Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Unlike with the regular Dacia Sandero, there’s no entry-level non-turbo engine available for the Sandero Stepway. Not that we’re complaining, because the turbocharged TCe 90 gives perfectly acceptable performance for the class with a decent amount of punch from low engine speeds. It’s not the swiftest to reach motorway pace, but it’ll sit there all day long without fuss once you’re up there.
For a few hundred pounds more, there’s the TCe 100 Bi-Fuel. It has a little bit of extra poke at the expense, on paper, of economy and emissions, but you can also use liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to reduce them. We’ll go into this in more detail in the costs section.
You can flip between the two fuels using a switch next to your knee, so if you can’t find anywhere to fill the LPG tank, you’ve always got petrol to fall back on. If anything, we’d say this is the engine to go for, because it’s a little stronger from low engine speeds and accelerates a bit more quickly. Crucially, it’s smoother and far quieter when accelerating than the TCe 90. Regardless of the engine choice, though, you’ll find far punchier options in most rivals.
We don’t have any issues with the light gearshift and easy-to-modulate clutch of the standard 6-speed manual. The optional continuously variable transmission (CVT) available on the TCe 90 is smooth enough around town, but it does cause the engine revs to flare under heavy acceleration – a characteristic of CVT gearboxes. You’ll hear a bit more wind and road noise than in a Ford Fiesta Active or Volkswagen Polo, but the Sandero Stepway cruises more quietly than similar-priced rivals such as the MG 3 and Suzuki Ignis.
It’s also far more comfortable than the MG and Suzuki, as well as most other small cars, smoothing out rough roads impressively, especially at speed. Potholes and expansion joints do send a bit of a thwack through it, although not as noticeably as with similar-priced rivals. Indeed, you’d have to spend a fair chunk extra on a Volkswagen Polo or Skoda Kamiq to find something that rides better.
The soft suspension does mean handling isn’t the Dacia Sandero Stepway’s forte, though. There’s plenty of body lean in corners and it never feels particularly agile. Still, there's decent grip and the steering weights up in a reassuring manner when cornering, which instills confidence. The Fiesta Active is certainly more fun if you’re a keen driver, though.
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