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New Sandero: Too tuned to price

2011-06-13 08:29

BUDGET BEATER: What the Sandero lacks in looks it makes up for in affordability and space.

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Renault
Engine 1.4l Ambiance/1.6 Dynamique
Power 55 kW at 5 500 r/min; 64 kW at 5 500 r/min
Torque 112 Nm at 3 000 r/min; 128 Nm at 3 000 r/min
Transmission Five speed manual
Zero To Hundred 13.0/11.5 seconds
Top Speed 161km/h; 175km/h
Fuel Tank 50l
Fuel Consumption 7.0l/100km; 7.2l/100km (claimed)
Boot Size 320l
Steering Power steering
Airbags Dual driver and passenger
Front Suspension MacPherson strut with wishbone arm
Rear Suspension H-type torsion beam with programmed deflection and coil springs
Service Intervals 15000 km
Service Plan three year/45 000km (Optional in Ambiance model)
Warranty Five Year/150 000 km
Renault’s Sandero caused quite a buzz for the French automaker when it was launched in South Africa in 2009. This locally built hatch has been gaining popularity but of late has had to face some pretty stiff pricing competition.

Think Ford Figo, Chevrolet Spark, VW Polo Vivo... automakers seem bent on grabbing their share of the entry hatch segment with 24 model derivatives introduced through the previous 18 months; in this hotly contested market price is vital and it’s this policy that Renault has taken to heart with its "updated"  Sandero.

Calling it a new model is a bit of a stretch, since it’s a current model with a whole bunch of features dropped. It's a numbers game; cutting features and extras without skimping on quality. All in favour of reducing the price of the cars.

Renault’s latest Sandero range is offered in two models with different specification levels - entry-level 1.4l Ambiance and higher-specced 1.6 Dynamique.

From a design perspective, it’s hardly the most striking of hatchbacks: boxy and flat-panelled with wraparound headlights managing to offset its bland retro styling. I’d like to think practicality, price and reliability would be higher priorities for first-time car-buyers rather than styling, though it wouldn’t hurt Renault to add some sporty appeal.


The 1.4 Ambiance costs R104 900 and comes with a 55kW/112Nm engine. The 1.6 Dynamique has a bigger-bored version of the same engine and makes 64kW and 128Nm. The 1.4 claims seven litres/100km, the 1.6 slightly up at 7.2 with a CO2 emissions rating of 164 and 173g/km respectively.

Driving the Sandero is as basic as an entry level car could be; not that basic is bad, especially if your biggest priority is owning a vehicle that won't bankrupt you. As an everyday urban runabout the Sandero is pleasant enough; its clutch and accelerator pedal action is quite forgiving - almost stall-proof for novice drivers.

Despite its entry-level status, the Sandero handles irregular roads surfaces quite well courtesy of its 155mm ground clearance and it really shines when you talk storage space. Open the boot and you’ll find 320-litres of luggage space yawning at you, way more than VW's Polo Vivo (270 litres).

OPTIONAL EXTRAS: For R1900 you can add a fitted radio/CD unit to the base model Sandero

The main difference between the two models is price and equipment. Compared to the Dynamique, the Ambiance loses the fitted radio/CD, power-operated windows and a service plan (it's an option). The Dynamique also has cosmetic enhancements such as body-colour external mirrors and chromed door releases but, on balance, you'll only save R5 000.

Personally, I’d rather have a radio/CD factory-fitted (R1900) and the optional service plan (R3800) which would still see the Sandero Ambiance model stay close to R100 000.

Renault seems to have reserved its flashier interior detailing for the Sandero Stepway softroader launched earlier in 2011; Sandero hatch receives nothing in terms of interior extras if compared to its sporty(ish) sibling.


The Sandero has to square up against Ford’s Figo, VW's Vivo and (coming soon) Kia’s Picanto. Since January 2011 Renault has managed to sell 348 Sanderos; VW’s hugely popular Vivo has made 1490. What the base Sandero has going for it, however, is the inclusion of anti-lock brakes and a five-year or 150 000km warranty.

No auto or diesel variants are planned though an RS could be in the works for 2012. According to Renault it will probably be a one-off project to generate interest in the Sandero range.

So, if you’re on a small budget and need a vehicle that’s practical, spacious and easy to drive, then the Sandero is worth a test drive. The boot space, ABS and deal-sweetening five-year warranty on the Ambiance makes it a worthwhile competitor among A/B segment rivals.


Renault Sandero 1.4 Ambiance - R104 900
Renault Sandero 1.6 Dynamique - R124 900

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