New Renault Sandero driven

The new Renault Sandero confuses me. I’m not entirely sure that Renault is in this game to make money. It just doesn’t seem feasible, or we should be paying a whole lot less than we’re currently paying for our entry level B-segment cars…

The Sandero’s direct competition (when it comes to size) is still the Polo Vivo, Ford Figo and Toyota Etios. That’s where its predecessor was pitched and made a decent job of sales, it has to be said. The new one still fights the same fight, but with its three-cylinder, 66kW turbo-petrol engine it boasts similar power to those rivals but can keep up with (and often beats the likes of) the Hyundai i10, Kia Picanto and Chevy Spark on the consumption board (5.2l/100km). In a game of Top Trumps for B-segment cars you’re holding the perfect card if you have a Sandero.

Back to the direct competitors and none can boast a standard spec to match the Sandero. Even the top-of-the-range models don’t even out the playing field. The Sandero’s safety sheet alone blows the competition away. There’s ABS, electronic brake sssist and brake-force distribution, there’s traction control and to top it off they throw in hill start assist. That’s just the passive safety.  On the top Dynamique model you get side airbags to go with the usual two front airbags.

Chassis-wise, the Sandero is built on the Clio platform but stands a bit taller than its sibling although length and width are identical. The chassis feels solid, but the steering is a bit floaty due to the lightness. The interior looks and feels well put together. The materials used don’t feel cheap to the touch and the fascia display has a similar look to the new Clio’s, minus the touch screen. It’s all rather modern, which in this segment is not something you come by often.

I do have a few bugbears with the transmission; a typically flimsy-feeling French shifter that lets down the car’s overall solid feel. It’s not that the gears aren’t hard to find, it’s more the off-putting knock sound when you pass the neutral zone and the stick-thin lever feel. When you remember that the engine’s got just three-cylinders and you’re running the aircon at nearly full chat you can forgive the initial lack of oomph from pull off until the torque starts to kick in around 2000rpm. From then on it handles the load sufficiently well despite the aircon seeming to kick in and out under power making for the occasional jittery drive.

More stuff then gets added to the spec sheet when you get a Bluetooth, MP3, Aux and USB compatible radio on the base model and cruise control fitted to the top-spec Dynamique. All the kit adds to a much improved visual appeal and you’d expect it to cost more than R133 900 for the base and R141 500 for the top spec. It’s certainly an impressive deal and something that the mighty Vivo, Etios and Figo might have to think about in the not-too-distant future.

Prices (including a standard service plan of two years or 30 000km)
Expression Turbo (incl. aircon) 66kW  5-door – R133 900
Dynamique Turbo 66kW 5-door – R141 500