A significant portion of the early development of the automobile was motivated by two goals: to build the quickest car possible and to build the cheapest car possible. But at this time, such objectives are, for the most part, being neglected. The first reason is that high speeds can no longer be experienced in their whole; a Bugatti capable of travelling 300 miles per hour is difficult to push to its full potential. Affordability is also increasingly overlooked, particularly by automakers in the United States, who appear to have less and less interest in inexpensive products. This trend is especially prevalent in the automobile industry. There are only three models in the United States that have price tags that are less than $20,000, and they are the Kia Rio, the Mitsubishi Mirage, and the Nissan Versa. The average price of a new car in the United States has surpassed $45,000, and there are only three models with prices that low.

Dacia Sandero

Things are different in Europe, where Dacia, the manufacturer of the cheapest models on the Continent, has been experiencing rising success. Dacia is one of the reasons why. After the conclusion of the Cold War, the French carmaker absorbed the Romanian automaker, which had been founded during communism as an assembler of Renaults made under licence and had been built in Romania. After that, in 2004, it was relaunched as a value brand, and ever since then, it has been thriving. In fact, it sold approximately 574,000 automobiles in the previous year alone. More than a third of those global sales were of this vehicle, the Sandero hatchback, which is the most affordable automobile available in Europe.

How much lower can you go? That is dependant on the market and the model in question. In the United Kingdom, we tested out the top-of-the-line Expression trim level on the right-hand-drive vehicle. Before the application of the United Kingdom’s twenty percent sales tax, the total came to 11,612 pounds; this is approximately to $14,480 based on the current state of the currency exchange market. The metallic paint and full-size spare tyre were also extras. The Essential, which is the more affordable alternative, costs $13,450 before extras.

However, the Sandero may be had for a far lower price in other places. The version of the stripper that is available in mainland Europe is weaker and does not have air conditioning or pretty much anything else. This really basic Sandero SCe 65 can be purchased in Germany for the low price of 9495 euros, which is equivalent to just $10,330 USD.

Although it is more expensive than any other European hatchback, the Sandero is the largest of the bunch, measuring 161 inches in length and 72.8 inches in width. In addition, the interior of the vehicle gives the impression of having more space than the outside proportions would indicate, particularly with regard to the amount of head- and shoulder-room available to front-seat passengers. The inside materials have been selected more for their durability and low price than for their capacity to provide a pleasant tactile experience, and the smell of cheap plastics brings to mind the econoboxes of the 1980s and 1990s.

Nevertheless, there are some cool little touches, such as a phone holder that is built right into the dashboard. Even the base model comes standard with features such as power door locks, a remote for the power door locks, power front windows, cruise control, six airbags, and LED daytime running lights. In the higher-end models, the touchscreen measures 8.0 inches and is compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The sound produced by the tiny four-speaker stereo, on the other hand, is really terrible.

The Sandero isn’t just geared towards people living in cities; it’s obvious that the manufacturer had in mind both long and short trips when designing the vehicle. It has a supportive driving posture and seats that are comfortable for extended periods of time. The armrest for the driver in the Expression can even be folded down. Because of the miserly economy of the three-cylinder engines, the enormous fuel tank that holds 13.2 gallons of fuel allows for a range of more than 500 miles.

Both a regular version with 65 horsepower and a turbo version with 90 horsepower are offered for the 1.0-liter, three-cylinder engine that is positioned transversely and drives the front wheels of the vehicle. The latter boasts a zero to 62 mph time of 12.2 seconds, while the former achieves a time of nearly 17 seconds in this category. That was the version that we were driving. Although the peak torque of 118 pound-feet is available from just 2100 rpm, it is unlikely that many drivers would routinely experience it due to the engine’s noticeable reluctance to rev and the fact that it is available from just 2100 rpm. The turbo’s maximum horsepower is achieved at a rather low rpm of 4600.

The Sandero is not a vehicle that like being driven hard, it has a sluggish throttle response, and it takes some time for the turbo boost to build up. But once it has, the Sandero has shown that it is capable of maintaining speed up the kind of long, sapping gradients that generally overwhelm smaller engines. This is the case despite the fact that the manual gearbox only has five ratios with significant gaps between each of them. On the other hand, the brakes respond positively to any amount of pressure, even light pressure.

The Sandero rides and handles with an easygoing charm that belies its very limited capabilities. The steering has a low gear ratio, and the suspension is mushy; also, there is a dead spot around the front of the vehicle. When one makes an effort to corner quickly, there is a discernible body lean and a ready understeer. However, the combination of a large amount of suspension travel and capable dampers allows for excellent handling of rougher roads.

Additionally, the Dacia demonstrated remarkable fuel efficiency. We were able to achieve the equivalent of 38 miles per gallon over the course of a single tank by driving it as hard as anyone is likely to drive one on a regular basis, on both country roads and motorways. If you drove more cautiously, you might easily get that number into the 40s. Given the expensive rates of petrol that are prevalent throughout most of Europe, such frugality is an essential component of the allure.

In the United States, the down payment on a base model Sandero costs somewhat more than the equivalent of one year’s worth of payments on an average new car. I’m sorry to say that there are currently no plans to import it or any other Dacias to the United States. Too awful. The Sandero demonstrates that low cost does not necessarily equate to low quality.

Mike Duff has been writing about the automotive business for the past two decades. He currently resides in the United Kingdom, but spends the majority of his time travelling. The pinnacle of his career was when he drove a Lada to Chernobyl; he has a passion for vintage automobiles and for going on adventures in unusual areas.