Re­fined driv­ing en­joy­ment

BRIAN BAS­SETT drives the three-cylin­der turbo-petrol Re­nault San­dero Dy­namique hatch­back

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

RE­MEM­BER the 1960s when Re­nault Gor­di­nis tore around South African race tracks and later mod­els be­came the pre­serve of driv­ers who wanted some­thing dif­fer­ent.

Re­nault has re­tained that spe­cial na­ture of the brand and in­tro­duced to the South African mar­ket cars which are dis­tinc­tive and en­joy­able.

One of these is the new San­dero in­tro­duced in 2014 and sport­ing a com­plete re­design more in line with its Clio sib­ling, a new three-cylin­der tur­bocharged en­gine, and plenty of tech­nol­ogy.

I drove one re­cently cour­tesy of Ya­gan Pa­day­achee, new car sales man­ager at McCarthy Re­nault Pi­eter­mar­itzburg and spent sev­eral en­joy­able days with the ve­hi­cle.

De­sign At the front Re­nault’s diamond-shaped badge dom­i­nates the new black grille and sets the tone for the brand’s new de­sign iden­tity.

At­trac­tive front light mod­ules frame the nose cone and fog lights are set into the front bumper. The rear of the ve­hi­cle bor­rows styling cues from the Clio and is dom­i­nated by the rear light clus­ters. Colour-coded, elec­tri­cally op­er­ated side mir­rors are large enough to pro­vide ex­cel­lent vis­i­bil­ity with­out be­ing a prob­lem when park­ing.

The tailgate is large enough to al­low easy load­ing and opens and closes with­out re­quir­ing much ef­fort.

In­te­rior I liked the wide-open­ing doors, which al­low easy ac­cess for both the very young and the old. The doors close with a solid clunk, which is some­how re­as­sur­ing. The San­dero is er­gonom­i­cally one of the best small cars I have driven.

The seats are ad­justable and com­fort­able. The seat cov­er­ings in the car I drove were ro­bust and easily cleaned, as well as be­ing out­lined with white stitch­ing, which added a sporty feel to the in­te­rior.

In­te­rior plas­tics ap­pear hard, but this did not dis­turb the com­fort­able and invit­ing na­ture of the in­te­rior and ro­bust plas­tics are nec­es­sary if you in­tend to keep the car for a long while.

The dash is sim­ple, with three di­als pro­vid­ing a mix­ture all the ana­logue and dig­i­tal in­for­ma­tion the driver re­quires. The three-spoke, multi-func­tion, typ­i­cally Re­nault steer­ing wheel is pleas­ant to han­dle and is height ad­justable, with ra­dio and cruise con­trol but­tons easily ac­ces­si­ble.

The cen­tral stack is dom­i­nated by two, large ven­ti­la­tors be­neath which is the au­dio sys­tem which sports a Ra­dio/ CD/MP3 player with USB ports, Blue­tooth and satel­lite con­trols are be­neath the steer­ing. Rear space is quite good and the back seats ac­com­mo­date two adults com­fort­ably.

How­ever, if you are long legged like me you will have to ad­just the front seat to fa­cil­i­tate com­fort. The boot pro­vides 292 litres of space with the seats up and about dou­ble that space with the rear seats folded down in 60:40 fash­ion.

Safety

Re­nault knows that this car will be used by young fam­i­lies so, be­sides the usual seat­belts for all and an ISOFIX sys­tem in the rear side seats, there are also a driver and de­ac­ti­vat­able pas­sen­ger airbag, as well as driver and front-seat pas­sen­ger side bags.

Hill Start As­sist makes hill starts easy and there is the usual ABS with Emer­gency Brake as­sist and an Elec­tronic Sta­bil­ity pro­gram with Anti-Slip Reg­u­la­tion. The car also has cen­tral lock­ing and a built-in alarm.

Power and Han­dling Driv­ing the San­dero is fun. The three­cylin­der, 898cc, turbo-charged en­gine de­liv­ers 66kW and 135Nm of torque ex­pressed on road via a smooth, fivespeed man­ual gear­box.

I drove to Hil­ton along the Old How­ick Road on Satur­day evening ex­pect­ing to spend a great deal of the jour­ney in sec­ond and third gear.

In­stead, once the revs were up, I spent most of the ride in fourth gear, only hav­ing to change down when held up by other ve­hi­cles.

On the N3 you can ex­pect gear changes in or­der to raise the revs for pass­ing trucks but the turbo kicks in and out au­to­mat­i­cally and pro­vides an en­joy­able driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. In town the car is easy to drive and park and could be used just as easily for trans­port­ing the kids, as for go­ing to the of­fice.

I used the car a good deal in town and man­aged, ac­cord­ing to the car, 5.8 litres per 100km. The San­dero is no racer but that’s not what it is de­signed for. Still it will reach 100 km/h in about 11 sec­onds and has a claimed top speed of 175kmh.

The San­dero is an im­pres­sive lit­tle car and ideal for the young fam­ily try­ing to save for their chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion, as well as putting a lit­tle aside for their re­tire­ment.

It would also suit older peo­ple like me who do not want to dig too deeply into their cap­i­tal for a new car which is safe and durable.

Costs and the Com­pe­ti­tion The San­dero Turbo Dy­namique will nor­mally set you back R139 900, but Re­nault Pi­eter­mar­itzburg have a spe­cial of­fer on while stocks last and you can get a new car for R122 250 — a sav­ing of R17 650.

This ex­cludes me­tal­lic paint and you will have to pay the usual on-road costs and use in-house fi­nance if you are fi­nanc­ing, but the sav­ing is still sub­stan­tial. You also get a five-year or 150 000 km guar­an­tee and you can pur­chase ser­vice and main­te­nance plans, as well as a road­side as­sis­tance plan.

Also have a look at Honda Brio, Toy­ota Etios, Ford Figo and Polo Vivo Maxx.

PHOTO: RE­NAULT

The faster, RS ver­sion of the San­dero looks as good as any hatch out there.

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