To see your market share fall due to lack of strategic decisions and product renewal can be painful.

And so it was with Renault in Brazil. First among the newcomers to produce here, in December 1998, it saw success initially, even menacing fourth-ranked Ford.

Then it was overtaken by Honda, Toyota and Peugeot.

The turnaround started under the strong hand of Carlos Ghosn. He quickly announced that six new models would be launched for Mercorsur by 2009. Jérôme Stoll, who runs the Brazil and Argentina operations, closely followed the timetable and implemented strong marketing changes.

The first units of the Sandero, the fourth of the new Renaults, starts deliveries this week. It is the largest compact hatchback offered here and uses the same architecture as the Logan. The sharp-eyed will spot a few common parts, such as windscreen, front doors and roofline.

The wheelbase is 4mm shorter than the saloon it originated from. Rear seat occupants will think the Logan offers more room yet the Sandero beats heavy-weight competitors like VW's Fox and Fiat's Punto in this aspect. In truth, it is a compact-priced, medium-compact-sized hatch, following the Logan design philosophy.

Renault reckons one-litre engines are losing popularity and no more than 30% of buyers will choose it. It also offers a 1.6-litre 95bhp eight-valve unit with 40% more torque, forecast to take 50% of sales. The third offer is a 112hp, 16-valve version (20%).

Prices start at $R30,000 ($US17,000) and rise to $R44,000 ($US24,000), above the Logan. This is seen as very competitive, especially considering the three-year/100,000km warranty.

Still uncertain is Renault's market share with the Logan/Sandero duo because some sales will be stolen from the Clio sedan and hatchback line.

Renault plans to sell the Sandero elsewhere in South America (Argentina from February) and the car will also be built in South Africa and in eastern Europe as well (probably Russia).

Fernando Calmon