The new Dacia Sandero Stepway certainly catches the eye. The Renault owned brand has an exceptional group of designers at the minute. Its handsome appearance alone is right up there with any of the cars in its small crossover/SUV class. Take away the branding and just look at the car in the flesh and I guarantee you even car badge snobs would be hard pressed to identify the Stepway as a budget car. We’ve put the very competitively priced Stepway through its paces.
The exterior features bodywork that is right ‘on trend’. New lights and smarter looking grille give the Stepway an impressive presence. There are curves and bulges in all the right places to add to the crossover image. The Stepway looks sturdy and as if it wants to head for the hills but like all the cars in its class has no specific off-road ability. The Stepway sits a little higher off the road than a standard hatchback and there are faux off-road styling elements to its appearance. On higher grades the Stepway gets clever integral modular roof bars.These can transform from being mounted lengthways to crossways in a few minutes – so carrying a bike or roof-box is easy!
The front wheel drive Stepway ticks the standard boxes with five doors and seating for up to five. Unlike the Dacia Sandero, that it shares a chassis with, the Stepway gets a few more creature comforts. Our test car had a central touch screen with a well placed phone holder and USB power socket close by. So where has the money been saved. Dacia shares a lot of parts among its cars and has access to Renault’s vast parts bi too. If you rub your hand along out of sight areas you will find rough edges and even the good looking air vents can feel rough to the touch – but who touches the air vents I hear Dacia cry – and to a degree its right! When I took a look at the door hinges I had to check the others to see if the retaining pins were fitted correctly – and they were fitted as intended. It is fair to say ‘over engineering’ is not Dacia’s mantra and this ultimately delivers very affordable new cars – hence its ‘Shockingly Affordable’ claim.
A 1 litre petrol powered ’TCe 90 CVT’ (90hp/160nm) automatic Sandero Stepway (from €19,790) is available and it can do 0-100 km/h in 14.2 seconds. The better value, and quicker engine choice is found under the bonnet of our 1 litre six-speed manual test car. The ‘TCe 100 LPG’ (100hp/170nm) Stepway starts from €15,990 and features a bi-fuel engine. It is tuned to run on petrol, and LPG (liquid petroleum gas). Older readers will remember ‘the first coming’ of this cheaper alternative to petrol that at the time was spiralling upwards in price at the pumps. When that particular global fuel crisis calmed down we all thought LPG had its day and for decades it has been a forgotten fuel – in Ireland anyway. Some poorer economies kept LPG on the go and there has been a trickle of new cars and to a greater degree commercial vehicles that can run on LPG. LPG produces less CO2 than petrol (131g v 115g in this engine’s case) and is still cheaper than petrol. The downside is LPG can be very hard to find in Ireland. Dacia quotes average fuel consumption of 7.4L/100km.
In the TCe 100 ‘Bi-Fuel’ petrol is stored in a standard fuel tank – so where is the LPG kept? The 40 litre LPG circular tank sits neatly under the boot floor in the space you’d expect to find the spare wheel and delivers up to 580km in range. Behind the fuel flap you’ll find two caps – one for petrol and a smaller one for LPG. The LPG pump is a little tricky to use at first. To switch between LPG and petrol In the Stepway couldn’t be easier – if you run out of one fuel the car will automatically swap over to the other fuel – but you can also manually select which fuel you use. There is an illuminated LPG button on the dash just to the right of the driver’s steering wheel and when it’s green you’re on the cheaper fuel.
The car starts in petrol mode by default – even if LPG is switched on. The last fuel you used is the one it will use next time you drive. A flashing green indicator means the car is waiting to go into LPG mode as conditions are not quite right. When cold or when more power is needed the car will automatically switch to petrol mode for 30 seconds and then revert to LPG. Sounds complicated? It isn’t really. Older readers will remember ‘after market’ LPG conversions that people could get carried out on their conventional petrol car. They weren’t cheap but over time promised to save be the driver money. The large after market cylindrical LPG tanks were generally mounted in the boot – and took up most of the boot!
On the road the Stepway does what it needs to do well. At no time did we feel our licence was under threat but the Stepway can still move quickly when provoked. The 999cc engine in our car can do the sprint from 0-100km/h in 11.9 seconds. Motorway cruising is easily done too. Cabin noise is surprisingly well suppressed. The Dacia Sandero Stepway is all about value for money. The bi-fuel manual model is the one to go for. €15,990 gets you started in ‘Essential’ specification, ‘Comfort’ is €17,790 and our test car the Stepway ‘Prestige’ starts from €19,290. The new Dacia Sandero Stepway delivers a lot of car for relatively little money.