Until recently, the car market was unaffected by the credit crunch. We all have to save wherever we can and tighten our belts. But with cars? No Way, José! Our car is holy and penny pinching is not on the agenda there. After all, it's a status symbol.
But you can still look around for alternatives to used cars. The first alternative that could almost be taken seriously was when Dacia launched the Logan. Proven and safe Renault technology at a dumping price. Could have been very promising, had it not been for the Logan's appearance. A notchback with rustic proportions and a suggestion of the Third World does not go down well in Europe.
So Dacia entered the Sandero into the race. Fully Europeanised and with a pleasing wedge-shaped rear, it now takes its place as the lone wolf beside its brother the Logan within the cheapo price range. At the same time as the launch of the Sandero, the Logan was given a facelift – still not to be taken fully seriously - and now corresponds to the appearance of the Sandero, which has improved immeasurably.
I had the chance of testing the Sandero for two days and I have to say: hats off! As sceptical as I was to begin with, the Sandero is convincing (particularly with its appearance). The 7,500 euro basic price that Dacia is asking for can easily be forgotten and just discarded as bait. For that you would not even have PAS, not to mention the basic petrol engine.
For my partially kitted-out test car (86 HP petrol engine) with air conditioning, MP3/CD radio, aluminium bits in the cabin (shall we perhaps say colour-coded interior trim) and electric windows at the front as well as PAS, you would have to shell out 11,000 euros.
But for that, you would have pretty much everything needed for modern mobility. And even if it does not suit opponents of the cut-price Rumanian - the finish is better that that of some expensive small cars. The cabin is impressive both visually and in the 'touchy-feely' sense. In fact I like the cockpit a lot.
The available space in the cabin and the luggage compartment is somewhere between small car and compact car, so it's more than enough.
The direct competition of the Sandero hovers in different spheres in terms of price.
For a comparable Skoda Fabia or VW Polo I would already have to pay 15,000 euros.
The driving feel leaves mixed impressions. On the one hand, I had the impression that the running gear was set too softly, yet on the other hand, you are pleasantly surprised by the comfortable suspension. But maybe I am too used to the brutal hardness of German marques.
The steering is a tad on the loose side in the central position and if you are not careful, changing gear can be a bit like wrestling.
Still, these are only fine nuances and should not be a problem for Joe Average.
When all is said and done, I'm impressed by the Sandero. The refreshing simplicity of mobility seems to been overlooked in the marketing waffle from large manufacturers.
Whoever want a practical new car and doesn't care about image will probably find the Sandero hard to ignore as, no doubt, will its competitors in the long-term.