Renault Sandero 1.4 Ambience review

Renault Sandero

It’s the cheapest vehicle on offer from Renault South Africa but cheap doesn’t always mean cheerful though. Read how it fared in our standard 7 day evaluation.

Renault Sandero powered by Nissan

I’ll come clean right now. This isn’t a Renault. This is a Dacia and for those of you that have never of this brand, basically it’s a Romanian budget car company that exists to provide affordable motoring for the masses. Thankfully we as South Africans have far better standards and thanks to the Nissan/Renault alliance, the vehicles are built right here in South Africa alongside the Nissan NP200 light pick-up. Budget origins aside, Renault is trying damn hard to get a slice of the popular budget car market and the Sandero goes head-to-head with Ford’s Figo, Volkswagen’s Polo Vivo and the new Toyota Etios. Those three are strong local brands, so how can the Sandero compete? The answer is pretty simple and has been Renault’s core strategy for a number of years; provide outstanding value-for-money.

Renault Sandero safety

It’s not a bad looking little vehicle and certainly looks a lot bigger than its rivals. Just because you have R110 000 to spend on a car doesn’t mean you land up driving a tiny lunchbox. In fact, theSandero’s key selling point is the interior space and features. It’s deceptively large on the inside and easily seats four adults. The boot ain’t bad either and a month’s groceries (or a set of golf clubs) goes in with ease. In most small cars I’m worried about safety and whether I’ll be okay in the event of a crash. Reassuringly like all of Renault’s products, the Sandero is well-covered as it has ABS brakes, Electronic Brake force Distribution as well as driver/passenger airbags. The Sandero comes standard with air-conditioning, remote central locking, power steering as well as a basic radio. It’s not much, but at this end of the scale, you can’t be too demanding.

Renault Sandero's old engine

The engine is this vehicle’s downfall though. Not only is it a little under-powered, it’s also rather noisy under hard acceleration. On closer inspection it turns that this engine is in fact a 1.4-litre 8v unit, which is rather outdated. Renault and Nissan both have some terrific engines in their respective part bins so why can’t there be something remotely decent under the hood? The 1.2-litre from the Twingo offers similar power and is quite refined. For the record, this old engine puts out 55 kW and 112 Nm which is adequate to get around town. It’s not bad in terms of fuel efficiency and Renault claims a figure of around 7L/100km. Luckily, there’s a more powerful 1.6-litre engine if you want some more oomph. It’s alright to drive, with the clutch and gearbox being extremely simple to operate. Despite every wannabe petrolhead slating the French for unreliable cars (seriously, stop that already), Renault actually has done sterling work in ensuring that there are plenty of parts available locally as well as throwing in a strong warranty/service plan. You really don’t need to stress as the Sandero is basically a Nissan underneath anyways.

Renault Sandero conclusion

For a basic entry level offering, the Sandero isn’t bad. At just under R110 000 (R109 900 to be exact), there’s precious little competition that can match it in terms of interior space and specification. It’s one of the better budget cars but that’s where the greatness stops. That engine is ancient and the vehicle feels very cheap. The Sandero Stepway on the other hand, is actually surprisingly good. Perhaps I’ve been spoilt by one too many high-end luxury vehicles but I just don’t see the point in budget new cars. Sure, they’re catering for a massive upcoming market that is desperate for affordable and practical wheels with some success but I’d much rather go for something like a second-hand Renault Clio II. Wait, I did just that and haven’t been happier!

Renault Sandero 1.4 Ambience price in South Africa

R109 900

We like: Interior space · Build quality · Decent specification · Made in SA alongside Nissan products · Cheap
We don’t like: Ancient · Unrefined engine · Feels cheap

Renault Sandero Ambience specifications

Engine:                1.4-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Power:                 55 kW @ 5 500 rpm
Torque:                112 N.m @ 3 000 rpm
Transmission:      five-speed manual
Wheels:                15-inch
0-100 km/h:        13 seconds (claimed)
Fuel economy:   7l/100km (claimed combined cycle)

Also consider: Volkswagen Polo Vivo Hyundai i10 Ford Figo