2013 Dacia Sandero Stepway review
* SUV version of Sandero supermini * Third model in the Dacia line-up * On sale May 2013; prices start from just 7995...
The Dacia Sandero Stepway is an SUV-inspired version of the budget brand's Sandero supermini.
It costs around 600 more than the regular Sandero, but represents incredible value for money, with prices starting at less than 8000.
For the extra cash, you get a 40mm increase in ground clearance, along with higher profile tyres to fill those more pronounced wheelarches.
Further embellishments include a chunkier front bumper and aluminium roof bars, while front and rear skid plates are fitted to help protect the undercarriage, should you venture off the beaten track.
What's the 2013 Dacia Sandero Stepway like to drive?
Although the Stepway's raised ride height and protective skid plates are there to help you negotiate the occasional rutted farm track, there's no four-wheel drive or low-ratio gearbox to call upon, so off-road adventures are well beyond the Dacia's remit.
Still, if you accept the limitations, the Stepway is a pretty decent thing to drive.
Most notably, the ride is much softer than that of most modern superminis. The forgiving suspension soaks up bumps with ease at low speeds, although that softness does have its drawbacks, because it means things get rather bouncy over high-speed dips and crests.
You'll also notice plenty of body roll when negotiating bends. However, there's a decent amount of grip, so you can breeze along a typical B-road at respectable pace.
The steering isn't the most accurate we've ever encountered, but it's nice and light, which comes in handy when slotting the Stepway into tight parking spots; something that's made even easier by the tall windows and excellent all-round visibility.
Undoubtedly, the worst aspect of the Stepway is its refinement or rather the shortage of it.
Even at tickover, the 89bhp 1.5-litre diesel version we drove produces a discernable amount of vibration. This can be felt through the seats, steering wheel and pedal box.
Equally, the Stepway's bluff front end and standard-fit roof rails generate lots of wind noise at motorway speeds. There's plenty of road roar, too.
Although noisy, the engine does produce a decent turn of pace when revved, and feels fairly relaxed at motorway speeds.
What's the2013 Dacia Sandero Stepway like inside?
Other than the price, the most impressive thing about the Stepway is the sheer amount of space it provides.
There's loads of room in the front, and rear-seat occupants will never feel claustrophobic thanks to plentiful headroom and huge side windows.
The boot is pretty big compared with most other superminis, too, at 320 litres.
However, while the rear seat backs can be flipped down to free up even more space, you're still left with a pronounced slope; not ideal if you've got longer items to carry.
The driving position isn't great, either, because the steering wheel adjusts only for height (not reach).
Unsurprisingly, hard grey plastic dominates the dashboard, but there is the odd dash of sparkle to brighten matters, including chrome surrounds for the instrument dials.
You get a reasonable amount of kit, too. Entry-level Ambiance models come with Bluetooth, metallic paint and a CD player.
The range-topping Laureate diesel (which costs 10,795) adds a chrome front grille, heated door mirrors, air-conditioning, four electric windows and a seven-inch colour touch-screen with integrated sat-nav.
Safety isn't one of the Stepway's strengths; early indications suggest it will achieve only a three-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating. Almost every other modern supermini has a five-star rating.
Should I buy one?
To find anything even remotely comparable at this sort of money you'll need to look on the second-hand market, and that is enough to forgive the Stepway almost all of its flaws.
Our hunch is that the cheaper petrol versions will make more sense than the diesel we drove, but regardless of engine, there's no escaping the fact that Dacia has redefined budget motoring.
Fiat Panda Trekking
What Car? Says