Consider a world without PCP finance or hire purchase, and the only way you could buy a car was with money you had in your bank.
For some of us that would mean there was no new Land Rover Defender with loads of options sat outside our house.
Or for most of us a more humble car – because even a small family hatchback such as a Golf is more than 20 grand.
Car parks in Britain would look very different.
For one thing they’d have a fair smattering of Dacias.
Why? Because it is still possible to buy a brand new Dacia Sandero for £7,995. Granted, that money only buys you the entry-level Access which has steel wheels and black bumpers and no air conditioning but hey, this is motorbike money.
Move up to the Essential trim and you get body-coloured bumpers and manual air conditioning for an extra £1,000. That’s still a bargain.
Very few Dacia customers buy these most basic models which is why our test car is a Comfort spec model with the 90bhp 90TCe engine (the Access has a 65bhp engine) and a six-speed manual gearbox.
Our car has optional metallic paint and a full-size spare wheel that put £710 on the price, but even so that’s not much to add to the basic £11,595. This is an all-new model that uses the same platform as the Renault Clio and Captur. Both were launched only a couple of years ago.
In the beginning of the Dacia story the cars used hand-me-down components from Renault. Today the brand has the benefit of using state-of-the-art kit pulled from the Renault parts bin.
The CMF-B platform itself is lighter, stronger and allows for better use of space inside.
Each generation of Sandero (this one is the third) brings with it an improved feeling of quality.
Yes, the plastics are a bit hard and kitchen drawer liner, but this Comfort spec model has fabric on parts of the dashboard and on the armrests, satin chrome on the door handles and a soft-feel steering wheel.
For the money, it’s perfectly adequate. More than adequate is the kit and tech included, much of which you won’t find on cars considerably more expensive.
Automatic wipers, cruise control and speed limiter, height and depth adjustable steering wheel and keyless entry. And then there’s the infotainment system.
It has an 8in display, DAB radio and supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Better still, the Sandero has easy to use switches and buttons. Volkswagen’s Golf may be considered a far more premium car than a Dacia but the useability of its systems is rubbish by comparison, especially heating and ventilation.
I love simple and straightforward cars, from the original Mini to the Fiat Panda. The Sandero fits the template perfectly.
It’s straightforward to drive, too. The 90bhp three-cylinder petrol engine has adequate performance and makes a not unpleasant thrum. The six-speed manual gearbox has a precise action and well spaced ratios. The steering is accurate, the ride is comfortable and the handling reassuring.
Noise levels are good, too, which used to be the Achilles heel of budget cars. Only when you’re really hammering along does it get noisy in the new Sandero.
The seats look good and are very comfy, and there’s also class-leading legroom in the back, with the latest platform allowing for a longer wheelbase.
The boot is also bigger than before, holding 328 litres with the rear seats in place and 1,108 litres with them folded flat.
The Sandero scores well on safety systems, too, and there are Isofix points for child seats on both outer rear seats.
I think I’d regret the absence of air conditioning so I don’t think I’d go for the £7,995 Access, but I’d live with the £8,995 Essential.
It’s amazing that Dacia can still offer all this for these prices.
Unbelievably, talking as a keen biker, for a total of £11,500 I could put a Dacia Sandero and a new Royal Enfield Meteor motorcycle on my drive.
It’s a comforting thought that if times get hard at least it’s possible to have a brand new car with a three-year 60,000-mile warranty and a new bike. Food for thought.
Dacia Sandero TCe 90 Comfort five-door hatchback
Engine: 1.0-litre three-cylinder, 90bhp
Fuel consumption 53.3mpg
Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI Match
More money, smarter badge, less well equipped.
Renault Clio Play TCe 90
Same engine and mechanicals but is it worth another £5,000?
Hyundai i20 SE Connect
Excellent small car that’s fun to drive.