Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
There's a choice of three engines: a 1.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol with an almighty 74bhp (the SCe 75), plus a 0.9-litre turbocharged 89bhp petrol (TCe 90) and a 94bhp 1.5-litre diesel (Blue dCi 95).
Even though it’s the cheapest, we wouldn’t bother with the SCe 75 as progress is just too slow. However, the TCe 90 has more than enough power for town use, even if you wouldn’t describe it as fast. The power delivery is smooth but quite flat, and while it will manage motorway trips it does need to be worked quite hard in the process. It struggles to find any oomph from below 2000rpm so you’ll find yourself changing down gears regularly, too.
The diesel has enough power and torque to feel at home wherever you take it, pulling strongly from low revs in any gear. However, it is the more expensive option.
There's nothing particularly sophisticated about the way the Sandero rides but, thanks to a raised ride height, the Stepway model is marginally more comfortable. It has fairly soft suspension, so manages to smother most bumps pretty well, and even potholes don't send particularly nasty jolts through the car.
However, too much of the road surface is channelled up through the steering column and you feel it as vibrations through your fingertips, and the suspension isn't very well controlled over dips and crests. The rival Ford Ka+ feels much better composed and more connected to the road.
The Sandero was conceived with practicality in mind rather than entertainment, so the fact that the Stepway doesn’t get your pulse racing isn’t the end of the world. More important is the fact that its handling is secure and predictable. Compared with rivals such as the Ka+, the Stepway isn’t particularly sharp or fun to drive. There's a pronounced amount of body roll in tight corners and the car doesn't feel particularly eager to change direction. The steering is fairly slow, which can make parking manoeuvers more of a hardship than they should be, but it's at least accurate and weights up consistently as you turn in to bends.
The Sandero Stepway delivers precisely the level of refinement you would expect of a car this cheap – that is to say, not very much. All versions suffer from lots of engine noise and a particularly strident whine whenever you put your foot down. A notchy gearchange also disappoints, and both wind and road noise become intrusive at higher speeds.