Dacia Sandero Stepway: long-term test review

First report: we get a chance to compare old with new as the latest version of the Dacia Sandero Stepway joins our fleet

  • 4.5 out of 5

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    Comparing the new Stepway with the old one shows just how far Dacia has come. But in truth, it’s even more telling when you pitch the latest Sandero against its modern rivals. It’s better value than ever.

    • Mileage: 1,150
    • Economy: 36.9mpg
    • Dacia is a brand on the rise. Clever engineering means the firm’s latest Sandero supermini shares many parts with the class-leading Clio – while offering a tasty price advantage over the Renault. And our new fleet car is designed to show how the Romanian brand’s SUV-style supermini, the Sandero Stepway, has also made significant gains with this latest generation. So much so, in fact, that Dacia sent us an old version of the car for us to compare the two.

      But first, let’s take a look at the new arrival. It’s a Sandero Stepway TCe 90 Prestige, which means a turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine producing 89bhp and 160Nm of torque. Prestige is the range-topping edition, so it has plenty of useful standard kit: air-conditioning, auto wipers, electric windows all round, 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, keyless entry and an eight-inch infotainment system with Android and Apple integration.

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      Our car does have a couple of additional features: Desert Orange metallic paint, which will set you back £595, and a full-size spare wheel, which costs £150. The total list price, though, is still only around the £15k mark including options. Put down a meagre £1,000 deposit on a four-year PCP deal and this car will cost you just £200 per month.

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      That should bring raw appeal for those who haven’t already been swayed by Dacia’s value proposition. But for anyone who has one of the older Stepways, there’s a quantum shift to be experienced here. Put the two models side-by-side and you can instantly see how much more accomplished and mature the new car is. It’s slightly bigger overall, but the styling gives it a much more convincing SUV look, helped by stronger angles around the front end, as well as new LED headlights.

      There are also small but significant detail changes; the older model has a large Stepway sticker on the front door, which looks cheap compared with the more subtle metallic nameplates on our car’s grille and roof bars.

      It’s inside where you really notice the upgrades Dacia has made, though. The older cabin looks rugged at best, but now there are fabric trim elements that really help to break up the sea of black and grey plastics; the Sandero’s interior looks almost plush compared with far more expensive rivals’.

      The older model here is an SE Twenty limited edition, so it also has electric rear windows – but the new version allows you to control them from the driver’s seat, too – a feature that I found very handy when my daughter’s dog was in the back.

      While the infotainment display is only an inch larger than what was offered before, the system it houses is far slicker, with extremely clear graphics, and it’s quicker to respond to your inputs.

      You can place your phone in a handy, removable cradle that’s attached to the driver’s side of the screen – and the USB port is hidden behind the display, so you can tuck the cable neatly out of the way when you’re charging or connected to the system. That said, I’ve been using the wireless hook-up for Apple CarPlay without any issues.

      On the road there’s greater sophistication to the ride, better refinement at all speeds, and the whole experience is just easier – particularly the steering, which is now lighter than it was in the older Stepway.

      It doesn’t feel very fast, and the 0-62mph time of 12 seconds confirms that it’s not, but it’s quick enough in most situations in town. It’s comfy, too, on modest 16-inch wheels.

      Is there anything I prefer from the older version? Just one element, perhaps: the physical handbrake lever. Call me old-school, but I’d rather have a bar than the electronic handbrake that comes as standard in new Sandero Stepways. I can’t say I’ve encountered any major issues with it, mind; it’s just a matter of personal preference.

      On the whole, then, our Stepway has made a seriously impressive start to its time on our fleet. As the UK comes out of Covid restrictions, I’m looking forward to adding some more miles and seeing how the car performs over longer distances.

      Model:Dacia Sandero Stepway TCe90 Prestige
      On fleet since:April 2021
      Price new:£14,295
      Engine:1.0-litre 3cyl, turbo petrol, 89bhp
      Options:Metallic paint (£595), full-size spare wheel (£150)
      Insurance*:Group: 14E/Quote: £373
      Any problems?None so far

      *Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

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