The way the Dacia Sandero performs isn't good. Quantitatively speaking, it's competitive; qualitatively, it lacks good manners and sophistication. As such, it's acceptable – but only just.
If you're on a tight budget, don't be put off by the entry-level engine choice. The 1.0-litre petrol engine's 0-62mph time of 14.2secs might sound poor, but it's barely a second slower than the 1.2-litre Peugeot 208, and is slightly quicker than the now obslete 1.2. It doesn't feel desperately slow, either, although it's not one to regularly drive a long way on the motorway.
It's apparent that this is a powertrain designed to function, not to please, however. The engine is tinny at idle and becomes coarse above 3500rpm, making its presence felt and heard in the cabin.
A more modern option is the 898cc turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine, badged TCe. Sanderos with this engine are by no means slow, and are more suited to cross-country driving than the basic 1.0-litre models.
The TCe engine produces plenty of torque and makes the Sandero as spritely as you'd want it to be; the 0-62mph sprint is dispatched in 11.1sec. It isn't, however, particularly inspiring, and it sends unpleasant vibrations through the controls and body.