Mark Jones
Road Test Editor
4 minute read
23 Apr 2014
2:30 pm

Sandero continues to impress

Mark Jones

New car launches can be rushed affairs. But not all of the rushing has to do with actually driving the car.

You fly to wherever, you’re shuttled to the conference venue, you attend a business session about the new car – and just when you think you’re going to get to drive the car, it’s time for lunch.

When you finally get to drive the car, the drive may be in excess of 100km. Then you’re shuttled back to the airport.

What this means is that you get a brief and basic understanding of what a car will offer an owner who might live with it for years. You get a first impression.

But that can be quite a good indicator of what’s to come.

RENAULT SANDERO STEPWAY II (B52 CROSS) - PHASE 1

For me the all new Renault Sandero was like this. I had a great first impression after the launch drive and found absolutely nothing bad to say about the car. So when I got round to the usual seven-day test period – still hardly representative of what a normal owner would experience – I was wondering how much my mind would change.

Styling remains styling. None of the budget-friendly hatches in this segment are by any means good-looking. The Sandero holds its own against the likes of the Ford Figo, Toyota Etios and VW Polo Vivo – in my opinion its main rivals on the road.

When you get to daily living with the Sandero, though, one or two annoying little quirks pop up. For a car that costs just over R140 000, it’s jam- packed with bigger, more expensive car luxuries. These include remote central locking, a Double Din radio MP-3 compatible CD player with USB connection, Bluetooth connectivity that enables safe and convenient hands-free telephony plus music streaming from external devices. All of these can actioned through fingertip controls located behind the steering wheel. It also has cruise control, a speed limiter and electric front windows.

Renault 4

But here was my first pain. Why put the electric window controls at the bottom of the centre console? This makes them difficult to reach; you have to stretch almost out of your seat, and then navigate your way around the gear lever. Put the things on the door where they belong.

This leads to my next point. I didn’t feel it during the launch drive, but my test Sandero had a very notchy gearshift. If I owned this car, I might have taken it to a dealer to be checked out.

It wasn’t that you’d miss a gear or anything; it just didn’t feel smooth and easy shifting. I add this because you might have questions when I get to the performance data obtained when I took the car to Gerotek. The Sandero is the only car in this segment with turbocharging. This comes in the form of a 66kW/135Nm three-cylinder 900cc powerplant as found in the new Clio.

RENAULT SANDERO II (B52)

The competition already mentioned run very similar power numbers but via naturally aspirated engines with larger capacity. At the coast they will be on par or ahead of the Sandero. On the Reef, where the air is thin, they will suffer against the Renault.

This said, the 0-100 km/h sprint came up in 12.85 seconds, which is some way off the 11.1 seconds claimed by Renault. Yet my test car ran a true top speed of 176.28km/h, and this is fractionally quicker than the 175 km/h claimed.

I guess you win some and you lose some. Either way the urge on tap is more than enough to keep you going at any posted speed limit in our country.

Fuel consumption was also not bad, coming in at a test average of 6.3 litres per 100km versus the claimed 5.2 litres. I’m sure this will be a purchase factor for this car. For me it does okay here. You’ll get a good 800km on a 50 litre tank and probably even better if you do a lot of open road driving.

Which brings me to an important point that is often overlooked. The Sandero is also the safest car in its class, with safety features standard across the range. These include Emergency Brake Assist (coupled with ABS), Hill Start Assist – and most importantly, an Electronic Stability Programme.

The competition can’t offer you this package. If one of my daughters were to go driving, I’d be much happier if it was in a car with ESC.

RENAULT SANDERO II (B52)

But Renault aren’t done yet. In this Dynamique version, you also get front seat belts with load limiters and ISOFIX fasteners for child and baby seats, a three-point safety belt at the central rear seat and front side airbags. Again the competition is left wanting.

Add to this an industry-leading five-year/150 000km warranty completed by a standard two-year/30 000km service plan and I have to wrap up by saying my mind didn’t change much from launch. I still think the new Renault Sandero offers the best all-round package at the price today.