A week with a Dacia Sandero Stepway

Posted in DriveL by Richard Porter on Friday, November 8th, 2013

Stepway1Day 1: The entirely straightforward Dacia Sandero has been given the Audi Allroad treatment. Although since it’s a small hatchback and still only front-wheel drive, you’d more accurately say it’s been Rover Streetwised. The chunky wheelarches suit it. Less promisingly, it has writing on the doors that says STEPWAY. This sounds like something Thora Hird would have used to help her water the hanging baskets. It’s written the seats too. Driving home, I can’t help feeling that people in other cars are smirking at me.

Day 2: The Stepway’s suspension has been jacked up by 40mm over the normal Sandero. Unless you live in a country with really crappy roads, in which case your normal Sanderos already sit 26mm higher than ours. Quite why Britain doesn’t get the shit road suspension pack I don’t know. Anyway, when I was on holiday in the French countryside over the summer their bumpy roads seemed to be crawling with Stepways. I bet that’s because of the jacked-up suspension, I thought. I bet there’s a car that rides superbly. Turns out it’s not quite superb but it is pretty good.

Stepway2 Day 3: I have to stay at home today. I have no use for the Stepway but I find myself staring at it through the window and conclude one thing: With its chunky roof rails and its shiny bumper inserts and that idiotic writing on the doors, this car is trying too hard. I still like the black wheel arch extensions. They should offer those on normal Sanderos. They could call them The Paris Parking Kit.

Day 4: No need for the Stepway today. The hanging baskets are well watered. Also, I’m going into central London to do some radio interviews to promote The Top Gear Guide To Britain, a handy and informative celebration of the fourth best country in the world, on sale on all good book shops now, priced just £14.99. Why not give a friend or family member this excellent publication for Christmas?

Day 5: Right, time to drive this bitch. Even with the suspension lift, the handling is okay I suppose. Likewise, the gearchange and the level of gruntiness from the diesel engine. It’s easy to get into a nice easy, momentum-conserving rhythm with the car, in that traditional French style.

Day 6: Today I had cause to drive the Stepway and then, shortly afterwards, my Fiat 500 Twinair. The 500, not the most sophisticated or polished of cars, felt like a generation or two ahead of the Stepway. The Dacia is based on the old-shape Clio so I suppose that’s not surprising. It does feel a bit old skool. I can’t think of another modern diesel wheel the steering wheel visibly jitters at idle. Still, if you fondly remember the early-to-mid ’90s you’ll like this car.

Stepway3Day 7: Stuck in traffic this morning I started looking for ways in which Dacia has saved money. Some of them are quite canny, like the rear electric window switches between the front seat backs so they serve people in the front and the rear, saving on cabling and switches and whathaveyou. Some just feel like they’ve been cheapskates, which is why the door handles feel thin and the Bluetooth music player randomly drops out, as if all your favourite songs have been re-recorded by Norman Collier.

Goodbye: The Stepway has gone. It’s not bad, as long as you accept that you can see and feel the ways they’ve cut corners to make it cheap. The same is true of the standard Sandero but you can have one of those for £5995 so it’s more forgiveable, and the standard Sandero just looks like a car rather than something that’s trying to make a statement. If I wanted a faux off roady Dacia, I’d buy a Duster. And if I wanted a Sandero, I’d save some money and buy the normal one.

The car talked about here is a Dacia Sandero Stepway Laureate dCi 90. It has a 1.5-litre turbo diesel engine making 89bhp. It can go from 0-62 in 11.8 seconds and on to 104mph. This model costs £10,795.

87 Responses to “A week with a Dacia Sandero Stepway”

  1. Sam Mace says:

    I DO fondly remember the mid 90’s. On that basis, this seems like the one and only car for me.

  2. Paul Young says:

    I don’t remember the 90’s as I was drunk on Hooch and Two Dogs most of the time, while listening to The Charlatans and Right Said Fred. This doesn’t sound like the car for me – I’m off to buy a Renault Scenic RX4.

  3. Nogile says:

    Wasn’t Paul Young more 80’s than 90’s?

  4. SirWiggum says:

    I for one miss the early 90s.

    90s diesels were simpler, more reliable then modern over-complicated common rail nonsense.

    This could then be the replacement for my much missed Citroen ZX diesel!

  5. Admiral Bob says:

    When I first read “you can see and feel the ways they’ve cut corners to make it cheap” I immediately though of my Clio. Then I realised it *is* a Renault. Personally I like it. Cheap is a lot like light or feelsome. With brand inflation or model growth or however you term it (and it’s clearly happening with the Sandero already), a modern Renault is probably a bit too posh or well made.
    *waits patiently for a DaciaSport Sandero with F4R*

  6. Big Merc Manual says:

    Less Audi Allroad more Polo Dune I’d say.

