Dacia Sandero Stepway review

Our Rating: 
4
4.0/5.0
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The Dacia Sandero Stepway is a great-value alternative to the Nissan Juke, with raised suspension and rugged cladding

For: 
Low purchase price, interior space, punchy diesel engine
Against: 
Ragged body control, no entry-level version, no discounts

Despite being a newcomer to the UK, budget brand Dacia has already had a big impact. From the headline-grabbing £5,995 Sandero supermini to the award-winning Duster SUV, the maker has given mainstream rivals real food for thought. And the latest item on the menu is the Sandero Stepway, which combines the value for money and low running costs of the standard Sandero with the rugged looks of an off-roader. However, the company’s low-cost values haven’t been forgotten, because even in range-topping Laureate guise the Stepway costs just £10,795, yet comes packed with plenty of standard kit. And like the standard Sandero, there’s a choice of eager 900cc turbocharged petrol or frugal 1.5-litre diesel engines, both of which are provided by
parent company Renault.

Our choice: Sandero Stepway 1.5 DCi Ambiance

Styling

3.8

With its simple lines and upright stance, the utilitarian Sandero is the perfect candidate for an SUV-inspired makeover. Chunky plastic cladding for the wheelarches and sills, some substantial satin chrome roof bars and a 40mm increase in ride height mark the Stepway out from the standard car. And while it doesn’t look quite as purposeful as the Panda Trekking, the Dacia has a more upmarket feel than the basic Sandero hatch. Unlike the Sandero, there’s no stripped-out Access version with unpainted bumpers and steel wheels. That means both the Ambiance and our Laureate test car benefit from body- colour door mirrors and bumpers, front foglights and neat plastic wheel trims that are easily mistaken for expensive alloys. Inside, the Stepway is virtually indistinguishable from the Sandero. So you get the same logical dashboard layout, hard plastics and plenty of Renault-sourced switchgear. The Dacia’s cabin is not as stylish and neatly finished as the Fiat’s, but it feels robustly built and boasts a surprisingly comfortable driving position. Ambiance versions feel spartan inside, despite getting Bluetooth connectivity, electric windows and remote locking. However, the Laureate is more generously equipped, with air-conditioning, sat-nav, cruise control, a trip computer and a leather-trimmed steering wheel.

Driving

3

Budget origins mean the Stepway feels a little old-fashioned on the move. Yet it’s far from outclassed, as the jacked-up suspension does a good job of soaking up bumps and the 1.5-litre dCi is eager – although it trailed the petrol Fiat in our performance tests. As you’d expect, there’s lots of body roll in corners, but the Stepway grips well, clinging on where the Panda slides. Plus, the raised ride height provides a better view of the road, the standard five-speed gearbox is reasonably precise and the pedals are better placed than those in the Panda, which are offset. It’s not all good news, though. The electrically assisted steering is heavy at low speeds and provides virtually no feedback, while the four-cylinder diesel sends rough vibrations through the cabin at idle. There’s also a harsh booming noise that occasionally resonates through the interior at motorway speeds. And despite tough looks, the Sandero has limited off-road ability. All-season tyres give a little extra grip in slippery conditions and the raised suspension delivers extra ground clearance, but there are no clever traction control tweaks like in the Fiat.

Reliability

4

Although the Dacia brand is a relative newcomer to the UK, the mechanicals have been proven in Renault models. The 900cc petrol and 1.5-litre diesel engines are shared with the latest Clio, as is the five-speed manual gearbox – there’s no automatic option. Dacia says 90 per cent of its customers will be first-time new car buyers, meaning the Stepway’s potential durability is likely to be a vast improvement over any second-hand alternative. There’s also a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, which includes roadside recovery. That package can be extended to five years and 60,000 miles for £395, or to seven years and 100,000 miles for £850. Despite its budget roots, the Sandero comes with a respectable haul of safety kit. All versions get four airbags, stability control and Isofix child seat fittings, while the regular Sandero was awarded four stars in Euro NCAP crash tests – and the structurally identical Stepway is likely to set a similar standard.

Practicality

4

Given its larger exterior dimensions, it’s no surprise to find the Stepway is more practical than the Fiat. There’s little to separate the two for rear seat space, with adequate legroom and plenty of headroom. But the Dacia’s well shaped 320-litre boot is 95 litres bigger than the Fiat’s, while lowering the split-fold rear bench liberates 1,200 litres – 330 litres more than in the Panda. Elsewhere, the Dacia’s cabin features family-friendly touches, including decent-sized door bins, while the Laureate also gets map pockets on the back of the front seats. A £245 Touring pack adds transverse bars for the standard roof rails, floor mats and a centre armrest for the front seats.

Running Costs

4.2

As you’d expect from a budget-focused brand, the Stepway is cheap to run, particularly in diesel guise. Over the course of our test we returned an excellent 45.7mpg, which is a healthy 5.2mpg improvement over the Panda’s 40.5mpg. The Sandero backs this up with low CO2 emissions of 105g/km, which are identical to the stop-start-equipped Fiat’s. The petrol Dacia isn’t so clean, emitting 124g/km, which puts it one tax bracket up from the TwinAir Panda. Further financial incentives include the availability of a £489 servicing pack that takes care of mechanical maintenance for three years and 36,000 miles. Even the relatively weak residual values – experts predict our Laureate 1.5 dCi will retain only 38.9 per cent of its new value after three years – have the edge over the Fiat’s 34.8 per cent figure.

