We went for the Stepway, a raised, softer-riding, slightly tougher- looking version of the Sandero, because the low cost of LPG fitted so well with the ‘cheap as chips’ ethos of Dacia. And so it proved: we didn’t learn much we didn’t know already about the functional, rational and practical Sandero itself from this test, other than that it could be made yet cheaper to run.
We did learn that filling up is more fiddly than with a regular petrol or diesel pump, and the real-world range of 250-280 miles from a 40-litre LPG tank isn’t as good as that of a conventional petrol or diesel car due to the lower calorific value of LPG. As a result, economy is worse on paper (we averaged 34.5mpg, compared with the 43mpg our sister brand What Car? got from a similar non-LPG Sandero with the same 0.9-litre three-cylinder engine) yet the cost of the fuel was much less. The 2028 miles we racked up cost just £160.34 in fuel whereas the same number of miles covered in the What Car? Sandero would have cost £257.29.
If the more frequent fill-ups are a bind, you can always call on the petrol tank from the standard donor car, although we rarely did. The LPG tank, by the way, is mounted in the boot where the spare wheel would sit, thus stealing no boot space.
Despite the cost savings, Autogas’s chief short-term argument for LPG use is that it is a ‘here and now’ solution for improving air quality, particularly at a time when UK cities are having to propose legally binding plans to clean up their air. Even beyond cars, there are so many other forms of transport – taxis, buses, commercial vehicles – that could benefit now from LPG conversions, which can also be done for cars yet lack popular appeal, or indeed the government grants there once were for switching to the fuel. Shame. Car makers admit that the demand just isn’t there for LPG, but people won’t miss what they don’t have. Imagine if 50 mainstream LPG models hit the UK car market tomorrow in right-hand drive, and robbing no more boot space than a spare wheel takes up: even an average salesman wouldn’t have to work too hard to sell one to those who value low running costs.
Life with a Sandero Stepway LPG: Month 5
Proving LPG cars have a role to play in the UK – 28 December 2017
How topical: the government used November’s budget to remove the fuel duty escalator for LPG-powered cars.
The presence of this escalator, no matter how small an impact it would make on the cost of a litre of LPG if enacted, has been highlighted by manufacturers as a reason why they don’t offer the cars with factory-fitted LPG tanks they supply to mainland Europe (in left-hand drive) in right-hand drive for UK buyers, citing uncertainty around the fuel’s price.
Will anything change? We’ll have one final report on our Sandero coming soon where we’ll round up the state of the LPG nation in the UK, but plenty of you have got in touch to say you’d welcome a third fossil fuel choice alongside petrol and diesel when buying a car.
One such reader is Richard Shepherd. Our Sandero LPG model was sourced from the Netherlands and that’s also where Richard has had to buy every one of his new cars since 1996 to get the factory-fit LPG system he knows works for him.