    Speaking of Charlatans can I make a mention of Milli Vanilli whilst we’re going back to the 90’s.

  7. Jennifer Warts says:

    You can stick on pretend roof bars, plastic side skirts, taller springs etc on a turd… but it’s still a turd. Are the vehicle buying public so utterly stupid as to actually fall for this kind of smoke and mirrors nonsense?

    Stupid question.

  8. Jennifer Warts says:

    Wait, hang on… I just saw the price.

    Where do I sign?

  9. Ramblin Syd says:

    Jennifer I think it is unfair to compare this car with a turd, it may have some things in common, such as the colour (which I like, rusty brown is very good at not showing… er rust) but what else can you buy for the money, apart from a very nice watch? The car has an air of cheapness about it and nostalgia if it reminds you of the early nineties. In those days I was driving about in a lovely old Peugeot van, ah – memories.

    Money can’t but happiness… but it may rent some for a while.

  10. Jennifer Warts says:

    Money can’t buy you happiness agreed… but that very nice watch might just appreciate in value. Can we say the same about the Duncia Sombrero Stepaway Poetlaureate?

  11. Noels Haus-Parti says:

    ….or you could actually get an early 90’s Clio and that special cheap French car smell.

  12. Chay D says:

    I saw one of these in a Tesco’s carpark, saw the name ‘Stepway’ emblazoned on the door and thought; “That’s a really cheap and practical sounding name if ever I’ve seen one”, then imagined it would be owned by a plump middle-aged woman with two kids who’d say “Ooh! It’s well cheap! nice and roomy. Got enuff space for the kids and me mum too. Can get a whole months shoppin’ in it!”. Shortly after which a plump, middle aged woman with two kids started loading her shopping into it.

  13. Just ordered a white one. I loved the 90s and I love the Stepway.Ok it not a Rolls but for the money I think its great value .Oh by the way from a plump 68 year old attractive lady, no kids.

  14. Arek says:

    Stepway Is ok for price woth you can bay for 12k with 7yers no cost fix

  15. Steve says:

    I’ve just bought a Stepway 1.5Dci top spec one £11.000 On the road,
    It comes with everything as std.. Amazing Spec for the money.
    And Renault Powered, 1.5dci is same as new Clio has.!
    And it’s Not based on an Old Clio, its based on a Clio mk3 ..!!

    Most if the reviews of this model are just talking total rubbish.!

    It drives as good as many other new cars I tried.
    It’s very quiet, Engine pulls like a train, and only gets a little noise
    Above 3.5 thousand rpm.. At idle its Hard to even hear it..!

    Its very happy and very stable on cruise control at 85 mph.!
    Yes a tiny tiny bit of wind noise at speed (but it has roof rails)
    so it will do, As do all cars with roof rails.!

    I downsized from a Volvo S80 Diesel And now get double the mpg 🙂
    And the Stepway is almost as comfortable,
    I don’t drive it gently , yet I can’t get it do go below 55mpg..!

    Don’t believe the reviews, Go And Test Drive One ..!!
    A lot of car for 11k..!

  16. Brian Ross says:

    Steve,

    I am waiting on delivery of a Stepway 1.5dci top spec Laureate, and having test driven one twice, your comments are the most accurate I have read!

    I am literally amazed at some of the inaccurate reviews by so called experts and as you would expect, I have read most of them!

    My wife and I are really looking forward to taking delivery of our new Stepway.

    We also test drove the Renault Captur 1.5 diesel and although this is an outstanding car, we decided that the Stepway was much better value for money even after customising it with stainless steel side bars and alloy wheels.

    We have had a Nissan Note top spec for the last 7 years, can’t fault it, other than the cost of fuel and road tax which the Stepway will reduce dramatically!!

    Best regards, Brian

  17. David Veitch says:

    well then, what are the negatives apart from the silly writing on the drivers door?

  18. Phil says:

    The dCi engine is a K9K. This engine is fitted in the Clio, Modus, Nissan Note and Qashkai. It is a superb modern diesel. Mine has done 83000 miles in a Note and never goes below 58 mpg. The roof rails on the Stepway will knock a couple of mpg off that. Seriously considering this Dacia as a replacement for the well loved Note.

  19. margaret says:

    just purchased the top range model love reynault cant wait till it arrives brand new first time ive been able to afford a brand new car and these are so popular im waiting a month for a white one …………been driving for 30yrs best and better manufacture than mini ford vauxhall citroen to name a few we had in the past ……this will be 3rd reynault !!!!! [ as dacia is ]
    wont buy anything else.

