The Dacia Sandero Stepway is inexpensive but doesn’t look it.
It’s a supermini that’s been jacked up a bit to give a crossover look and seems to press all the right buttons for buyers who don’t want big outlay but require big value.
To understand the appeal of the Sandero Stepway, know this. The basic Sandero supermini upon which it’s based has been designed to sell into many third world markets and as such is billed as having excellent ground clearance and ‘robust underbody protection for impressive performance on unpaved tracks’. If that’s not a great basis for building a jacked-up version with even greater abilities, I don’t know what is. Do remember that this isn’t a four-wheel drive car though, so there are limits as to what it can negotiate. For tougher stuff, you’ll probably need to buy Dacia’s Duster compact SUV.
The entry-level 90PS 1.2-litre petrol engine will probably be more than enough for most people and it’s a sweet little motor, the three cylinders making a characterful sound and driving the front wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox. Alternatively, there’s a 90PS 1.5-litre diesel that isn’t the most refined unit we’ve come across but nevertheless makes all the right economy and emissions figures.
The Stepway is styled to look a bit more rugged without actually offering any four wheel-drive underpinnings. Think VW Polo Dune or Rover Streetwise and you’re not far off the mark. That stepped up ground clearance gives it a nicely chunky look and might well prove useful when bumping up and down big kerbs in town. It also gets a redesigned front end and body features such as front and rear skid plates, fog lamps, two-tone bumpers, pronounced wheel arches, 16-inch Flexwheels rims, two-tone longitudinal roof bars and exclusive blue paint. Inside, there’s embroidered upholstery and grey overstitching for a bolder look.
The Dacia Sandero Stepway deserves to do very well. It’s a much more interesting and, crucially, expensive-looking car than the basic Sandero hatch and although the craze for these 4x4-styled superminis might have been and gone, it’s still a vehicle that will find a ready market here in the UK.
The pricing looks extremely good as well. For only a couple of hundred pounds more than the most depressingly basic 60PS Volkswagen Polo, you can buy a range-topping Stepway with a 105PS diesel engine and goodies like cruise control, air conditioning, parking sensors and a seven-inch touch screen.
The Stepway is a case study in how to do budget cars very well indeed.