I'm currently driving an Alfa Romeo 156 Sportwagon, and I read the author's review with great interest as to what he thinks of the Dacia. I'm considering to buy a new Dacia as opposed to a used car. The Alfa Romeo is expensive to maintain as used car. My Alfa is 9 years old, and yearly maintenance plus the average repair that comes once in a while for this and that has cost me so far what a brand new Dacia Sandero would cost. So definitely going with the mind this time instead of the heart. Thanks for your review, I see myself in your situation, a very similar one indeed. (from Bulgaria)
I posted the review, and just to reflect on it after almost a year and a half (especially to an Alfa owner from Bulgaria ;) ):
Everything still runs perfectly. Have to say I expected something to happen over this period, but - nothing. Incredible feeling of reliability, as it seems the car will start any time I want, it will go wherever I want and return me safely from there... in any conditions. Honestly, this is the kind of reliability I'd expect when thinking before of Toyota or Subaru! Now, due to business I drive the other cars, and I must say what I mentioned in the beginning: it is basic transportation. Apart from reliability and almost 4x4 abilities, there's not much of passion or thrill in driving this car. Another good point, especially compared to Alfa, is the low cost of maintenance. I had one regular service, and it all cost some 47 EUR (in my country).
On the other hand, especially for Alfa owners, I have to say this: if you decide to get a Dacia, say goodbye to sport driving. Whatever Dacia you choose (except maybe Sandero 1.5 dCi 85), they are - SLOW! Put three people with luggage inside, turn A/C on, go uphill and people will think you try to stop the traffic. Road handling, compared to Alfa, is very poor. This is valid for my 1.4 engine. In the meantime I drove a Duster dCi 105 and that's a far better car I must say. Pity they don't put the 85 PS dCi in the Sandero Stepway, as that would be my choice now.
At the end, my view: will a person choosing a Dacia make a mistake? The answer: No. Big question: would I turn back to (used) Alfa? The answer: Oh yes! But only maybe to a well preserved and cheap 159 JTD, or even better, a Brera. Black colour with red leather seats if possible ;)