  20. Ray says:

    Thanks Steve for keeping this real, what do people expect for 11k?
    I’ve never owned an expensive car but i’m sure if i tried hard enough i could pick holes in a 50k Merc/Jag/BMW, Jeremy Clarkson does it every week without breaking into a sweat. Look around, even the Kia Ceed with similar spec in close to 17k, point me in the direction of a slick diesel that costs bugger all to tax and that does close to 70mpg on a motorway run for that sort of money and i’ll go take a look. I agree the silly Stepway writing on the door is pants, unless they’ve been lacquered over i think i’d be putting a hairdryer on them and peeling them off. You’re never going to get a better review than one from someone that actualy owns and drives the car, i’ll be taking one of thses for a test drive in the near future, hopefuly they drive well on the motorway as this is where i do most of my driving.

  21. Jozza says:

    Judging by the other comments on here it seems Renault have cottened onto the fact that their are plenty of folks looking for and appreciating value for money over soft touch plastics and dynamic driving ability.

    Went for a job interview recently with Renault and one of the comments I heard was ‘Dacia’ takes care of itself!

  22. Ray says:

    I bought one of these in the end, great little car, cant fault it, drives well, £150 a year to insure fully comp, £20 a year road tax, 60+ mpg, loving it.

  23. Ol says:

    We bought a sandero dci last year. (Non step way) in a year nothing has gone wrong. It’s annual service was 150 at a main dealer, insurance is dirt cheap and tax is free.. Best mpg was 78, worst 50.
    It’s a superb car. It pulls strongly and is hugely tall geared meaning motorways are effortless. We have noted none of the so called shortcomings stated by road testers…badge snobbery is alive and well I think!

  24. Mrs B says:

    Well I’m really interested in buying a Stepway (even without a step). But my real concern would be the fuel pump computer reading. A few test done in South Africa was that the reserve light would come on and there would still be 21L in the tank for a reserve and then when you refill it fills to 29L. I find it troubling to think if I had to do a longish trip where there are no petrol stations for a few hundred miles and on comes the reserve light. Could anyone please clear this up for me and make me feel more at relaxed about buying one.

  25. Neo says:

    I have been driving my Stepway for 6 months and have just completed my first 10,000 miles.

    I can say, categorically, that every review I have read to date has undersold this fabulous car.

    It would be fair to say I am a car geek. I’m in my 40’s, have owned and driven pretty much every category of car out there. I bought this for my wife to replace a little C2. The short version: you simply cannot beat the turnout in ride, handling, economy, finish and functionality for £11k on anything out there. We got the white, which looks like it has a little grunt from the front, while the rear is ordinary enough without being odd.
    I am able to squeeze a consistent 70+ mpg out of it, and with ‘Eco’ off it responds accurately with no compression lag even at low rpm.

    Sure. The carpets show a little margin at some trims, the finish has some distinct plastic involved but it’s certainly no lada, I’ve seen a 64plate Landy with worse carpets, and the new C2 with more chrome and platic.

    The cruise control is smooth, the steering precise, and I’m pleased the Diesel engine has been recognised above as an award winner, it clearly is. Take the same engine in a cleo and add 70% to your bill, with less booth space. Go figure.

    To simplify. I’ve had it a while and it regularly gets selected if both my cars are standing on the drive and I need to pop to the shops. The other car cost me almost 8 times what the stepway did.
    1) it’s a fun drive and the journalists comments about feeling sheepish being seen in it are rubbish.
    2) I know the round trip will cost me a few p in fuel, which oddly enough is a huge incentive to drive the car.

    It’s a fantastic little car. And I note in South Africa (a notoriously snobbish car region with large German luxury model manufacturing and sales) they haven’t even bothered to change its name, they’re happy to call it a Renualt!

  26. Ray says:

    I agree Neo, i’m six months and 9k miles into ownership and the car still makes me smile. In the summer the car took 2 adults and 3 adult size kids on a camping holiday, all this weight plus towing a trailer, and it still did 55+ to the gallon, and never once fealt short of power. This car is A++ all round.

  27. Caroline says:

    Have had a Dacia Sandero Stepway Laureate dCi 90 since December 31st 2014 and am absolutely thrilled with it. Extremely comfortable and lovely to drive but best of all I’m averaging 59mpg which is brilliant plus only £20 per year car tax. Onboard computer with sat nav, bluetooth [enabling phone use] and ability to play my mp3 player make this a superb buy for the money. Highly recommended, negative comments can be attributed to absolutely any car – not too impressed with some of the interior of Mercedes cars but hey I’m totally happy with what I’ve got!!!

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