Sporting a new design, engine and creature comforts, the second-generation Renault Sandero has arrived in SA to take on entry-level rivals. To achieve this Renault makes bold claims about its new hatch – “safest car in its class” and “only turbo-powered model under R150 000”.Renault aims to be in the “top five” in vehicle segments with core products such as the Sandero, Clio, Megane, Scenic and Duster. To help achieve this, at least where Sandero is concerned, they’ve focused on three main pillars – features, safety, price.IMAGE GALLERY: 2014 Renault SanderoRenault SA's vice-president for marketing and communication, Fabien Payzan, said: “Expectations are high in this market as people might be buying their first car. We do not want to copy/paste rivals. We want to offer a lot of equipment even in our base models.”Vehicles cost less than R150 000 is one of the biggest segments in SA with the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers reporting 93 000 units sold in 2013, which equates to 21% of the passenger vehicle market. It’s no surprise, then, that the entry-level car market is hotly contested with automakers clamouring to win over the hearts and minds of budget-conscious buyers.ONE ENGINE, TWO TRIMSThe new Sandero is available with one engine and transmission (66kW, 900c, five-speed manual) and two trim levels – Expression and Dynamique. Renault says its the only model in its class to offer a turbo petrol engine as it borrows the 66kW/135Nm three-cylinder 900cc turbo engine from the Clio. Fuel consumption is rated at 5.2 litres/100km with 119g/km CO2 emissions. Activating Eco mode should save even more fuel.As demonstrated in its Clio, the baby engine will surprise you as it delivers performance usually associated with four-cylinder 1.4 and 1.5 units. Torque is delivered from 2500rpm, meaning power delivery readily available at low speeds. Slamming the accelerator won’t reward you with white-knuckle speed but you’ll have access to sufficient power to overtake and tackle hills adequately. This is not a performance hatchback; buyers need to play to the Sandero’s strengths – a comfortable ride with adequate power. I know I’ve used the word “adequate” a few times but in terms of describing the Sandero, that’s not a bad thing. It means it has met the criteria set for entry-level hatchbacks by delivering a comfortable ride that’s not easily unsettled on irregular surfaces and judging by the amount of safety kit, will keep your family safe on our roads. At speed (anything over 80k/h) cabin noise becomes intrusive, especially the whine/whistle of the turbo. Heading into bends, the body roll exhibited in the previous generation appears to have been mitigated though drivers should understand the vehicle’s limitations. Fortunately, if there are any owners who might believe it sports an RS-badge, the vehicle is equipped with electronic stability control.Some might find it difficult to justify spending R150 000 - R180 000 for the 900cc engine in the Clio but that same engine in a sub-R140 000 car makes a lot more sense.MAGNIFIQUE DESIGNThe Sandero borrows design cues from the new Clio and Captur and overall it’s design is assertive, chic and a vast improvement on the boxy, chunky styling of its predecessor. At the front, the large Renault diamond dominates the front which benefits from a black slats and an angular lip-spoiler; the rear, too, has been tweaked and the design is a welcome addition.While it might not always turn heads it has at least shed its ‘vanilla hatch’ shell.It measures four metres long, 1.9m wide and 1.5m tall with a wheelbase of 2.5m. Its ground clearance is 164mm. In fact, bar its height, dimensions are identical to that new Clio. Buyers can also choose metallic paint for an extra R2500.INSIDEThe interior benefits from design tweaks such as chromed elements on the vents, higher-quality materials and improved seats. Where’s the Renault quirk? Well, try the steering stork-mounted hooter...The Expression is equipped with power front windows, remote control for the central locking, chromed door releases and a leather-clad steering wheel and gear shifter. The cabin benefits from IsoFix child restraints and radio/MP-3 compatible CD player with USB and Bluetooth connectivity. The Dynamique has 15” alloy rims, fog lights with chromed surrounds, body-coloured door releases, power windows and power-adjustable side mirrors. Inside it benefits from side airbags and cruise control with speed limiter. The Sandero has one of the roomiest boots in its class at 292 litres.Aside from styling, the Sandero also borrows a pricing quirk from its Clio sibling – no aircon as standard. This ‘optional extra’ comes for R10 000 more.SAFETYAccording to Renault: "The new Sandero is the safest car in its class as it offers, standard across the range, safety features usually reserved for 'higher class' models.”It backs the above statement with a four-star Euro NCAP rating thanks to anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, emergency brake assist, dual front airbags, hill assist (holds the car for three seconds while attempting to move on an incline) and ESP. If you’re not familiar with ESP, in short its assists the driver in the event of traction loss. It detects and reduces loss of traction and reduces engine power and brakes, depending on wheels affected.Payzan explains: “We’re being realistic in terms of South African drivers in that some might drive poorly. You can have as many airbags as you want but we’d rather keep you on the road if you lose control. ESP is very expensive, especially given how important it is to keep costs in this market low. "We want safe cars on our roads. We added ESP because it’s a unique offering in the market and continues with our aims to be progressive.”RELIABILITYThe automaker hopes to sway hearts and minds by backing its Sandero with one-of-the-best five-year or 150 000km warranty and two-year or 30 000km service plan with 15 000km intervals. The service plan can be upgraded to a maintenance plan.Renault said its significantly reduced maintenance costs by the replacement of a conventional cam belt with a silent timing chain that has "lifetime durability and requires no maintenance".But what about parts? Renault has been slammed (and justifiably so) in the past due to poor reliability claims and unavailable parts. To remedy this Renault SA said it stores “more than 17 000 parts in its warehouse in Rosslyn, Pretoria, and that “more than 95% of these parts are delivered in less than 24-hours” to dealers.RIVALSThe Sandero takes on the likes of Volkswagen’s Polo Vivo, Ford's Figo and Toyota's Etios. Other competitors include the Hyundai's i10, Kia's Picanto, Chevrolet's Spark and Honda's Brio.Compared to any of its rivals the Sandero has a minor (up to three kW) power advantage over its 1.4/1.5-litre rivals, has more boot space and has the only turbo in its class - as well as ESP. Sandero vs rivals - competitor analysis!OVERALLIf you’re looking for an affordable, practical and safe hatchback, the new Sandero might be for you. It’s packed with creature comforts and a host of safety features even if the ride isn’t too stimulating. The Sandero is not going to get your heart-rate racing but it doesn’t pretend to either. If its goal was to deliver a comfy, affordable, entry-level family car then Renault has done a great job. MORE FROM RENAULTBut where’s the Stepway? Fans of Renault's popular Sandero Stepway variant can expect the model tolaunch either later in 2014 or early 2015!Not to miss out on its slice of redesign-limelight Renault will launch its facelifted Megane later in 2014. As seen on the Sandero, the Megane will also sport the automaker’s new design identity as the new model borrows styling cues from the Clio. The new design sports tweaks to the bumper, grille, head and taillights as well as a new rear. Renault says its new Megane will be the first to offer its Efficient Dual Clutch (EDC) six-speed auto on the TCe 130 petrol engineSANDERO PRICESExpression Turbo 66kW five-door - R123 900 (R133 900 with aircon)Dynamique Turbo 66kW five-door - R141 500 Click here for full specs!