Refined driving enjoyment
BRIAN BASSETT drives the three-cylinder turbo-petrol Renault Sandero Dynamique hatchback
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.
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.
The faster, RS version of the Sandero looks as good as any hatch out there.