Disqus - noscript

Very poor review. The figures you quote for emissions are wrong - check Dacia's own website. Also, since when has Renault done well in your Driver Power survey for "excellent reliability"?! And this business of a 3 star crash rating - does any modern car that neglects crash protection really deserve 4 out of 5 stars? How would anyone feel if the few grand they saved was the difference between their kids surviving a crash or not? I couldn't live with that thanks, and I'm becoming more disappointed with the quality of your reporting.

While I like Renault, the brand and some models, even I can say the assumption that reliability will be excellent because it uses Renault parts is perhaps a bit too optimistic? I'd have perhaps used 'decent', or 'good' if I was feeling generous.

I don't mean to be critical, but I would describe Honda reliability as excellent, and which ever way you cut it, Renault are not up there with Honda

£10,795 seems a bit pricey for a jacked-up sumpermini from an unknown brand. With this budget one can buy a 5-door Ford Fiesta Zetec after dealer discount or how about a Duster 4WD? Sandero Stepway's price limits its appeal to those who know the brand.

Agree completely!

is not a supermini car is very big , almost the same like megane or golf

AGAINST: NO DISCOUNTS!!! . . . ARE YOU HAVING A GIRAFFE???
That is quite one of the most moronic conclusions I have EVER read. Is the car not cheap enough already???
Why do you not levvie the same complaint against prestige car manufacturers?
Seriously now, who is the person responsible for this article?

"Dacia might be a relatively unknown brand in the UK, but it’s reassuring
to know all the mechanical parts come from the Renault parts bin, so
reliability should be decent."

Hmmmmmmm.?

A lot of the Sandero reviews have included that eyebrow-raising mention of Renault reliability. I can only assume it was fed to the assembled journos at the UK launch.

Agree. I think it's nice knowing you got the best possible price rather than walking out of your average dealer kicking yourself knowing they've duped you into settling for free mats, if that.

You haven't really made your point very well, have you? What you've written makes perfect sense so I the 'hmmnmmm?' below has little relevance.

So, you agree that Renault reliability is regarded 'excellent', do you?

The 2012 Sandero is yet to be tested so we can't draw conclusions on the issue of safety just yet...

I've had 3 Scenics from new, never had any issues. Bought as result a cheapie Kangoo with windows to replace my Volvo Estate which was becoming unreliable and really expensive to repair. I was going to run it until it fell apart. It is now 12 years old, the galvanised body still in fine shape. It has been 100 % reliable and is still mechanically perfect. It has been one of the ugliest but most functional cars I have ever owned in 40 years of driving. If the Dacia are using the same old Renault hand - me - down mechanicals I would would be pretty confident you are going to get a reliable no frills vehicle.

nice car,maybe reliable
but there is only part zinc car body coating
zinc coat is most important kind of anticorossive protective

Very funny guy... "how about Duster 4WD"...Duster came from the same "unknown brand" but seems like you already heard about this "unknown brand" :)))

that ( unknown brand ) is 3 times F1 champion & the world oldest & ( known ) brand ...

have a new honda at this price , wise guy .

Read my comment again.

A car being cheaper doesn't allow it to be less reliable.

I'd still expect a Ford Fiesta to last as long as a Mondeo because I have made sacrifices in other areas to justify the price cut.

So no need for the sarcastic and condescending response.

How come all these Dacia models get 4 star ratings when they are based on previous Renault models while their Renault brothers and sisters, better equipped, better crash ratings, better design etc get 3 star ratings? There must be something wrong with the Renault brand or is it the Auto Express looking at them differently?

When we bought the petrol version of the stepway Laureate through Bristol St Motors Derby ,we found that the PD was not all that is scratched up to be and neglect in various quarters to unfinished trimming and paint work .Bristol Street Motors after sales service is not good .We got the impression they want your money lots of talk ,then bye .They need to have a look at themselves from a customer point of view. The car was bought for economic reasons only and does the job,but it is a sham the after sales does not match up to the hype we received at point of purchase.

This car and the Duster are not genuine Juke alternatives. I went to a focus group on the Duster & I didn't dislike it but you can see where the money has been saved. It's a lot of car for the money, but I'd end up being annoyed that the view from the driver's seat is an ocean of grey plastic and cheap feeling steering wheel and buttons. Those will remain long after the new car smell has gone and you'll be left with a car that may have been cheap to buy, but feels cheap too. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, but don't kid yourself that it's equivalent to more expensive makes. For example, it's not in the same league as a Renault Captur, which is from the same manufacturing group.

dacia... comes from romania... nothx

Remember skoda they where the laugh of the 80,s and 90,s watch this space

You can get ones without the grey plastic

Last updated: 9 Sep, 2013

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