Dacia Sandero Stepway rugged cut above standard supermini
Small SUVs are all the rage but why not simply add SUV design cues on to an existing hatchback? That's the route Dacia has taken with the Sandero Stepway, says Tom Wiltshire.
Dacia produces a supermini and an SUV – the Sandero and the Duster. This car, the Sandero Stepway, aims to split the difference. It offers some of the rugged aesthetic and raised ride height of the Duster, but in a reassuringly compact, well-priced and easy-to-handle bundle.
Stepway guise brings a 4cm increase in ground clearance over the standard Sandero supermini, making it easier to get in and out plus very slightly improved performance on rough surfaces. That’s aided by front and rear skid plates and beefy plastic wheel arches, which have the added bonus of masking car park dings. To finish the ‘lifestyle’ image, there are also two-tone bumpers and standard roof bars.
The latest facelift brought with it a more premium image all round, including redesigned head and taillights, blue trim in the front grille and some minor tweaks inside.
Under the bonnet
The Sandero Stepway offers two turbo engines – 0.9-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel.
The diesel is featured across the Renault-Nissan range, and despite the Dacia’s lack of sound deadening it’s pretty smooth and refined, as well as very efficient.
Both engines are mated to a five-speed gearbox which has a positive and pleasing action.
How it drives
Dacia’s tuned the Sandero for comfort and the soft ride soaks up potholes and jagged tarmac with ease, aided by thick tyres with chunky sidewalls. In fact, even inner-city speed bumps seem to disappear under the Stepway.
Speed up, though, and the handling becomes rather roly-poly and while the steering is nicely weighty most of the time, the old-fashioned hydraulic power steering system is rather heavy at parking speeds.
Space and comfort
It’s easy to see where Dacia has cut costs with the Sandero Stepway’s cabin. Flick open the old-fashioned flap-style door handle, settle into a flat, unsupportive seat and grab the cheaply-finished plastic steering wheel while you gaze at a set of dials straight from the 1990s.
Everything is cheaply finished but feels well made and free from squeaks and rattles. It’s very roomy, with space for four adults and a huge boot.
Ambiance includes Bluetooth, air-conditioning, front electric windows and a height adjustable driver’s seat are fitted as standard.
Laureate adds a touchscreen infotainment system, rear parking sensors, cruise control, and electric rear windows.
Clever accident-avoiding safety tech is lacking, but it does have anti-lock brakes, stability control and plenty of airbags.
Dacia’s no-nonsense approach to bargain motoring is well appreciated, and even in relatively plush Stepway form it remains one of the best value options around.
SPEC AND TECH
Price: Dacia Sandero Stepway Laureate 1.5 dCi £12,195 (from £9,595)
Engine: 1,461cc, 90hp, four-cylinder turbo diesel with five-speed manual gearbox
Performance: 0-62mph 11.7 seconds; top speed 104mph
MPG: 74.3 combined
CO2 emissions: 98g/km