Dacia Sandero Stepway Review
The Dacia Sandero Stepway defines cheap and cheerful motoring. It’s spacious and well equipped for the price, but you always feel like you’re in a basic budget car
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The Dacia Sandero Stepway is a small family hatchback, and one of the least expensive cars on sale. It’s a great choice if you want an inexpensive way of getting from A to B and an interior that’s more spacious than alternatives that cost about the same.
You could mistake theDacia Sandero Stepway for an SUV thanks to its grey plastic bumpers that hide scratches and roof bars for mounting a storage box. Really, though, it’s just a standard Sandero with suspension that’s raised by 40mm to stop the bottom of the car scraping on rough roads.
That tall suspension also makes the Dacia easier to get in and out of than a conventional, low-slung family car and means you don’t need to bend your back so much when fitting a child seat. Passenger space is good for the price, you get plenty of room for adults up front and space for two in the back. The Sandero’s 320-litre boot is bigger than you get in comparably priced cars such as the VW Up and it sits at a good height for loading.
Interior quality is the same as the regular Sandero, so not brilliant. Everything is well laid out, but the plastics feel cheap to the touch and the design is, well – completely lacking any form of charisma.
Equipment levels are perfectly good for the price, though – you get air-conditioning, electric front windows, a DAB digital radio with a Bluetooth phone connection and remote central locking as standard.
You get a good forward view out when driving and you don’t have to worry about scraping the bottom of the car going over speed humps. In corners it leans quite a lot, the steering feels a bit vague, and the gear stick shifts with a cheap-sounding ‘clack’. You’ll also find the cabin is quite noisy at speed – you would be right to suspect that Dacia’s saved some cash on sound deadening.
The Dacia Sandero Stepway gets fashionable urban accoutrements that give it beefier looks than the basic Sandero
You can choose from two engines – a 90hp petrol or a 90hp diesel. Unless you do lots of miles, choose the petrol, which is cheaper to buy and has peppier performance in town than the diesel.
Safety isn’t too bad for such a cheap car. The Sandero scored four stars when it was crash tested by Euro NCAP back in 2013, although modern crash-avoidance tech such as automatic emergency braking isn’t available, and the crash test has got tougher since 2013.
Despite these shortcomings, you have to remember that the Dacia Sandero Stepway is a brand-new car that costs used-car money. That’s undoubtedly its biggest selling point. Buy it, pay £850 extra for the company’s seven-year/100,000-mile warranty, and you can have peace-of-mind motoring that can’t be rivalled for the price.
The Dacia Sandero Stepway has an awful lot of space, considering how little it costs, but it’s not hard to see where Dacia has saved money, especially in the way the boot is trimmed
The Stepway's raised suspension is a godsend for getting things in and out, but the steering wheel only adjusts for height, so some drivers may not be able to get comfy
Space up front in the Dacia Sandero Stepway is fine. You get plenty of room for your legs and a decent amount of headroom, but only SE Summit models get a front centre armrest. The driver’s seat adjusts for height and the steering wheel does too, but it doesn’t move in and out so it’s not as easy to get a comfortable driving position as it is in other cars.
Space in the back is really good when compared to other cars in the Dacia’s price range, which are mostly tiny city cars. The back seats are set high so you get plenty of legroom, an average-sized adult should have enough knee room, and you get a space under the front seats for your feet. The large windows make the back feel bright and airy and they’re electric on Laureate and SE Summit models.
Fitting a child seat is easier than in the basic Sandero thanks to the Stepway’s raised height, which means you don’t have to bend your back when leaning in to fit the base and it’s easy to slot the seat in on top.
The Dacia Sandero Stepway’s storage areas are also pretty good. You get big front door bins that can swallow a large bottle of water, while the rear doors have space for a small bottle. There are two cupholders in front of the gearstick, a decent-sized glovebox and map pockets on the backs of the front seats.
The raw capacity of the Dacia Sandero Stepway’s boot is impressive, it has 320-litres – more than comparably priced cars such as the Volkswagen Up (251 litres) and the Hyundai i10 (252 litres). In fact, it’s bigger than the Ford Focus’ 316-litre boot, a car that costs double the Dacia’s price.
That said, it doesn’t take an expert eye to see where the money has been saved – boot features are limited to a light and rear seats that split 60:40. Plus, the boot lid’s locking mechanism is exposed and the carpet seems to be held down with staples.
Size isn’t everything though, and you’ll have to hoist heavy items over the big boot lip – there’s no adjustable boot floor – and the rear seats don’t fold completely flat, both of which make loading tricky, particularly with something awkward such as a bike.
The £120 roof box is a relatively cost effective way of gaining an extra 400 litres worth of luggage space – particularly if you have a dog to put in the boot. Just be aware that sticking a box on the roof will kill any hopes of getting decent fuel economy out of the Dacia Sandero Stepway.
The Dacia Sandero Stepway’s raised suspension cushions bumps better than the standard Sandero and gives you a better view out – shame about the rattly diesel engine though
The Dacia is more concerned with getting you from A to B than making you feel particularly good while you’re doing it
You can have the Dacia Sandero Stepway with a choice of one diesel or one petrol engine.
The petrol is surprisingly high-tech given the Dacia’s budget-car roots – it only has three cylinders and a tiny 0.9-litre capacity, but has a turbocharger to help it return decent fuel economy of 55.4mpg. Performance is unspectacular but there’s enough to keep pace with town traffic, and only when you get onto the motorway does the Dacia start to feel a little bit breathless.
Even if you do a lot of miles each year, think long and hard before choosing the 90hp 1.5-litre diesel. It’s a rattly old thing that leaves you in no doubt that the Dacia Sandero Stepway represents budget motoring. Still, if you’re willing to grin and bear it, you’ll be rewarded with decent fuel economy of 74.3mpg and it does feel a tad quicker than the petrol on the motorway.
Whether you choose petrol or diesel power, the Dacia Sandero Stepway has a max towing weight of 1,100kg – quite a lot less than a proper four-wheel-drive car would be capable of.
The Dacia Sandero Stepway’s raised suspension means it is ideally suited to the cut and thrust of city life because the extra height gives you a better view out the front of the car.
Reverse parking isn’t a problem either, because the rear windscreen is set low enough to make the back of the car easy to judge. Front and rear parking sensors are available across the range as part of the £545 Protection pack, which includes an alarm and a boot-lip protector that’ll stop you from scratching the bumper when loading heavy objects. SE Summit models come with a rear-view camera as standard or you can have it as a £200 option on Laureate trim.
You’ll find the Dacia Sandero Stepway’s suspension is a little bit more comfortable than the standard Sandero’s, and the raised ride height helps it deal with rough tracks, fields and – more importantly – speed humps.
You do pay a price for that comfort though. You get a comical amount of body lean in corners, and the unsupportive seats mean you and your passengers will be sliding all over the place if you tackle bends at any kind of pace. The steering is also woolly and the gearbox is clunky. In other words, the Dacia Sandero Stepway will get you from A to B but not in a way that’s remotely enjoyable.
Or relaxing for that matter. At a cruise, it’s clear Dacia has saved pennies on sound deadening, and there are loads of vibrations through the steering wheel and pedals – especially in the diesel – as well as plenty of road noise and a fair amount of wind noise.
A four-star Euro NCAP safety rating means the Dacia Sandero Stepway is reasonably safe – you get four airbags and anti-lock brakes, but you can rule out fancy self-drive tech, such as automatic emergency braking.
The Dacia Sandero Stepway’s interior is spacious for a car of this price, but it’s also bland to look at, cheap feeling and lacks any kind of clever technology