Opel Corsa vs Dacia Sandero vs Skoda Fabia: which is the best city car?

The Fiesta is dead - which car should you choose?

RIP. After 47 years of being ubiquitous, the Ford Fiesta has disappeared from showrooms. Yes, this business is tough and tough – there is no time for sentimentality – and inflation is once again thanked. Not even the economic kind, although that doesn't help either, but cars just grow.

People want to sit high, or they want more spacious hatchbacks that are more practical and versatile. Add to this the increasingly strict emission requirements and you can count on your fingers that manufacturing a city car in smaller quantities is simply becoming too expensive. You can't blame Ford for leaving it alone.

The Fiesta was almost the default choice for a long time. You could recommend it to anyone and no one would be dissatisfied with it. There is no clear successor to its position in the market, but we have made a more or less well-considered choice from the current offering: the affordable, the all-rounder and the blockbuster. What we are trying to find out is whether the Fiesta crown can go to another pretender to the throne; or does his death really mean the end of an era?

The differences between the Dacia Sandero, Skoda Fabia and Opel Corsa

The affordable option is the Dacia Sandero in its highest equipment level (as if it makes much difference), which has just received a facelift that should show that the brand really knows that there is such a thing as 'lifestyle'. Now other brands mainly seem to think that this lifestyle means that we all go kitesurfing en masse every weekend, but Dacia seems to be happy with us going to the woods with the dog while our children play their BMXs against a tree riding. Refreshing, in itself.

It must not be sitting well with Skoda. They will remember well how Dacias were still chugging around in Romania in the early 1990s, in Soviet specification, while in the rest of Europe you could see a Skoda Favorit on more and more street corners.

But it may have taken a while, but Skodas are simply chic these days; the Fabia is the most fashionable in this group, and not even the most expensive. We know it's a great all-rounder because we gave it that title in 2022 – it's become the automatic, non-offensive alternative since the Volkswagen Golf lost its appeal in its most recent incarnation.

The blockbuster of our trio is, perhaps surprisingly, the Opel Corsa. In the Netherlands, only the Peugeot 208 sells better in this class, but in many countries around us, such as Germany and the UK, the Corsa has been the leader in its segment for years, if not decades. Although: in the latter country he still had to tolerate the Fiesta, but it is no longer there. And his German arch-rival also helped with this.

Problems with suppliers, corona-related situations, economic malaise – there are numerous factors that have contributed to the decline in international car sales. The Corsa suffered less from all these problems than the others, if only because it remained available. He is the most expensive of the three of us, so there must be a secret ingredient somewhere that explains his popularity, because he can't be blamed for his low price.

Same basis, different target group

What's interesting is the fact that these three have something the Fiesta never had: a shared platform. The Corsa shares much of its technology with the Peugeot 208 and Citroën C3 thanks to Stellantis' E-GMP platform, while the Fabia's MQB platform is the basis of many Volkswagen Group models. The technical starting point of the Sandero is called CMF-B and is the jack-in-the-cap version of what you also find on the Renault Clio and Nissan Juke, to name just a few.

Anyway, what is actually the thinking behind these cars? They seem to serve approximately the same part of the market, but each appeal to very different parts of the audience. The Corsa has traditionally always been 'your first car', the most recent Fabia seems to be designed to appeal to people who want to drive a size smaller and the Sandero is the wallet-friendly choice of young families and seniors. Just say, anyone who always drives 10 km/h slower than permitted.

All three come with a very acceptable amount of handy and/or useful stuff on board. Nice things like Apple/Android connectivity, air conditioning and infotainment with touchscreen (8 inches in the Dacia and Skoda, 7 in the Opel) are standard, although some things feel different, in line with the mild prejudices with which we entered.

The Opel Corsa is a bit disappointing on the inside

The interior of the Corsa does not keep up with the promise of its fresh appearance. Apart from some things that are specific to the GS-Line equipment level, such as the red stripes on the seats and dashboard, it lacks a bit of character. There are some perfunctory storage options, and three cheers for the physical buttons for heating and ventilation.

However, there is no room left in the back; the back seat is at most suitable for city trips, and mainly lets grandma sit in the front. Above all, it is a functional car that will not cause a fuss in everyday life.

The interior of the Skoda Fabia is smart

And so it is up to the Skoda to give it something extra. What's great about this generation is that it feels like some people have sat down together and brainstormed some ideas that will actually make your life a fraction better.

The clip for a parking ticket on your windshield, the pen holder on the gear lever and those little treats known from larger Skodas such as the umbrella in the driver's door and the ice scraper in the lid of the fuel tank. You can go wild on the options list and order a small trash can that fits in the door storage compartment, or a luggage net that sits under the parcel shelf.

It's not all hosanna inside Fabia; our car had the same incredibly annoying rattle, somewhere under the dashboard, as another test sample we drove last year. In addition, we parked it in the sun the morning after our nighttime photo session, after which the infotainment and digital dashboard started to malfunction. Once we let the air conditioning run for fifteen minutes, things calmed down somewhat. He can get some strange traits now and then, this Skoda.

Inside the Dacia Sandero it is sober

The Sandero lacks any kind of sparkle, except for the dull glow of saved money. Everything buzzes and rattles, but that is part of the prevailing atmosphere of austerity. Dacia also does not have a working group for Nice Little Details; you get what you paid for and that's that. The plastics here are one level lower than what the competitors offer, although the upholstery makes a nice attempt to hide this.

