The hype around Dacia has been phenomenal in the UK, building up to and since its launch at the beginning of 2013. Billed as selling the cheapest car in Britain, it has done exactly that, with the supermini Sandero starting at £5,995.
It’s also holds the crown for cheapest SUV with the decent-looking Duster, which costs £8,995.
Also on offer is the Sandero Stepway, which starts from just £8,395. It combines the value-for-money and low running costs of the Sandero with the ruggedness of an off-roader. Essentially, the only difference is some extra cladding, a chrome roof bar and 40mm of height, because despite its crossover looks, it’s only offered in two wheel drive.
We tested the 1.5-litre diesel with 88bhp which does 0-62mph in 11.8 seconds. There’s also a 0.9-litre petrol unit on offer that is slightly quicker at 11.1 seconds, but the diesel makes the most all-round sense.
This diesel is the same that’s found in parent company Renault’s Clio, yet doesn’t have quite the same refinement or insulation.
The same applies to the gearstick, which might look near-identical in both cars, but doesn’t offer the same slickness in the Dacia as the Renault, proving notably notchier with gear shifts.
But, all-in-all, the performance perfectly suits this no-frills car, doing the job it was designed to do – getting you from A to B with reasonable pace and comfort.
This is most suited to town and local driving, popping to the supermarket and running errands, rather than long, fast journeys, where the bearable noise, comfort and performance will quickly become far more evident and less acceptable.
Ride and Handling
Body roll is ample, and it’s not awfully kind on speed bumps, but the chances of Sandero Stepway owners wanting to nail the car out of corners are slim.
The Sandero Stepway is one of those cars that does exactly what is says on the tin – it certainly doesn’t have the ride and handling finesse of many cars out there but, at the same time, it’s not a bad little car. Refinement is not a particular strong point either; the diesel engine can be noisy. Body roll is ample, and it’s not awfully kind on speed bumps, but the chances of Sandero Stepway owners wanting to nail the car out of corners are slim. Its boxy uprightness also makes it a pleasure to park in tight roadside spaces, while the top-of-the-range Laureate trim includes rear parking sensors.
Interior and Equipment
The Sandero Stepway was one of a few models which debuted in the UK market the same day the Dacia brand officially launched in this country.
There’s two trim levels offered with the Sandero Stepway – Ambiance and Laureate. The interior of the car is spartan, but who cares, when you have this sort of value proposition? The range-topping Laureate trim, does come with some luxuries. Examples include cruise control, tinted windows, 16-inch wheels and a seven-inch touchscreen multimedia system including sat-nav. Seating both front and rear feels very spacious and there are lots of cubby holes and other spacious storage spaces dotted around the cabin. The boot is measured at 320 litres as standard, comfortably surpassing other mini-SUV type cars. The Fiat Panda and Nissan Juke offer just 225 litres and 251 litres respectively.
When you consider the reasonable list price and then take on board the efficiency figures – an impressive 74.3mpg and emissions of 99g/km CO2, this becomes an even more appealing consideration.
There’s not much difference between petrol and diesel engines, but it’s the diesel which is more efficient for the Sandero Stepway. When you consider the reasonable list price and then take on board the efficiency figures – an impressive 74.3mpg and emissions of 99g/km CO2, this becomes an even more appealing consideration. Economy figures improved in mid 2015, when both the diesel and petrol engines were upgraded as EU6 emission legislation came into force. One particular rival, the Fiat Panda 1.3-litre Multijet in Lounge trim, is over £1,000 more expensive, while having near-equivalent figures of 72.4mpg and 103g/km. Further up the expense bracket, the similarly sized Nissan Juke in its high-spec Tekna trim offers 70.6mpg and 104g/km.
Dacia has recognised a missing niche in the UK market and capitalised on it with its range of cars. The Sandero Stepway is subtly differentiated from the Sandero, but sensibly targets the growing popularity of crossovers with its chunky body styling. While driving the Stepway is nothing remarkable, it is genuinely impressive how affordable this car is. The spacious cabin and boot, which are more practical than any of the Stepway’s main rivals, as well as the frugal engines, are impressive qualities. Anyone considering this car shouldn’t have handling and performance high on their list of priorities. Instead, this utilitarian and unexciting model will actually keep plenty of owners happy.