What is it?
The ruggedized version of the new-to-the-UK Dacia Sandero. Roughty-tufty off-road flavour certainly seems to work well for the Romanian budget brand. It makes the Duster a singularly unpretentious and likeable sort of machine. And on the Sandero Stepway, loosely termed a crossover supermini, it only serves enhance the sense of simple, functional value on offer.
Mechanically, there isn’t much that differentiates the Stepway. This is ostensibly a standard Sandero hatch with plastic wheelarch extensions, faux plastic scuff plates, standard roof bars and 40mm of extra ground clearance, the latter making up 207mm in all – enough for light off-road service.
There’s no part-time four-wheel drive here, no entry-level 1.2-litre engine and no pared-down Access trim level. Stepway prices start from £7995 – £600 more than an equivalent Sandero hatchback. But you also get more for your money with the entry-level 898cc petrol-engined Ambiance-trim crossover, which brings with it not only roof bars but also front fog lamps, body-coloured bumpers and mirrors, and metallic paint for no extra cost.
The range-topping Laureate-spec 1.5-litre diesel Stepway we tested also comes with sat-nav and rear parking sensors thrown in, offsetting more than half of the £1000 premium you’ll pay for it versus the equivalent hatchback.
What is it like?
A marginally more appealing and obliging machine than the regular supermini, with chunkier styling and easier entry and egress. The car’s handling shows little compromise on accuracy, response or control. It grips just as hard as the standard Sandero, and successfully avoids comedy extremes of body roll. The Stepway also has a slightly more fluent primary ride than the standard car, with the extra wheel travel giving the car’s dampers more room in which to work.
The diesel engine only really becomes noisy above 3500rpm and generally performs strongly, albeit not quite as efficiently as the 70mpg combined claim suggests. Throttle response and in-gear urge are both decent.
Should I buy one?
If you insist on spending £9000 or more on a Sandero, the Stepway is probably the car to spend it on – whether you think you want a crossover or not. At that level it offers better value for money, and is also easier to use and slightly less bland to behold.
This tester’s instinct says we’ll end up recommending the £5995 bog-basic Sandero even more highly, although we won’t be able to confirm that until we drive one.
Dacia Sandero Stepway 1.5 dCi 90 Laureate
Price: £10,795; 0-62mph: 11.8sec; Top speed: 103mph; Economy: 70.6mpg; Co2: 105g/km; Kerb weight: 1083kg; Engine type, cc: 4cyls, 1461cc, turbodiesel; Power: 89bhp at 3750rpm; Torque: 162lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox: 5-spd manual