22 May 2014

2014 Dacia Sandero Stepway Review

Mike Armstrong reviews the Dacia Sandero Stepway

Budget cars need not be cheap and uncheerful, as Dacia's new Sandero Stepway has proven. Available to purchase brand new in the UK right now, supermini buyers can mix the compact dimensions with the rugged appeal of a crossover.

What is it?

In a nutshell, the Stepway is essentially a regular Sandero with 40mm more ground clearance and off-road style body fittings, including: plastic arch extensions and bumpers with imitation underbody protection plates and roof bars. Although, surely there must be a better reason to purchase one than a false off-road gimmick?

Indeed there is, for the Stepway comes with an increased list of standard options by comparison to the ordinary hatchback model. Body coloured door mirrors, Satin Chrome roof bars and front fog lights are three of the extras on offer for the equivalent Ambience trim models, whilst LaurĂ©ate spec also benefits from the inclusion of rear parking sensors. Stepways are only available in Ambience and LaurĂ©ate trim, thus eliminating the entry level Access trim offered on the regular Sandero. Furthermore, a cost premium of approximately £1,000 doesn't do wonders for the Stepway's austere favours.

On the road

Road handling certainly is a winner by comparison to the regular model, despite a noticeable amount of extra body roll. Steering is accurate enough, although far from spirited; plus the larger wheels actually cause the ride to appear more plush and pleasant. Grip is nigh on identical, despite the extra ground clearance. Plus, the utility of this vehicle is obviously improved due to the extended ride height, although don't be fooled into believing that the Stepway is an off-roader - it's far from it with a front-wheel drive only layout. Refinement is also poor by comparison to mainstream competition due to intruding road and wind noise and the noticeable diesel clatter protruding from the engine bay.

Two engines are available, including the 898cc TCe 90 three-cylinder petrol unit. Whilst the TCe unit is fairly liveable, most buyers will quite justifiably opt for the diesel engine. The 1.5 dCi offers superior fuel economy (70.6mpg combined vs 52.3mpg) and is far cheaper to tax at £20 because of it's emissions figures of just 105g/km of CO2, a saving of £90 on the petrol. A price difference of £1,000 between the petrol and diesel equivalents will pay for themselves in terms of taxation, fuel costs and residual values in the coming years. Not to mention that the dCi unit is arguably better to drive, although one second slower to 62mph from a standstill at 12.1 seconds. Neither will set the world on fire quite frankly, although the diesel is the best all-rounder.

Obviously those opting for the Stepway should select the diesel unit, although which trim level is the overall winner? As buyers will obviously be seeking a new car on a budget, the entry level Ambience trim represents the best value for money. At £9,395 (£8,395 for the petrol), Ambience models come equipped with electric front windows, front fog lights, and roof bars, Bluetooth, metallic paint, and a radio/CD system, driver and front passenger airbags, front side airbags and electronic stability control. Add another £1,600 and addition niceties will include air-conditioning, a chrome front grille, electric rear windows, electric heated door mirrors, cruise control, speed limiter, rear parking sensors, Sat Nav and entertainment system with a seven-inch touchscreen and AUX and USB inputs.

Interior space is identical to the regular hatchback, and arguably quite impressive. The only real benefit of the Stepway is accessibility to the vehicle, thanks to the raised suspension. In light of the more expensive competition, 320-litres of boot space dwarfs that of the popular Ford Fiesta, with a mere 290-litres on offer. Furthermore, the Sandero and Sandero Stepway punch above their weight considering that a Ford Focus offers only 316-litres with the seats folded up. Space for four adults is quite impressive, and interior fittings are cheerful enough, although noticeable cheaper than the new Renault Clio.

Is it worth buying?

Essentially yes. Providing that your criteria demands a supermini for a sub-£11,000 price bracket, and that the raised suspension and beefier looks float your boat. Whether or not the regular Sandero is the way to go though depends on whether the supermini in crossover's clothing puts the skip in your step. The Stepway is a no-frills product with all the essentials that most motorists will require, and reasonably priced at that.

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