This is a well-balanced car in terms of its handling. Buyers won’t expect too much excitement but what they will find, if they look for it, is a car that handles competently, with good stability and even a little enjoyment.
The steering is light – as is appropriate for the market, if too light for our personal tastes – but with reasonable self-centring and accuracy. At 3.2 turns between locks, and with a tight 10.4-metre turning circle, it is geared pleasingly, too. Pedal feel is sound all around (some manufacturers give into the temptation to make those too light, but Dacia has not), which means braking is easy to modulate.
And the steering itself takes on a little extra weight as speeds and lateral forces rise. That makes for a car that’s both easy to drive and yet doesn’t fall apart or fail to offer some kind of interaction if you want to enjoy a decent road. The ESP and ABS are well judged, too. And, ultimately, the Sandero’s handling balance is, as it should be, towards progressive understeer.
When you drive the Sandero on the road – whether this Stepway or the regular version – you think that it’s probably not the kind of car that will bear up to the scrutiny of a hill route test. The best you should hope for, you figure, is that it will just telegraph the fact that it’s safe quite well.
The truth is, it does rather better than that. It resists understeer convincingly and has neither an excessive amount of roll nor an alarming roll rate. For a taller car than a regular supermini, and one set up pliantly, that’s a decent achievement.
Dacia has clearly resisted the temptation to go too high or too soft on the suspension, which would see it wallow and flop. Instead, it feels willing and able, with sufficient body control, and a gradual increase of steering weight so you have something to lean against. A pleasant surprise. Plus, it’s also trustworthy and handles safely, just as we had set out to find.
Comfort and isolation
If you are looking for areas where money unspent has consequences, perhaps you’ll find it here. The Sandero’s seats and driving position are great, no problem at all, and its engine quiet. But there is a slight pay-off in terms of cabin isolation.
Not a lot. Just enough, if you try a few different cars in this class, to know that there’s a touch more wind and road noise than in most rivals. But not to an extent that it’s uncouth or in any way unacceptable. You could still easily drive one all day. Drive one even for a moment, though, and you’ll note that the Sandero is relatively softly set up, without the control of something like a Ford Fiesta – still a benchmark for ride and handling in the class for us.