First Drive

First Drive: Dacia Sandero Stepway

The story:
Alongside the regular Sandero hatch, Dacia has also renewed its Sandero Stepway faux-crossover model, which the brand says will take 60% of Sandero sales.
Key rival:Hyundai i20
On sale:Now

The Stepway is a sibling to the regular Dacia Sandero five-door hatchback, but one that accounts for more than half of the Sandero’s sales.
Like the new regular Sandero, the Stepway is a significant leap forward from the previous model, with improvements to the quality, design, refinement, technology and safety equipment all evident, although it’s worth noting the poor recent two-star Euro NCAP crash test result.
Compared to the regular hatch, which costs £1500 less than the Stepway and is one BiK band lower due to its better efficiency, the Stepway gets 174mm of ground clearance, as well as front and rear metal skidplates and a clever new modular roofbar arrangement. The roof rails are capable of carrying 80kg, and can be rotated 90 degrees when needed to act as roof bars.
The Stepway also gets an upgraded interior over the standard Sandero, adding orange stitching and detailing to visually lift the cabin significantly.
The range doesn’t get the entry 65hp engine or the lowest Access model that kicks off the conventional Sandero line-up. Instead, it starts with Essential, then the middle trim is Comfort and finally Prestige trim tops everything off.
The 90hp petrol engine is offered with a six-speed manual gearbox or, as driven here, a CVT automatic. It’s acceptable, but the manual is both £1200 cheaper and 12g/km or 4.8mpg more efficient, so is the way to go.
The Stepway does feel like a slightly taller car than the Sandero hatch, in both the driving position and the way it drives, although the ride and handling are both perfectly tidy.
Overall, the various improvements in everything from ride and refinement to the all-round fit and finish are obvious and welcome, and certainly justify the significant price rise over the previous Sandero.
It’s still about as cheap as new cars come, however, with even the top-spec model auto driven here, complete with 16-inch alloys front and rear parking sensors, blind-spot warning, climate control and a rear camera, costing just a shade over £15,000.

paul barker


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The verdict

The Sandero is still clearly a cheap car, but the Stepway version has taken a big step in every way, and looks much better than the regular hatch thanks to the off-road-style visual details, clever roofbars and interior flourishes.