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Taller version of budget hatch offers impressive value.
LED headlights and DRLs, air conditioning, USB port, DAB radio, cruise control with speed limiter, autonomous emergency braking, hill start assist.
Essential, Comfort, Prestige
Six-speed manual, CVT automatic
When Dacia introduced its third-generation Sandero supermini earlier this year, based on the same platform as the latest Renault Clio, it was widely praised as a major step forward, offering improved engineering and quality to go along with the value brand's trademark low pricing. Now, we've had the chance to try the Sandero Stepway crossover variant, which features a 174mm increase in ground clearance, black body cladding, metal skid plates, and modular roof bars that can be turned into a roof rack.
Actually, to call the Stepway a variant might be a misnomer, since it actually outsells the regular Sandero in the UK, and it is perhaps evidence of the model's importance in the Dacia range that the top-spec Prestige equipment grade tested here is not available with the regular Sandero. However, despite its comparatively lofty status, the Prestige's interior still mostly comprises hard plastic materials, although this is not out of keeping with Dacia's value brand status, and diamond-patterned fabric and orange air vent inserts do at least add a bit of visual interest. On a further negative from a quality point of view, we did notice the odd rattle and vibration in our test car when on the move.
Although the list of standard equipment at the bottom of the range is fairly sparse, Prestige cars are well equipped, with features such as automatic air conditioning, a reversing camera, and satnav. The latter features run on a new 8in touchscreen, although this could do with being a bit more responsive when shortcut buttons are pressed.
Our test car features the less powerful of the two engine options available with the Stepway range, a 90hp petrol. This is absolutely adequate, while the associated manual gearbox shifts smoothly - the Stepway is also available with Dacia's unusual Bi-Fuel engine option which can run on either petrol or LPG. The model's suspension offers a mostly compliant ride, although the odd harsher jolt does sneak through around town, and the handling is reassuringly consistent, despite lifeless steering. From behind the wheel the biggest complaint from this reviewer might actually be the driving position, with a high clutch biting point and limited steering reach adjustment meaning more of an arms-out posture than we'd usually like is required.
As noted earlier, Dacia has made good strides with its latest models to appeal to buyers from more than just a cost basis, but we shouldn't overlook the fact that the range still represents excellent value for money. And the Stepway might just be the best of the bunch, partly due to the paucity of alternatives in the supermini crossover market. The only direct rivals are the Ford Fiesta Active and Honda Jazz Crosstar, and anyone choosing one of those over the Stepway will need to pay over £6,000 and £9,000 more respectively on P11D. The Dacia, therefore, offers a massive saving, and though the regular Sandero is cheaper still, for those keen on a crossover the Stepway's cost proposition will demand strong consideration.