The cheeky cheapy
Like many South Africans, I don’t always agree with new car pricing strategies and as a result, all cars I’ve ever bought were pre-owned. Thus it’s a refreshing change to test one of S.A.’s cheapest (and locally built) vehicles in the Dacia-flavoured shape of Renault’s Sandero.
Our local line-up of 1.6 8V Dynamique and 1.6 8V Stepway (read our report here) have recently been joined by the 1.4 8V Ambiance model, slotting in behind the Stepway’s reasonable asking price of N$149,900 and the Dynamique’s affordable N$124,900 – this 1.4 model costs just N$104,900.
Its round shape and cheapy interior might not be overly appealing, but at a smart phone’s price over hundred grand most people will agree that it’s a lot of metal for your money. Renault also tempts new buyers with the promise of its 5-year/150,000km mechanical warranty and 3-year/60,000km service plan.
Standard kit includes feather-light power steering, a good air-conditioner, remote central locking, a single-DIN CD/radio with 4 tinny speakers, manual mirrors, windy windows, two airbags, four hubcaps and ABS brakes with EBD who, despite utilising drums at the back and 185mm rubber, are quite vicious.
Funky cloth covers all seats, white instruments with an orange LCD multi-display are easy to read and give the car a cheeky demeanour. Other materials aren’t very impressive though, fit ‘n finish is below par and the cabin doesn’t particularly smell good.
The exposed wipers have a budget look to them but work flawlessly – front and back – and for such a cheap car, the Sandero has impressive main and dipped lights. The indicator sounds weird and only uses one bi-directional instrument lamp, kinda like a Citi Golf, and that gave me a prolonged warm buzz.
Front passengers have good room but the seats could do with vertical adjustments; a tall driver will struggle to see the top of the instruments. Rear space is more than acceptable, as is the 320L boot with a full spare wheel hidden beneath the floor. The entire rear backrest reclines to increase capacity to 1,200L.
The cut-price Sandero doesn’t have front fog lights and isn’t fully colour-coded, but it makes up for this with sensible old-school technology and charm. A five-speed manual gearbox with long lever travel teams up with a light and forgiving clutch plus a slightly sticky accelerator.
These control the efforts of a 1,390cc 8-valve fuel-injected in-line four cylinder petrol engine developing 55kW (75hp) or 112Nm, claiming 7L/100km and 164g CO2/km averages. In theory, this gives you a 700km+ range from the 50L tank and 71-odd hp/tonne from the Sandero’s 1,050kg kerb weight.
Despite the puny numbers, let me assure you that this little engine is much livelier than its figures suggest. The 1.4 Sandero zips around town with verve and ease, even with passengers, but highway speeds and undulating countryside will be its undoing.
The 1.4 motor is much happier at high revs than its 1.6 equivalent, which is a good thing, because you’ll have to thrash it regularly to maintain 120km/h or more. 0-100km/h takes 13 seconds (we shaved 0.2 off that) and top speed is an alleged 165km/h.
Sandero 1.4 is happiest as a daily commuter around town and, as mentioned, responds to throttle input with vigour; as well as a pleasing 8V growl and rushing gas noises from the exhaust system. Its 4,020mm length is easy to oversee and a 10.5m turning radius helps with parking. Pity the steering wheel isn’t adjustable.
Being slightly French, the Sandero has an incredibly comfortable ride. Quick surface changes and speed bumps can get bouncy, but this bargain car will dance over uneven tarmac in a serene manner thanks to high profile tyres, McPherson struts and wishbones at the front, plus coil springs and a torsion beam at the back.
Chuck it into a few fast corners and you’ll be taken back a few decades as well. The tall tyres lose grip long before the suspension does and you’ll have your hands full to purposefully wake the ESP. What this means in everyday conditions, is that the Sandero 1.4 is too slow and predictable to get dangerous.
I’m not sure if I’d buy one but, given assurance that the car and dealer will treat me well come service time, I would definitely consider it. The Sandero 1.4 Ambiance represents incredible bang for your buck, leaves out most opulent items and ticks the box of sensible, affordable car. Just add an air freshener.
0-100m: 7.2s / 76.5km/h
0-200m: 11.4s / 93.7km/h
0-300m: 14.9s / 107.3km/h
0-400m: 18.1s / 115.3km/h
1/4mile: 18.2s @ 71.7mph (115.4km/h)
Climate Sunny, mild
Road Dry tarmac, level
Occupants Driver, no passengers
Fuel level 1/2