Renault Launches Sandero in South Africa
Date posted: 2009-03-09 12:35:00.0
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — While the global auto recession is forcing some car brands to quit South Africa, Renault has bucked the trend by launching a new cut-price Sandero hatchback in a local assembly investment worth $100 million.
Produced in Pretoria, the country's executive capital, the budget car is the five-door cousin of the imported Logan sedan launched in South Africa late last year. It's been more than 30 years since the French marque last assembled a car, the Renault 5, in this country.
Designed by Renault's Romanian Dacia subsidiary for budget-conscious markets, the Sandero is built on the same platform as the recently introduced Nissan NP200 pickup and the Logan.
More than 1.3 million vehicles on the Logan platform have been sold worldwide since 2004, and in South America alone, the previously imported Sandero sold 40,000 units last year.
The South African range is comprised of a five-model lineup, ranging in price from $9,800-$14,300.
Where the Logan is the definitive A-to-B box-on-wheels (albeit a well-equipped one) and has the aesthetics of a washing machine, the Sandero adds a bit of a modern flavor.
It's no Ford Fiesta in terms of looks or modern technology, but it's far more high-tech and spacious than its main price rival, Volkswagen's medieval 1978-vintage Golf (now renamed the Citi Golf), which still sells in South Africa.
One of the Sandero's big selling points is its roominess/price ratio. At 158.2 inches long, it's larger than most of its mini-hatch rivals, resulting in generous passenger room and a spacious cargo bay. The car has a reasonably solid feel and the interior finishes, while lacking the flair of Renault's usual offerings, are neat and inoffensive and show little evidence of quality shortcuts.
Available engines include 1.4-liter and 1.6-liter eight-valve gasoline units, making respective outputs of 74 and 86 horsepower. A more powerful 16-valve 1.6 derivative is in the pipeline.
Pricing is the Sandero's trump card and the entry-level 1.4 Authentique model slots in just under the psychological R100,000 ($10,000) barrier, and comes standard with power steering and a driver's airbag.
The upper three Sandero models, which are pitched as more affordable alternatives to modern compacts like the VW Polo and Ford Fiesta, add passenger airbags and ABS brakes to the spec sheet, along with comforts like air-conditioning, radio/CD, electric windows, onboard computer and remote central locking, plus an extended maintenance plan.
"Sandero is the right car for the right time," says Xavier Gobille, managing director of Renault SA. "We want to bring the Sandero within reach of a wide and varied motoring audience seeking affordability without having to compromise on safety, quality, practicality and comfort."
Export markets for the car are being considered. South Africa is the only country producing right-hand-drive Sanderos and the Pretoria plant, currently building 400 units a month, has plenty of spare capacity.
Inside Line says: Americans won't see this one in the neighbor's driveway any time soon. — Denis Droppa, Correspondent