The First Thousand (and a Bit)

It is a human thing, I guess … setting points of reference, putting up targets, marking milestones. So I decided to record my first impressions of owning, and more important of driving, the Dacia Sandero at the 1,000-kilometre-mark. Which I passed just a few minutes from home, so the record shot was a bit over the “magic number”. But never mind.

A milestone passed … in kilometres.

All in all I have to say that, after getting used to the individual quirks you’ll encounter in any unknown car, driving a Dacia is a good experience. Not in the way of “it’ll prepare you for post-apocalyptic doom”. But more along the lines of “does what it says on the can”. Getting from A to B in the Sandero was not that much different from the same thing in the Clio (or most of my other prior cars). Actually it turned out to be a smooth, sweet ride, once the old dog has learned a few new tricks. Like manually unlocking the rear hatch. Or doing the same for the fuel filler cap. And how to switch off the lights …

The only moment of panic – the Dacia has no automatic “off” for the headlights like the Clio had (once you turned off the ignition and opened the driver’s door), you have to manually switch them off. A buzzer reminds you of that, thank you. But our lights would not switch off at all. Apparently, once you have them on high beam (which you switch on by pushing the left stalk forwards), there is a kind of lock engaged. And switching off (by turning the outer part of the stalk) requires some force. Which I applied, trembling in case I should break anything. Seems I did not. Note to self: first switch high beams off, then switch lights off. This might not be a problem for anybody else, but navigating our darkish (and often well-populated) rear yard usually is done with high beams. And then the car is retired for the day.

I have not yet tried cruise control (yes, the Sandro has cruise control … though I don’t envision too many opportunities to use that), used the air conditioning only for occasional de-misting, and have yet to fully explore the satellite navigation package. Which seems to work fine. Too well, actually, as I nearly jumped out of the car when an alarm went blaring off suddenly. Apparently I was speeding a wee bit. Thanks for the reminder, my blood pressure did need an upping anyway I guess.

The on-board computer seems to lack some things that should be there, according to the manual … like the temperature on display. But I am not too worried about that. The first test will come, however, when we try to upload the European map data later in the year. The test of the entertainment system included was passed with flying colours, good radio reception, easy handling, and 32 gigabyte of data on the USB stick should see us through some driving. In fact, I downloaded almost all our CDs onto that. Takes time, but worth it.

By the way – the USB connector is not really stick-friendly, as having a long lump of plastic protruding from it might lead to sticky situations. So I invested into one of the neat SanDisk Ultra Fit drives. Which minimises intrusion into the danger zone, where idle hands might do the devil’s work of breaking stuff off. Looks good too, I think. And not immediately obvious to any scumbag scouting for a fast Euro;

Mock-medieval music from a SanDisk USB thingie …

So, how was my driving? As expected not too sporty, but a smooth ride with less engine noise than many small rentals I drove. Wheel noise is slightly on the high side, but that might be (in part) due to brand new tyres. No other squeaking or rattling noticeable, so I am okay on that front. And the heater does take a while longer than on the Clio, but once there the car gets cosy fast enough. Defrosting takes a combination of heat and manpower (a scraper, like in the old days), but that is more than off-set by the heated rear mirrors …

More important, however, how does the Dacia Sandero handle in traffic?

Nicely – the steering is accurate and responsive enough for my taste and relaxed driving style, as is the engine performance and everything else. Boyracers will not love the car, I am sure, but for me it is good enough to get along, and powerful enough for reasonable overtaking manoeuvres, and getting into that break in traffic when joining a main road. Haven’t done any real motorway driving yet, but I guess that’ll have to wait for a trip to the continent anyway. Does the Dacia really do 158 km/h? Do I really want to know? Or need to?

Which leaves me with fuel consumption … and a nice surprise: despite driving the first 1,000 in less than favourable conditions, the combined fuel consumption advertised by Dacia was not only realistic, we actually used a bit less of the stuff. With which the “shift indicator” (not an alarm for kissing, as per Irish patois) may have helped. And here was another surprise, as I loathed these things on rentals, telling me to shift into the next higher gear, and leaving me annoyed and stranded there. Nope, the Dacia indicator also tells me when to shift down, and doesn’t make a total dog’s dinner out of the whole thing.

Mind you, and experienced driver will learn when to ignore the up or down signs, quite fast. As the onboard computer cannot see the road ahead, and may occasionally make dumb suggestions.

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