Dacia Sandero Stepway
Dacia is a car brand founded in the 1960s but in 1999 it was taken over by the Renault Group which expanded its market across Europe and re-introduced it to the UK.
Dacia uses proven Renault powertrains wrapped up in fresh-looking designs and with the emphasis on unmatchable value for money. I had to triple-check the prices before believing the Dacia Sandero Stepway, a smart-looking compact SUV, actually starts at just £5,995. Fair enough, that’s a basic version with minimal equipment but my mid-range Ambiance test model had remote locking, air-conditioning, roof rails, DAB radio, stop-start function, tinted glass, front fog lights, electric front windows, skid-plates, hill-start assist and ISOFIX points for child seats – yet still costs only £8,995.
The Stepway is a visually-rugged version of the Sandero hatchback and has raised ride height,
skid-plates and one or two other visual touches to make it attractive to those wanting to get in on the booming SUV market at a bargain price. It is hard to make direct comparisons with rivals as no other brand comes close the price tags on the Sandero Stepway, but it competes in a sector that includes the Peugeot 2008 and Suzuki S-Cross.
Yet the Stepway isn’t just about value for money. Its exterior styling is quite classy, its interior is surprisingly spacious, and its drives pleasingly enough to suit all but the most critical buyer. There are petrol and diesel engines and my test model had a 0.9 litre petrol unit with the standard 5-speed manual gearbox. The 0-60 mph time is 11.1 seconds, top speed 104 mph and the fuel economy a respectable 55.4 mpg combined.
The suspension setting is a tad softer than most in the sector, so ride quality is very good, steering is accurate and the car feels composed on the corners. My only quibbles were the gearbox was a little notchy, and there wasn’t enough room at the side of the clutch pedal for my size 10 foot but frankly I feel embarrassed to mention these issues given everything the car offers for such a low price.
The Stepway had a light makeover a few months ago and now has a new frontal identity which features the design cues of its Duster stablemate, and chrome detailing outside, and in the cabin, add an eye-catching touch.
Front and rear occupants get good head and leg room, and the 320 litre boot is larger than most rivals and can be boosted to 1,200 litres by dropping the split-fold rear seats, so top marks for practicality. The dashboard is laid out well for easy use and while cabin plastics are cheaper grade they still look presentable. And as if to underline that Dacia is far more than just a cut-price contender, the brand came fourth out of 34 for reliability in a Which? survey last year.
If you want a lot of SUV for relatively little money, you just can’t ignore the Sandero Stepway.
FOR: Unrivalled value for money!
AGAINST: At the price, it’s beyond criticism!