With space for five adults, along with lots of standard specifications, the Dacia Sandero and beefed up Dacia Sandero Stepway offer outstanding value for money and opens up the new car ownership market to a whole new range of buyers.
The goodPrice, looks and value
The badNoisy engine
Dacia Sandero Stepway Prestige TCe 90 (2021)
Dacia has built a reputation for its no-nonsense approach to developing budget-priced cars that are well-equipped, offering bundles of value and the latest Sandero Stepway is another fine example.
The compact five-door SUV-styled hatchback is a beefed-up version of the award-winning Sandero (the UK’s cheapest new car) and it looks great from any approach, with its slightly increased ride height plus dynamic styling. But where it beats all rivals hands down is the pricing structure.
Our car, powered by a 1.0-litre petrol engine delivering 90hp and 160Nm of torque, was mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. It cost £13,895 (£14,605 with options) and could reach 62mph from a standstill in 12.0 seconds, topping out at 107mph. According to official figures, under WLTP testing, the car could deliver a combined 50.4mpg with carbon emissions of 127g/km.
And it’s always worth remembering that, despite the jaw-dropping low prices, many of the components within the car are already tried and tested on Renault products.
The Sandero Stepway is a smart looking car and our test model really looked the business in a Desert Orange shade. Design cues include LED light signatures, black plastic cladding on the wheel arches, roof rails, front fog lights, body-coloured bumpers and mirrors, heated and electrically-adjusted door mirrors and 16-inch diamond-effect alloy wheels.
Move inside and the interior is bright, modern and well laid out with upholstery on the dashboard and doors, titanium black seat fabric, along with smart orange contrast trim on the air vents, seats and doors.
On-board techno treats also impress with the likes of a navigation system, smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, an eight-inch display screen, six-speaker audio, DAB radio and air conditioning.
Comfort levels are certainly decent enough up front even for six footers, but like most hatchbacks or compact SUVs, back seat passengers will soon be complaining about the limited leg room, especially if the front seats are pushed well back. Smaller children would be fine though.
When it comes to performance, it would be hard to describe the Sandero Stepway as dynamic in any way, but it definitely gets the job done. The acceleration through the manual transmission is smooth and there is enough power on tap to overtake slow-moving farm traffic. But it lacks real zip and firepower and gets noisy at 70mph on motorways – which is hardly surprising considering the price.
On country lanes, it is grippy with nicely weighted steering and, although there is a little body lean into bends, it is certainly agile enough in town centres with good all-round driver visibility which is a plus factor.
All the switches, dials and readouts are ideally positioned for ease of use and there is an Eco mode to maximise fuel efficiency further.
The boot can accommodate 328 litres of kit, increasing to 1,108 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped down. Additional storage options include a central cubby box, a glovebox, front cupholders, a tray, front and rear door bins and pockets in the front seatbacks. The car also came with a spare wheel stored beneath the boot floor that added £150 to the cost.
On a negative note, and it is a big factor here, the Dacia Sandero Stepway was only awarded two out of a possible five stars when it was tested recently for its Euro NCAP safety rating.
Although the car received a 70 per cent score for adult occupancy and 72 per cents for the safety of children, it scored just 41 per cent in the vulnerable road users category and only 42 per cent for safety assist.
Safety systems on the test car included anti-lock brakes with emergency brake assist, active emergency braking, an emergency call button, tyre pressure monitoring, hill start assist, Isofix points for the rear outer seats and a suite of airbags.
All in all, the Dacia Sandero Stepway may be as cheap as chips, but it boasts plenty of appeal. It drives well, is stylish and practical and, if you can ignore the poor safety rating, is appealing as a budget-priced car with oodles of kit.
Dacia Sandero Laureate dCi 90
The entry level Dacia Sandero lays claim to being the cheapest car on the UK roads with a price-tag starting from just £5,995 – that’s five times cheaper than the optional extras on some premium brand vehicles.
Admittedly that bargain basement price is for the entry level Access model and the car supplied for my test drive was the more up-market Laureate version costing £9,795 (£10,590 with options fitted).
Dacia or “Datchia” as it should be called is Renault’s Romanian-built budget brand but that said, it could offer the perfect opportunity for anyone with limited funds looking for a new car option.
The five-door hatchback certainly looks smart enough with daytime running lights, tinted windows, a chrome front grille, body-coloured bumpers, door handles and door mirrors, plus 15-inch wheels.
And despite the interior being pretty basic in its design with a clutter-free layout, there is ample room for four adults to travel in comfort.
Plus the generously-sized boot – with a capacity of 320 litres (increased to 1,200 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats folded flat) – means there will be no luggage restrictions for passengers.
There are numerous creature comforts to be explored, including a seven-inch touchscreen multimedia system with radio, sat nav, Bluetooth connectivity plus USB and AUX input, electric windows, an efficient heating system with air conditioning, cruise control with speed limiter, leather multi-function steering wheel and plenty more.
Powered by a 1.5-litre diesel-driven engine with 90bhp the Sandero Laureate made light work of weaving through congested city centre traffic. But in addition there was also enough power and acceleration to cope admirably on faster motorways too.
The car moved smoothly through the five-speed manual gearbox and although the 0-62mph sprint time of 12.1 seconds won’t break any records, owners will still be laughing all the way to the bank with the impressive fuel economy of 74.3mpg on a combined run.
An ECO mode and gear shift prompter helps to maximise fuel efficiency along the way.
Of course, it would be easy to pick fault with the Sandero because it may not have the finesse and poise of some more expensive models, but my only slight gripes after a week behind the wheel would be the excess of engine and road surface noise if pushed hard and you can also expect to feel the odd bump or two.
I suppose I could criticise the hard plastic interior, but once again in the Dacia Sandero’s defence – it is a budget car.
The car is packed with safety features, including anti-lock brakes with emergency brake assist, numerous airbags, child locks in the rear doors, electronic stability control, traction control and a Thatcham-approved engine immobiliser.
All in all, the Dacia Sandero may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for anyone who wants a brand new car without spending their life’s savings or going into monumental debt, it could be the perfect solution.