What is the Dacia Sandero Stepway?
Another prong of Dacia’s assault on the British market, the Sandero Stepway promises a familiar recipe of no-frills motoring for drivers who simply want to get from A to B without a premium German badge on their bonnet, a Dixons shop-worth of gadgets fitted to their car or the latest adjustable suspension so that they can pretend to be Lewis Hamilton (when the children in the back keep quiet).
But the Stepway does offer one concession to fashion. It’s nothing more than a Sandero supermini that has been raised so that it rides 40mm higher than the standard car. Dacia says that this makes it a crossover ‒ halfway between a conventional car and a 4×4. The addition of various bits of plastic bodykit and roof rails makes it appear more rugged, but with no four-wheel drive system, the only benefit to owners is likely to be that it’s better equipped to tackle steeper speed bumps.
Other Dacia models are offered in hairshirt (Access) spec, which excludes items such as a radio and folding rear seats to keep the cost at rock bottom, but buyers of the Sandero Stepway version are currently offered only the top two trim levels. The Ambience trim provides electric front windows, Bluetooth connection for your phone and, yes, a radio as standard. The higher-spec Laureate adds items including air-conditioning, a touchscreen sat nav and rear parking sensors for an extra £1,800.
There are two engine options: a 0.9-litre three-cylinder petrol, available from £7,995, and a 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel, which starts from £8,995. Both engines produce 89bhp. Four-year finance deals start from around £129 a month, with a £629 deposit.
The Sandero Stepway has not been crash tested by Euro NCAP but the Sandero supermini has achieved a four-star rating in the test. The Stepway has driver, passenger and side airbags, as well as ISOFIX child-seat mounting points on both rear seats. Boot space, at 320 litres, is what you would expect from a small crossover, and there’s a three-year/60,000-mile warranty.
Approach the car simply as a tool to move yourself around and you won’t be disappointed. The Sandero Stepway starts and stops perfectly well, while the steering is light but accurate. The diesel version, which is expected to be the most popular model, doesn’t feel underpowered in day-to-day driving, despite taking 11.8 seconds to accelerate from 0-62mph. Financially, the good news doesn’t stop with the asking price: the fuel gauge on the diesel barely moved during our test. The petrol engine has an official combined fuel economy figure of 61.4mpg. The diesel is rated at 76.4mpg.
But compared with rivals, the Stepway falls short. Poor damping means that the car bounces over bumps and dips. It can also crash into larger potholes, which jolts the steering wheel. There is noticeable body roll in corners but the Stepway does cling on at speed, despite giving the impression that it wants to push wide through the bends. It’s a functional car but a Ford Fiesta or higher-riding Fiat Panda, which are both available on similarly priced ‒ or cheaper ‒ finance deals, have more sparkle.
It’s clear that the Stepway is built to a budget. The ventilation controls feel cheap, the plastic surround for the rear view mirror appears to be as thin as Dacia could possibly make it and the styling budget looks like it was made up of a few coppers that were found down the back of the (fixed height on Ambience models) driver’s seat. It also smells like the company has scrimped on the new car aroma ‒ either that or someone had been boiling cabbage in a vat of nail varnish in our test car.
None of these is a good reason to dismiss the car, though. Many drivers won’t mind that their doors don’t shut with a Teutonic clunk, or that there is a lack of soft plastic and painstakingly damped switchgear.
More importantly, everything in the Stepway is laid out clearly and the buttons are big, which helps the driver to concentrate on the road. The warranty gives some reassurance that the cabin will be durable. Upgrade to the higher specification and you will get a 7in touchscreen with sat nav which, in keeping with Dacia’s image, issues clear and direct instructions. It’s one of the simplest and easiest-to-follow systems we have used.
The most serious criticism is that the transmission tunnel intrudes into the driver’s footwell and there is no space to rest your left foot while cruising, which can make long journeys uncomfortable. Rear passengers, however, won’t have too much too complain about in the light and (for a small car) spacious rear.
The one to buy
Dacia Sandero Stepway Ambiance dCi 90
- 1461cc, 4 cylinders
- 89bhp @ 3750rpm
- 162lb ft @ 1750rpm
- 5-speed manual
- 0-62mph in 11.8sec
- Top speed:
- 70.6mpg (combined)
- Road tax band:
- B (Free in first year; £20 thereafter)
- L 4081mm, W 1944mm, H 1559mm
Dacia Sandero Stepway used car rivals for similar money