There is a nice little holder for your smartphone next to the touchscreen - which still shows what is happening on your smartphone. Weird. The USB connection is behind the screen, which means there are wires running across the dashboard. The seats are a bit flat, the clutch pedal is a bit high... The Sandero is a great machine for cruising around town, but the more time you spend in it, the more you start to wish you had spent some extra money on something. buy with a bit more class. It has more space in the back than the other two, that's for sure.

How do the Opel Corsa, Dacia Sandero and Skoda Fabia drive in the city?

All three of these are cars that make excellent companions in urban areas. They are all easy to handle, do not weigh too much at around 1,100 kilos (almost nothing by today's standards) and are ideally suited for crawling through traffic in side streets.

The handling of the Corsa is a surprise if you've ever driven older versions – this one is a lot more eager. The Sandero steers well, but is let down somewhat by its fairly strong tendency to lean. Parking is a breeze: they all have parking sensors, the Sandero even comes with a camera.

And outside the center?

If you go out of town, the trio also proves to cope surprisingly well with longer distances. Well, the Opel and the Skoda then; the Dacia has less appetite for that. The Corsa is quiet on the highway, feels stable and has excellent manners. You don't have to think twice about taking this boy to visit family, no matter how far away they live.

The same goes for the Fabia, even though it only has five gears, compared to the Corsa's six. This is the car you would want to spend the most time in, sensibly and well thought out. You know you are in good hands.

The Sandero isn't necessarily bad on longer journeys, but the seating position isn't quite there and it feels like it's a generation or two behind. It is about 5 centimeters higher than the Fabia and another 2 centimeters higher than the Corsa. It is almost an SUV, but that has its drawbacks when it comes to crosswind sensitivity and leaning in corners.

The Skoda and Opel are a bit faster than the Dacia

When we say that the Skoda and Opel feel mature when driving, that is mainly compared to cars like the Sandero. They all have three-cylinder engines with a turbo, but the Corsa is the most powerful, with a sprint to 100 km/h from a standstill in just under 10 seconds. The Fabia is slightly slower at 10.7 seconds, the Sandero follows behind at 12.2 seconds.

The first two move through the city with confidence and always have something to spare, while the Sandero has to do his best to keep up with the rest, with his tongue hanging out of his mouth. The Skoda has the nicest gearbox; that of the Dacia is a bit choppy and wobbly, so you don't always feel which gear you are in. Holes in the road surface and speed bumps are eliminated very well by all three.

There is refinement in the Fabia and Corsa. You can feel that they have been competing against the Fiesta for years, and that they have taken inspiration (and technical knowledge) from their larger brand peers. The Dacia just comes into view in that regard. None of the three drive as well as the Fiesta, but if you are purely concerned with handling and driving pleasure, there are plenty of small Fords available second-hand.

The Dacia is by far the cheapest

The focus of the Sandero lies elsewhere; at the costs, perhaps. Also important, given the financial pressure that almost everyone feels. Its price is well below the other two – it is one of the cheapest cars you can get, especially at this size. It is no less than logical that you also pay a price for this in a certain sense, in terms of finish and luxurious feeling.

There is hardly any difference in fuel consumption, and at most you can say that the Corsa will do a little better thanks to its six-speed gearbox if you are often found on the highway, and the Dacia will be more uneconomical if you try your best to drive all the time. to keep track of everyone. Constant pedaling does not make any car more economical, and certainly not a three-cylinder.

Which is the best city car?

And the Fiesta crown? The Corsa manages to thank this by being average in an almost ruthless way. Not excelling at anything and much less doing something wrong appears to be an extremely successful sales strategy, but we cannot muster much admiration for it. There will be a facelift later this year, but we don't have the feeling that it will address many of the Corsa's problems.

The winner here is a matter of preference: do you go for everyday usability or purely for the savings? There is not much wrong with the Dacia that does not have its origins in its price... But we continue to have a soft spot for that little umbrella in the door of the Skoda.

Result: Opel Corsa vs Dacia Sandero vs Skoda Fabia

Winner: Skoda Fabia 1.0 TSI 95 hp Business Edition (16/20)Skoda's smallest is certainly not perfect, but a great all-rounder with cool little discoveries.

Second place: Dacia Sandero TCE 90 Expression (16/20) This new lifestyle marketing is a bit crazy, because everything revolves around the price, but not without charm.

Third place: Opel Corsa 1.2 100 hp GS (12/20) Opel's sales success remains as ordinary as ever. Not bad, but not very interesting either.

Specifications of the Skoda Fabia 1.0 TSI 95 HP Business Edition

Engine 999 cc, three-cylinder turbo Power 95 hp Acceleration 0-100 10.6s Torque 175 Nm Consumption, emissions 5.0 l/100 km, 115 g/km CO2 Top speed 195 km/h Weight 1,142 kg Drive front wheels, 5v manual gearbox Luggage space 380 l 1,190 l (seat down) ## Specifications of the Dacia SanderoTCE 90 Expression

Engine 999 cc, three-cylinder turbo Power 90 hp Acceleration 0-100 12.2s Torque 160 Nm Consumption, emissions 5.3 l/100 km, 119 g/km CO2 Top speed 175 km/h Weight 1,027 kg Drive front wheels, 5v manual gearbox Luggage space 328 l 1,108 l (seat down) ## Specifications of the Opel Corsa 1.2 100 hp GS

Engine 1,199 cc, three-cylinder turbo Power 100 hp Acceleration 0-100 9.3 s Torque 205 Nm Consumption, emissions 5.1 l/100 km, 114 g/km CO2 Top speed 194 km/h Weight 1,075 kg Drive front wheels, 6v manual gearbox Luggage compartment 309 l 1,118 l (bank down)