Road test: Dacia Sandero Stepway
Too many reminders of cheap, with nothing obvious to be cheerful about
What is it?
Welcome to the big brother of the UK’s cheapest motor car. In an attempt (we assume) to persuade buyers it’s a worthy alternative to a more expensive crossover, the Stepway rides 40mm higher than its bargain basement relative and throws in a few (a very few) style modifications, too.
How green is it?
The 898cc five-speed petrol engine produces 115g/km of CO2, which is more than a Honda Jazz 1.3, a VW Polo 1.4 TSI and a MINI Cooper 1.5 automatic. So the short answer is: not very.
Who should buy one?
If you need to lug large loads around town and don’t expect much in the way of comfort and performance, then the Stepway may be worth a look. But a word of warning: just don’t have high expectations.
Road test by James Luckhurst, January 2018
DRIVING AND PERFORMANCE
At first sight, the Stepway presents itself as a neat, tidy and unspectacular model. Confidence is not inspired when it’s time to open the doors, as they immediately feel flimsy and tinny. Getting into the boot requires insertion of a key – something most of us are unlikely to have experienced for some years.
Inside shouts cheap, grey and hard. The steering wheel boasts nothing more than horn and airbag (no radio controls, no system information buttons). There are stalks on each side, with a basic little box on the right that assists with hands-free connectivity (we did not use this).
On the dashboard there are three simple dials. Four circular air vents deliver the heating and ventilation. Each can be closed, open or angled to give directional airflow. Three cheap-feeling buttons on the central console control temperature, power and direction. Below these are four recesses where more buttons could have gone.
Driving the Stepway is predictably unrewarding. It’s fine in busy areas where everyone else is at a crawl, but as soon as roads open up and there’s an opportunity to enjoy the journey, the Stepway fails to deliver. The enormous gearstick is the gateway to a 900cc petrol engine that offers little in the way of driver satisfaction. In low gears the car feels coarse and jumpy, but this settles down once you reach a decent cruising speed. However, the ride can be rough, noisy and intrusive. There was a stretch of the M25 near Heathrow with regular bumps, brought about by joins to the concrete surface. Such was the vibration and protest from the Stepway as we travelled along here at around 50mph that we thought something was wrong.
Look, folks, it’s a cheap car and we don’t imagine you would buy it and expect a ride that’s thrilling or luxurious. We appreciate that. But unless you restrict its use to busy town driving, then we think you are likely to find the Stepway too much like hard work, and therefore not the bargain it might have first appeared.
SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
For a car at this price, you do get lots of space. It’s just a shame that it’s not as practical as it could easily be. There’s enough room up front, but precious little in the form of useful storage areas and cubby holes. Each front door has a low, shallow pocket that might be useful for small items. Anything larger than a wallet would likely just topple out during a journey. There are two (again shallow) cup holders located in front of the gearstick, with a third (this one thankfully deeper and more likely to retain a cup) behind the handbrake, where there is also a 12v socket. Rear seat space is restricted, and it would be something of a penance for an average-size adult to travel any great distance in the back. The boot is big – impressively so – but spoilt by a high lip that would render loading and unloading of suitcases, prams and heavy items particularly troublesome.
Euro NCAP gave the Stepway’s little sister the Sandero a four-star rating. As would be expected, there’s ABS, Emergency Braking Assist and ESC with traction control on board the Stepway, but no sign of any modern safety technology aids.
Our Ambiance model came basically kitted out. The DAB/FM/AM radio required constant manual re-tuning. Go for Laureate spec and you get a touchscreen infotainment system ands a few other toys. With top-level Summit spec, there’s cruise contrrol.
The petrol Ambiance costs £8995. Choose Laureate and you’ll pay £10,195, while for Summit spec it’s £10,995. Diesel versions start at £10,595 for the Ambiance.
WE SAYToo many reminders of cheap, with nothing obvious to be cheerful.
AT A GLANCE:
Price: £9,580 as testerd
Performance: 0-62 in 11.1 secs
Economy: 55.4 mpg
Figures for the Ambiance TCe 90