving slowly, the transmission changes almost imperceptibly, and is therefore ideally suited to dense urban traffic driving situations. When using more power, it pays to use the box in manual mode or to “steer” the box with the throttle so the box changes up rather when YOU want it.
A further advantage of this “Easy-R” box is that gearchange pattern is perfectly mated to the engine’s torque characteristics, in all circumstances, whether one drives quietly or with abandon.
In slow speed parking movements, it pays to push the brake pedal, in order to smoothen out the clutch take up after having chosen forward or reverse positions. Pushing the brake is also adviseable when using the stop start function, as otherwise the clutch engagement will cause some jerkiness when the engine restarts.
Smooth comfort and good looks for your money…
The Dacia Sandero is well proportioned, and looks therefore quite good from any angle, besides offering excellent interior space both in front and in the back, offering quite ample rear leg and head room for its class. This comes in really nice when you have to put heavier and lively toddlers in their rear safety seats. The four doors are then also appreciated! The Dacia is a big car for the money, and this is quite important in everyday motoring life, as you certainly will agree…
Big in luxury, and setting the benchmark…
Everything is relative in life, as the saying goes, and this is certainly true for the amount of appointments one really needs to make a car look and feel luxurious. The Renault and Dacia engineers took a long hard look, and came up with a mix of comfort and luxury which is not only “just right”, but is really stunning when one considers the price one has to pay for it. This balance is so well struck in the ” Anniversary 2″ version we drove, that we would consider it as a true benchmark.
Indeed, in our country, our test car was offered at the moment of writing at 12.770 Euros, which included the airco and power steering, along with the state of the art turbo driven 3 cylinder unit and the “Easy-R” transmission. Our car sported the essential extras like cruise control, electric windows, central locking.
There were even more essentials like a centrally placed touch screen with navigation, an excellent radio with an automatic station frequency strength sensing function, allowing you to hear your favorite station throughout the trip at the ideal frequency strength. Indeed, we could enjoy the interesting programmes of France Culture all along our 1000 kilometer trip through France… with very nice sound quality thrown in.
Here we have also to praise the Dacia for its very good sound insulation, and last but not least the Renault typical sound volume control on the steering wheel column, an invention of pure genius which we found for the first time, decades ago, on the revolutionary Renault R25. Of course, your I Phone or other telephone hooks up, and you can enjoy your own music through a USB or earphone jack connection from any device you choose.
All this infotainment, communication and navigation equipment sets you back only 250 Euros, and it is soon forgiven that the navigation system covers only 6 countries, notably Austria, Benelux, Germany, Switzerland, which otherwise meant that we had to use our faithful Tom Tom portable system to guide us for our French trip…
Another extra which is a “must” is the rear parking aid, which sets you back only 200 Euros, together with rear electric windows, costing merely 150 Euros…
Renault experience and “Savoir Faire” felt in the suspension…
French car builders are masters in the art of striking a right balance between comfort and handling, and here the Sandero reached a very high note. Its suspension and platform is based on former Clio model generations, and we all know that they were very good in this respect. This makes the Sandero fit for those long trips, with comfort and road manners being easily at the very top of its class. The suspension is generally set for comfort, which is the right choice given the character of the car.
Nevertheless this Dacia Sandero is quite fast, predictable and surefooted when it comes to cornering, be it in the wet or dry…
Well-honed finish and quality feel
This Sandero surprised us with the fit and quality of the chosen materials. The steering wheel, knobs and handles are nicely covered and/or styled with chromed accents. We liked, instrument buffs as we are, the thick chromed instrument surrounds, giving the dashboard that upmarket look. The seats are well contoured, and above all quite comfortable, with more than enough hip room allowing you to shift your seating position a bit on those long drives, adding to the excellent cruising comfort this Sandero already offers you.
This Sandero offers you the best of most automotive worlds: you can enjoy state of the art engine technology, coupled to the added comfort modern sequential auto transmissions can offer. The Renault Group experience in building excellent platforms and suspension(s) is also for you to appreciate, being packaged in a well build and nicely proportioned, roomy four passenger hatchback bodywork.
On top of this comes a well-balanced extra equipment at very low cost indeed, setting nothing less than a benchmark at which other low priced cars can and will be judged. It is all there for you to enjoy, as we did!
Hans Knol ten Bensel