What is the Stepway? Well it’s a five door sports utility styled version of the existing Sandero supermini hatchback and it is the latest entry into the fast emerging B-segment of compact SUVs/crossovers.
Who is Dacia? The low price-led, no discounts brand with its original roots in Romania now owned by Renault. Although left hand drive display models were first shown a year ago to the UK public at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, deliveries to customers began in January 2013 through the 140 Renault UK dealerships. In the first six months of this year 6,000 Dacia cars have been sold with early adopters tending to be previous used car buyers making it the fastest growing brand in this country.
The Dacia brand for the UK launched with the Duster midsized 2/4WD SUV priced from £8,995, next followed the Sandero five door supermini hatchback priced from £7,395, now comes the Sandero Stepway crossover with prices starting from £7,995. To follow in September will be Logan MCV (maximum capacity vehicle) five door family estate priced from just £6,995.
Stepping back to the Stepway. Its timely arrival coincides with significant new entrants into the B-segment SUV/crossover market segment which includes the Peugeot 2008 and Renault’s own Captur which joins existing models such as the Nissan Juke and Vauxhall Mokka.
The Stepway in fact is offered with two of the same engines as the Renault Captur, the three cylinder 0.9-litre, 90hp TCe turbocharged petrol unit and the 1.5-litre, four cylinder, dCi 90hp turbodiesel. Although the same capacity and power outputs the Captur units are slightly more fuel efficient with lower CO2 emissions and slightly faster for top speed and acceleration.
Captur prices start at £12,495 for the petrol TCe models and £13,895 for the dCi. Stepway prices start at £7,995 for the petrol unit and £8,995 for the dCi diesel. As for the all important mechanical warranty, the Dacia Stepway’s is 3-years/60,000 miles, the Renault Captur has a 4-year/100,000 package.
The Stepway is marginally shorter in length at 4,081mm than the Captur by 41mm and the boot/load space is also a few litres less – but not much. Seeing both the Captur and Sandero Stepway together there is little to choose between them from the outside. Both are essentially only two wheel drive model ranges although they look like SUVs, they have five door bodystyles with 40mm taller suspension giving higher ground clearance, wheelarch extension, front and rear underbody scuff plates,16-inch wheels and an elevated seating position.
Inside however the Captur is decidedly more upmarket than the Stepway with its use of seemingly better quality materials and smoother operating switches. The Captur seems well up to mainstream standards of quality and refinement, the Stepway is clearly more budget buy but at prices from £7,995 up to the maximum £10,795 what else can we expect? Whilst the Captur has a wider choice of specification levels and those must have cool personalisation options, the Stepway is much more function over fashion.
In addition to the two engine options, the Stepway is available with Ambiance and Laureate levels of spec and trim, neither of which, despite the prices, is actually basic. Ambiance provides Bluetooth, fog lights, radio/CD system with fingertip controls, electrically operated front windows, ECO driving mode, split folding rear seat backs, rear window wash/wipe, stability and traction control systems, comprehensive safety airbags, daytime running lights and central locking.
Moving up to Laureate trim, expected to account for up to two-thirds of sales, adds further convenience and style touches. These include air conditioning, chrome front grille, full electric windows and electric heated door mirrors, MediaNav seven-inch touchscreen multimedia system with satellite navigation, AUX and USB inputs and four speakers. Plus, it’s got cruise control, speed limiter and rear parking sensors.
Cabin comfort and style are catered for with a height-adjustable steering wheel and driver’s seat and leather trim for the steering wheel and gear knob. A seven-function trip computer is also included, while those who want to splash more cash can specify dark carbon leather upholstery for £600.
To add yet more to the core package, customers can take advantage of accessory packs, again priced true to Dacia’s value tradition but an emergency spare wheel will cost £95 which is the same price as most other volume selling cars. The £245 Touring Pack adds a luggage net for the boot, transverse roof bars, a front centre armrest and an alarm.
The Stepway and Captur both drive in a similar sort of way, comfortable but with a jiggly ride over poorer road surfaces with some bodyroll during cornering due to the raised suspension. They are roomy enough for a growing family where motoring budgets are tight and empty nesters who have always promised themselves a new car can move from buying a reasonably priced used car to a new Stepway for less money.
I briefly had a test drive in the Sandero Stepway Laureate dCi 90, that’s the 1.5-litre diesel top spec version carrying the highest price tag of £10,795 with a five speed manual gearbox. It appears no auto box is offered as an option yet. I’d choose, funds permitting, to opt for the diesel unit because it offers better mid range responsive performance although there is very little difference in the performance figures. Both have 90hp outputs but the torque is much higher from the diesel at 162lb ft from 1,750rpm than the weedy 100lb ft from 2,500rpm of the 0.9-litre turbo petrol unit. With a five speed gearbox as standard it just makes lighter work of driving the diesel version at normal mid range speeds on country roads. A predominately town driver could cope though with petrol unit and of course the £1,000 saving in purchase price over the diesel unit buys a lot of petrol but road tax is more. The diesel officially returns in the Combined Cycle 70.6mpg, the petrol 52.3mpg. The diesel unit emits 105g/km so VED road tax is £0 First Year rate then £20 for the second year onwards. The petrol at 124g/km is £0 and then £105. For company car drives the Benefit-in-Kind tax is 16% for all models. Insurance for the petrol models is 7/8E depending on spec and 10/11E for the diesel.
In conclusion the Dacia Sandero Stepway only sets the standard for its pricing. If it has visual and practical appeal then the purchase price will appeal even more but just don’t expect it to match the class leaders in terms of driving refinement or interior quality. It’s a bit ‘old school’ and cheap but not cheerful inside.
MILESTONES. Dacia Sandero Stepway 5-Door Supermini Crossover, 1.5-litre dCi 90 Laureate. Price: £10,795. Engine/transmission: 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder, turbodiesel, 89bhp, 162lb ft of torque from 1,750rpm, 5-speed manual, front wheel drive. Performance: 104mph, 0-62mph 11.8 seconds, 70.6mpg Combined Cycle (63mpg on test), CO2 105g/km, VED road tax £0 then £20 per annum year two onwards, BIK company car tax 16%. Insurance group: 11E. Warranty: 3-years/60,000-miles. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,081, H 1,618mm, W 1,733mm, boot/load space 320-1,200-litres, braked towing weight 1,100kg. For: Very low starter model purchase price, low running costs, roomy, good load space, OK to drive, seems well built, well equipped, better towing weight that the similar Renault Captur. Against: Only a 4-star safety rating, ‘old school’ feel from the controls/switches and interior quality, too early for proven residual values, fidgety ride, cornering bodyroll. Miles Better News Agency