Dacia Sandero Stepway

23 Dec, 2012 10:30am Jack Rix

We drive the rugged new Dacia Sandero Stepway, ahead of its arrival in UK showrooms in May


The Stepway is a cleverly judged model, tapping into the trend for crossovers and sticking with Dacia’s budget price policy. It’s even better to drive than the Sandero, too, thanks to a raised ride height and extra suspension travel. But while entry-level versions are good value, once you start adding extras it makes more sense to look elsewhere.

Not content with having just one crossover in its UK model line-up, Dacia has tweaked the Sandero supermini to create the rugged Stepway.

The Stepway is due to arrive here in May, a few months after the Sandero and Duster, and follows a tried-and-tested path for turning cars into crossovers.

The ride height is raised by 40mm, plus there are front and rear scuff plates, black cladding around the wheelarches and new roof bars... and that’s it.

Yet the result is quite different to the standard car. It’s easier to climb in and out, which might appeal to older buyers, and the view of the road ahead is better.

The trade-off for cranking up the suspension in the Stepway is even more body roll than in the standard Sandero – which is saying something considering its sloppy body control. Take things easy, though, and its road manners are entirely acceptable.

That’s especially true if you order the 89bhp 1.5 dCi engine fitted to our test car. It might cost £1,000 more than the 900cc TCe three-cylinder engine, and isn’t as fun to drive, but its smooth, torquey power delivery is perfect for making unruffled progress around town or if you want to stretch its legs on the motorway.

There are economy benefits, too. The diesel claims 70.6mpg and 105g/km of CO2 (compared with 52.3mpg and 125g/km for the 900cc TCe), although that’s 3.7mpg and 6g/km worse than the similarly engined Sandero.

Not counting the roof bars, practicality is on a par with the Sandero. That means a 321-litre boot, which grows to 1,200 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats taken down. Plus, there’s room for three adults in the back without too much of a crush.

And then there’s price, which is clearly the most important factor for anyone in the market for a Dacia. While the regular Sandero is the UK’s cheapest car, starting at just £5,995, the Stepway kicks off at £7,995.

But then it is pitched as a higher-spec car altogether, with buyers only offered the top two engines (the Sandero gets an entry-level 74bhp 1.2 as well) and top two trim levels. So there’s no basic version of the Stepway without a stereo or electric windows.

Even the cheapest 900cc TCe Ambiance model comes equipped with electric windows, a CD stereo and front foglights, while the top-spec Laureate gets air-conditioning, sat-nav and parking sensors. You can even specify leather seats in your Stepway for another £600.

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Autoexpress giving an unknown brand four stars is quite something. Time will tell how Dacia fares as a brand in the UK. Low starting price is the main attraction of the Dacia prodcuts. I have noticed that Autoexpress is not the only experts to highly welcome the new brand to the UK. Other experts have also rated the Dacias highly. Only time will tell how the car fares. After all it hasn't even gone on sale yet. Sandero Stepway looks a lot like Polo Dune which is a jacked up Polo with black plastic cladding to make it look rugged.

I agree - that Auto Express would award 4 stars (which is the maximum for a non-VW group/Ford car) to a Romanian [French] newcomer speaks volumes for the excellent balance between quality and price of Dacia cars.

I love the simple, no nonsense, rugged appearance of all their models and really shames other manufacturers that Dacia can make perfectly competitive cars for thousands less than poorly equipped and smaller mainstream alternatives.

The mid-spec Sandero looks far better than the (now) more expensive VW up! Sounds a bit less daft too...

Whilst the Up! may have a silly name, it gets a full 5* NCAP safety rating whilst the Dacia Sandero only manages 3. Should mainstream rivals be ashamed that Dacia can undercut them and equip them better by scrimping on safety features or the other way around?

Looks like sh!t and will depreciate faster than the speed of light. may as well just chuck the 10 grand into a dustbin and set it on fire. You can buy a 2-3 year old decent car for that money.

CarGeek: You make a very interesting observation on how Autoexpress awards stars to its test cars. To be honest I've yet to form an expressable opinion of Dacia cars. However suspecting that it may interest you, I'll quote Gabriel Marinescu who wrote from Romania: "Dacia has been elected in 2011 the most reliable car in Europe by more than
30000 respondents from western europe... I live in Romania and I'm surrounded by Dacias and they're more reliable than
any other brand of cars." I haven't verified Gabriel's claims but he insists that Dacias are very reliable cars and rarely break down. I think only time will tell.

The new Sandero hasnt yet been tested. The old car did look more fragile and was based on the Clio 2, whereas this new car is based on a mix of Clio 3/4. Both of which got 5 stars.

The new Sandero also gets ESP across the range and more airbags.

I'll be surprised if the new car doesnt get 4 stars at least.

As for the other grumble about depreciation, its an unknown at the moment. But there isnt a reason why it will be significantly worse than other cheaper brands. After all an extremely cheap price carried over to the used market will still attract loads of buyers, so demand mighy help keep the depreciation rate in line with more mainstream brands. This will be especially true if Dacias continental reputation for excellent reliability is upheld here

Looks attractive and the roof rails appear meaty enough to take my Canadian canoe - provided I can unscrew the aerial, that is!

Interesting possibility for those who prefer a new buy rather than used.

Happy and Prosperous New Year, Autoexpress!

I live in Romania. I own a Dacia Sandero Stepway since 2010 and I haven't had any kind of trouble since then and I've used it on really bad roads (not like in UK) and a lot in the mountains.

Hi had my sandero stepway for three weeks.
Downsized from a 6 year old zafira elite.still plenty of front legroom fair boot fits wheel chair plus 2 mediuom cases, 0.9 turbo engine pretty punchy pulls well even with a full load economical 75 mph at 3k revs.only dislikes so far are seats to soft, no wheel adjustment on my model (ambiance) but only paid 2 grand plus my part ex. For a brand new car with a 3 year warranty even got a 75 quid refund on my insurance premioum overall impressed , like the ad says you do the maths.

Key specs

  • Price: £10,795
  • Engine: 1.5-litre 4cyl diesel
  • Power: 89bhp
  • Transmission: Five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph/Top speed: 11.8 secs/103mph
  • Economy/CO2: 70.6mpg/105g/km
  • Equipment: Electric windows, air-con, sat-nav, heated door mirrors, parking sensors
  • On sale: May 2013