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Test drive: Dacia Sandero Stepway Plus TCe90 CVT: a lesson in refreshing new into… newer!


The Dacia Sandero was launched in 2007 and the arrival of this new iteration is the third generation of the model. Admittedly, the lines have evolved quite discreetly and this Sandero, even in its Stepway version, is immediately recognisable. However, underneath lies the new CMF-B platform which is used by the Clio V, among others. How thoughtfull to use up-to-the- minute tech on a car that costs just €15.690.

Just like Skoda did it, Dacia seems to want to go up a notch in terms of technology and perceived quality. Dacia is definitely seeking street-cred. The proof? Just take a close look at the new brand logo or think about the latest changes at the design studio (with the departure of Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos and the arrival of Miles Nürnberger from Aston Martin, where he signed the DBX). On top of that, if we think about the Dacia Bigster (a future 7-seater SUV presented at the beginning of the year), it is clear the Romanian brand is about to take on a new dimension and adopt a higher, more upmarket profile. Anyway, we just tested the new Sandero Stepway TCe90 with an auto box. Is this really a good idea, or not ?

I like it

Inside this new Sandero, the quality is pretty nice and the dashboard is completely new. The good news is it uses good old -fashioned dials and it looks quite good, displaying fabric on its surface as well as the door armrests. The shiny chrome bits definitely add class to the interior while the bright orange touches on the air vents and side armrests don’t really gel with our test car Fusion Red colour. The steering wheel is adjustable in height and depth, which was not the case before. It really helps comfort and finding an ideal driving position is now a doodle. Our test car featured an 8″ Media Nav DAB+ touchscreen, underlining even more the modern look of the car. A smartphone holder is attached to the back of it. However, it can easily be taken off if, like us, you can’t stand all those screens while driving.

Quite clever

We’re happy to see the little 1.0 3-cylinder petrol engine under the bonnet. It too is a present from the latest Clio. With its 90 HP and 142 Nm of torque, it’s easy to use and gets the job done with seriousness and competence. However, on our test car, it was mated to a Nissan CVT box… which reduces the engine’s torque by 18 Nm! However, we’ll come to that later.

I don’t like it

Mating the Clio engine to the CVT box  is highly debatable. Indeed, the Dacia Sandero Stepway is not intended for long journeys or daily commutes that would fully justify such a combo. It certainly gives the car a nice and lively character, but this has a price: fuel consumption! Over our 300 km test drive, carried out at a steady pace, we recorded 9.0 l/100 km, on average. The suspension is definitely on the very firm side and we were really surprised this small crossover didn’t boast more comfort.

Why I buy it

You could argue that the price of this Sandero Stepway is steep. However, let’s not forget that this is a top-of-the-range version called “Plus”. It comes with an auto box as well as modular longitudinal roof bars, 4 electric windows, fog lamps and automatic air conditioning. In short, that’s the sort of toys for which you could easily be charged about € 10,000 more by some of its competitors. The small 1.0 3-cylinder is a real gem of an engine and there is the up-to-date multimedia equipment, too. By the way, it was a real joy to get to drive a car without lane keeping assistance…

Why I don’t buy it

Let’s face it, some details lack finesse and bring us back to the last century: the old-fashioned ignition key or the (in)famous radio volume knob on the right side of the steering wheel. Obviously, all this doesn’t interfere with the driving experience, of course. The suspension firmness is really at odds with this car’s market positioning. You’d never ever want to drive it with alacrity, getting your nose down and grab the steering wheel firmly. It was never intented for such things, so we’ll forgive it. Mind you, some hard plastics and interior details remind us that this remains a budget car… for which a steel spare wheel would set you back €120! (Translation: Dimitri Urbain)

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