Dacia Sandero Stepway review

Our Rating: 
4
4.0/5.0
2013 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The Dacia Sandero Stepway adds a touch of rugged off-road presence to the value-focused Sandero hatch

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

Dacia launched in the UK as a no frills budget brand offering cut-price cars that were cheap and cheerful – and far from being a one hit wonder with the Sandero hatchback, the brand has gone from strength to strength, adding other models to its line-up. 

Best crossovers

The Dacia Sandero Stepway is based on the regular Sandero hatch, and with its jacked-up ride height it’s a great-value alternative to crossovers like the Nissan Juke and Fiat Panda Trekking.

Those SUV looks come from longer travel suspension and dark plastic body claddings that give the car an edge of SUV style. Despite this extra desirability, the Stepway is extremely well priced and undercuts most of its main rivals by quite a margin. 

That’s for the entry-level Ambience model, which gets Bluetooth and USB connectivity as standard, as well as electric front windows. There’s only one other model on offer – the Laureate – which gets big car features like air conditioning, cruise control, rear parking sensors and a seven-inch touchscreen with sat-nav. 

Even this car is good value at just over £10,000, which shows Dacia clearly hasn’t forgotten its budget principles having been around for a few years in the UK now. 

Best hatchbacks

Along with the pair of trim levels, there are also two engines to choose from: a 0.9-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol, badged TCe, and a 1.5-litre diesel unit. Both of these are sourced from parent company Renault and are proven in its Clio and Captur models. 

In fact, if you’ve driven a Renault in the last decade, much of the Sandero Stepway will feel familiar, as the car uses older Renault components and switchgear. As a result the Dacia isn’t the most premium-felling car, but this is one of the main areas where the brand has been able to save on costs, which it’s passed onto its customers.

Our choice: Sandero Stepway 1.5 DCi Ambiance

Styling

3.8

The standard Dacia Sandero supermini is a relatively rugged looking, unfussy car, so the SUV-inspired makeover works and, in fact, it looks pretty good. 

Dacia has bulked up the Sandero Stepway with plastic wheel arch extensions and sills, chrome roof bars and a ride height that has been increased by 40mm over the standard Sandero. All of these mods make it stand out from the basic five-door compact hatchback, and overall, it has a more upmarket feel thanks to the sprinkling of SUV style. 

Unlike the regular Sandero, there's no bargain basement Access version with unpainted bumpers and steel wheels. Given the only models in the Sandero Stepway range are the Ambiance and the Laureate, they both benefit from body-coloured door mirrors and bumpers, plus stylish plastic wheel covers that can easily be mistaken for a set of alloys. 

Customers in this class want that extra bit of style, so the base-spec car is not so important – especially when other variants are this good value. But it’d still be nice to see a few more personalisation options on the Stepway to add an extra edge of visual appeal. 

Despite the exterior differences, the Sandero Stepway is pretty much standard Sandero. It gets the same logical dashboard layout as the hatchback, lots of hard plastics and plenty of switches sourced from the Renault parts bin. It all feels robustly built, though, and the driving position is also very comfortable.

Driving

3

The Dacia Sandero Stepway shares its underpinnings with the standard hatchback. This car, in turn, is based on the previous generation Renault Clio and, as you would expect, it feels a bit outdated on the move. 

However, it's far from outclassed as the heightened suspension soaks up the bumps nicely, so there’s plenty of ride comfort – and while the body does roll around in the corners, the Sandero Stepway has a good amount of grip.

Other plus points are that the raised ride height provides an improved view of the road and Dacia has positioned the pedals well. It's not all good news, though, as the electrically assisted steering is heavy at low speeds and provides the driver with little in the way of feedback.

What's more, despite its tough looks, the Sandero Stepway doesn’t offer much in the way of off-road ability. The all-season tyres give a little extra grip in tricky conditions and the raised suspension delivers extra ground clearance but that’s it. There’s no four-wheel drive system on offer. 

Reliability

4

The Sandero Stepway should prove reliable, despite being relatively new to the UK market having arrived in 2012. 

