It's official, the Dacia Sandero is Britain's most affordable new car. Yours for only £5995, the entry-level Sandero's closest price rival comes in the form of Renault's Twizy - an electric vehicle that's not even an actual car with actual doors. With this in mind, then, can the Sandero - a favourite of James May's - really be a viable option for someone looking for a small hatchback? On first impressions, things don't look great. Making an unwelcome return from the 90s are plastic bumpers and enough arch gap to bring 'hella-flush' fanatics to their knees. Inside the Sandero's bland cabin, the dashboard favours function over form. With little more than a non-adjustable steering wheel, a heater and a few seats, the Dacia is, well, just a car. For an extra £200, you get yourself the optional radio. Things do improve when you get going, however. Our car's 1.2-litre four-pot petrol engine ran silently smooth at city speeds and the comfortable ride made short work of London potholes - of which there are too damn many. Motorway cruising isn't the Sandero's party piece. The steering is vague at speed and the hushed engine note turns into a bark at 70mph and 4000rpm. Despite the grumbles, the Sandero sips fuel and carries four fully grown men in relative comfort - it's got good rear leg-room, plenty of head space and a class-leading 320-litre boot. While not the last word in dynamics, the Sandero makes a strong case for itself as an urban runabout. But what are the other options if buying new isn't high on your priority list? Again, it's Mr May we look to for inspiration in the form of his daily driver, the warm Fiat Panda 100HP. Four-year old examples cost around £6000 (like the Sandero) making them the used competition. Sure, boot space is a third smaller than the Sandero's and the used car will likely have covered 30,000 miles, but with a revvy 1.4-litre four-pot and a playful chassis, the 100HP makes a more quirky proposition. The Panda also sips on fuel, returning well over 50mpg on long runs. The Italian hatch also relishes a spirited drive, completing the 0-62mph dash in 9.2 seconds (compared to the Sandero's 14.5sec), whilst keeping revs low on motorway cruises thanks to its six-speed 'box. This Panda 100HP looks to be a strong candidate, with its full manufacturer's service history, alloy wheels, electric front windows and MP3 radio (neither come with the Sandero), making it the more luxurious option. So if you don't feel the need for the safety net of a warranty, you'll find Britain's best bargains on the second-hand car market. For the smell of an unused interior and pride of the latest registration plate, however, the Dacia Sandero could very well be your perfect budget choice. Given £6000, where would you put your money?
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