Dacia Sandero Stepway review
The Dacia Sandero Stepway is a great-value alternative to the Nissan Juke, with raised suspension and rugged cladding
With its range of ultra-cheap cars that punch well above their price tag, Renault’s budget brand is quickly making a name for itself in Europe and beyond. The Dacia Sandero Stepway is one of a three-strong line-up in the UK that also includes the Sandero supermini and Duster SUV. By adding 40mm to the suspension height, plus plastic cladding around the wheel arches and roof rails as standard, Dacia has created a pseudo supermini-SUV to rival the likes of the Nissan Juke in terms of size but with a far lower price. Engine choices include an enthusiastic three-cylinder 0.9 TCe petrol and a torquey 1.5 DCi diesel, giving the Stepway a broad appeal.
Our choice: Sandero Stepway 1.5 DCi Ambiance
To keep costs low, Dacia’s designers were tasked with keeping the styling as simple as possible. All models in the Dacia range use the same front windows, for example. Even so, the Sandero supermini’s bland but inoffensive styling is a great starting point. The Stepway adds chunky cladding around the wheel arches, roof rails and higher suspension for a more rugged look, while the compact dimensions mean it slots in neatly below the Duster in the range. Unlike the Sandero there’s no stripped out base-spec version with plastic bumpers and steel wheels, so whichever Stepway you go for it looks like a lot of car for your money. The interior is identical to the Sandero, and features robust plastic switchgear and surfaces, with an uncluttered design.
As you might expect at this price point, the Stepway isn’t the best car to drive in its segment - but it’s not outclassed. Refinement and comfort are surprisingly good, even on the motorway, and there’s a reasonable amount of grip in the corners, although the front end is slow to react when you turn the wheel. An extra 40mm of suspension travel means body roll is more pronounced, so you’ll slide around in your seat, but straight-line performance is more than adequate. Two engines are offered – a three-cylinder 90bhp 0.9-litre turbo petrol and a 1.5 DCi diesel – and they couldn’t be more different. If you’re looking for a little more excitement, the 0.9 TCe revs enthusiastically and sounds great, while the diesel hums away quietly in the background but packs a bigger in-gear punch.
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. Considering the low prices, Dacia expects more than ninety per cent of its customers to be buying a new car for the first time, so it’s fair to assume next to previous second-hand purchases, reliability should be improved. Dacia was voted Europe’s most reliable car brand in a survey of 30,000 car owners in five European countries last year, so there’s no reason the cars shouldn’t prove just as robust on UK roads. Dacia predicts a three-star Euro NCAP safety rating, while traction control, ABS and four airbags are all included as standard.
The Sandero Stepway is fractionally more practical than the Sandero thanks to its standard-fit roof rails, but on the inside there’s an identical amount of room. There’s enough room in the back to fit two adults (or even three at a squeeze), while the 320-litre boot expands to 1,200 litres with the 60/40 split rear seats folded down. With the rear seats in place, that’s 32 litres more than the new Renault Clio and 44 litres more than the UK’s best-selling car, the Ford Fiesta. Although not available with four-wheel drive, the Stepway equips itself well on rutted country lanes with its extra ride height and underbody protection. To improve practicality even further, a £280 Touring pack is available across the range and adds a front centre arm rest, a boot luggage net and lateral roof bars.
Unsurprisingly, the 90bhp 1.5 dCi engine is by far the most fuel efficient, returning 70.6mpg and emitting 105g/km of CO2. The 0.9 TCe isn’t far behind, though, so if you’re not planning to cover masses of miles it could be the smarter choice - it returns 52.3mpg and emits 125g/km of CO2. A three-year, 60,000-mile warranty comes as standard, but there’s the option to buy an extended five or seven-year plan for £395 and £850 respectively, which could slash maintenance costs significantly in the long run.