Its 900cc petrol and 1.5-litre diesel engines are, along with the five-speed manual box, shared with the latest Renault range and the rest of the tech is lifted from the Clio before that. These components have been around for a while, so any problems should hopefully have been ironed out by now. 

Like the Sandero hatch, Dacia gives the Sandero Stepway a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, which includes roadside recovery. Despite its budget roots, the Sandero Stepway comes with a respectable haul of safety kit, too: all versions get four airbags, ABS, stability control and Isofix child seat fittings. 

However, Euro NCAP awarded the standard Sandero a four-star crash test score, which isn't the best when the maximum five-star score is the general standard for most modern superminis. The Sandero Stepway hasn't been tested, but you can expect a similar level of protection in a crash.

Practicality

4

The Stepway is a pretty bulky car and it'd be right to assume it's rather practical inside as a result, thanks in part to the no frills, robust interior. 

Like the Sandero hatch, the Stepway has a 320-litre boot, and when its rear seats are folded flat this improves to 1,200 litres. This makes it one of the biggest boots in the supermini class. 

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. 

For around £250, an optional 'Touring Pack' adds transverse bars for the standard roof rails to help with fitting extra storage, floor mats and a centre armrest for the front seats.

Running Costs

4.2

Dacia's budget principles and a strong range of Renault’s latest engines have ensured that the Sandero Stepway is wallet friendly to live with. 

The 0.9-litre TCe will manage 52.3mpg and emit 124g/km of CO2. However, this means it just misses out on the lower road tax rates with VED costing £110.

Cheapest cars to run

The 1.5-litre diesel unit is the most economical runner in the range; thanks to a 70.4mpg and 105g/km of CO2 it costs just £20 a year to tax. Dacia also offers a servicing pack that takes care of mechanical maintenance for three years and 36,000 miles. 

Surprisingly, unlike other Dacias, the Sandero Stepway also has relatively weak residual values – experts predict the Laureate 1.5 dCi will retain only 38.9 per cent of its new value after three years.

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

i have a Dacia Sandero for a year the 1500 dci (Renault Clio engine ) not a problem good fuel economy free road tax comfortable £7200 on the road

always thought that ukip voters are buying "smart", guess it's you Nigel, what about those EU millions ?

wow, let me guess..you like made in china better:)))..most european car manufacturers are building the cars in China now..at least Dacia is made in EU..and i can tell you this..romanians know how to make something reliable..Why do you hate romanians so musch. i don't know..you think of yourselves that you are far superior..Europe doesen't stand a chance against anyone if we are so divided..if we don't wake up, we will all be servants for chinese people in the future

we now know which party you support, bigot

I don't think the dex comment said anywhere that he hates Romanians. I took it to be a commednt that Romania is not known here for car production and dex probably likes his cars to be made in Germany.

In fact this French (Renault) engineered car is built with left-hand-drive in Romania, but right hand drive ones for the UK come from Chennai, India and Renault are capable of assembling Dacia branding cars at many of their production facilities around the world.

No need to jump to conclusions about comments.

Maybe he is just pointing out that Romania is not known for car production.

You people who just jump on the accusatory bandwagon without any grounds are actually doing real harm and you are actually helping the racists by continually crying wolf.

yeah it'd feel cheaper but that's because it is. the difference is 5 grand from cheapest stepway to cheapest juke. 10 grand dearest to dearest. i think if every time you pulled up outside your house you saw the double-glazing the saving paid for you'd soon stop worrying about the grey plastic. or likewise if you spend your evenings being entertained by several thousand pounds worth of audio-visual equipment you couldn't have afforded if you bought a juke any misgivings would disappear very quickly. it's the other ways that you could spend the money which make a stepway an alternative to a juke.

You get what you pay for, and this car is an honest entry level car, Don't try to compare it with cars that are many thousands£'s more. Only minus for me is Dacias reluctance to introduce an automatic model (which other markets have) It's a definite deal breaker for me.

I wish I could buy a 5 door zetec fiesta for this sort of price,you should have a look at the up to date prices.try £13.500,if lucky.also fiesta ecosport is £16.000,similar drive,less visibility,appaling interior.

Leave him alone, he obviously doesn't know anything about this unknown brand, may I respectfully suggest google??

Last updated: 27 May, 2015
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