It's 7am and I am, give or take, 160 miles in to what I hope will be a 500-mile journey at the wheel of Britain's cheapest new car, the £5995 Dacia Sandero

Why am I doing this? Sorry to sound like a stroppy teenager, but why not? This is a ten-hour journey without a destination, its purpose only to find out if there is more to the Sandero than its budget price.

In a few weeks it returns to its maker after a year on the Autocar fleet. It has performed admirably for its price, but I'm here to find out if there are any hidden depths beyond that.

Over the past months it has done all jobs well: school runs, family outings, trips to the dump, motorway schleps and so on. But it struck me that it has never had the opportunity to charm me for anything but its price. So the early alarm clock was set and here I am. Next stop Bala, in North Wales, because it's beautiful and fun to drive to.

The haul from London to Telford has been mainly motorway based. In an effort to keep it real, I've driven as fast as the flow has allowed at all times, which means an average speed thus far of bang on the motorway speed limit. Cheap the Sandero may be, but if you want to flow with the big boys all it takes is a little planning.

The downside to this is that refinement falls away at 65mph, when the engine is spinning at 3000rpm in fifth. Venture to an indicated 80mph and the noise becomes a real issue – travelling solo, it's one I've solved by switching the aftermarket radio on.

But I'm feeling surprisingly fresh and keen to kick on. No, the seats don't offer the last word in support and comfort, but I've also noticed that losing a stone in weight (me, not the car) since Christmas has alleviated previous concerns about a saggy driver's seat. Today, for now, it feels just fine. Let's see if it stays that way for the next 350 miles.

Anyway, onwards and cross country I must go. I'm hoping to make it to Bala, but It's refreshing to be driving just for the sake of it. Time to find out if the Sandero can get under my skin and make a decent companion for it.

Read our full review on the Dacia Sandero