Dacia Sandero Stepway hatchback
“The Dacia Sandero Stepway is a rugged supermini with SUV aspirations, lots of space and small running costs”
- Fuel-efficient engines
- Excellent visibility
- Low prices
- Poor to drive
- No real off-road ability
- No super-cheap entry-level model
Cynics could describe the Dacia Sandero Stepway as just a trim level within the Dacia Sandero supermini range, but the increased ride height, stocky body styling kit and roof rails combine to give the Stepway quite a different style and sense of purpose. Customers clearly agree, too – the Stepway accounts for over 60% of Sandero sales. The Stepway also gives Dacia a contender in the popular crossover class, taking on models like the Renault Captur, Peugeot 2008 and Nissan Juke.
This is all the more impressive given the relative lack of changes under the skin. Apart from long-travel suspension, the Stepway uses one of the same engines and front-wheel drive as the regular Sandero. This has the advantage of keeping the price down, but apart from extra ground clearance avoiding the Stepway from snagging on rough terrain, you are just as likely to be defeated by a muddy field as in the regular car.
Still, the Stepway offers a lot of the style and space of many crossovers costing at least twice the price, with faux-aluminum skid plates, black plastic cladding to fend off bumps and scrapes and roof rails that add to its utilitarian charm. Like the regular Sandero, the Stepway benefited from an update in early 2017. This brought a more distinctive look with an updated grille and bumpers and restyled lights front and rear, the latter of which feature a 'four square' design motif.
The fundamentals of the interior design weren't changed, but there has been a welcome improvement in material quality, particularly for the seats. There's also an improved steering wheel and the option of a reversing camera. Four adults will be happy with the amount of space provided and there’s more boot space than a Nissan Juke, as well as more places to stick your wallet and phone.
The Stepway now gets the 74bhp 1.0-litre petrol found in the most basic Dacia Sandero, but you can choose the more advanced 0.9-litre turbocharged petrol with 89bhp too. There’s also a 99bhp ‘Bi-Fuel’ petrol/LPG engine, which is the most powerful engine offered in the Sandero Stepway range. The diesel model of the Sandero Stepway was discontinued in 2020.
While the Stepway version costs around £800 more than the regular Sandero, this still seems like good value for money considering its extra kit and tougher looks. Even the top-spec Comfort trim is still over £4,000 cheaper than an entry-level Nissan Juke.
The Essential trim is reasonably well equipped, with Bluetooth, air-conditioning, front foglights and DAB radio, but the Comfort adds cruise control, rear parking sensors, electric rear windows, a seven-function trip computer, chrome interior trim and a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with sat-nav covering the UK and Ireland.
There isn’t a Euro NCAP crash-test figure for the Stepway, but the virtually identical Sandero was awarded four out of five stars, with points lost for its lack of up-to-date safety technology and poor protection for pedestrians in a collision. This lack of active safety kit is somewhat understandable given the Dacia’s aim to be simple and keep costs down.
The Sandero Stepway still scored a decent percentage for occupant protection, thanks to a full complement of airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control and a system to alert you to a loss of tyre pressure. The Dacia Sandero (both the standard model and the Stepway) finished 75th out of the 75 cars ranked in our 2018 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, and didn't appear in our 2020 results.
With the current trend for anything crossover or SUV-related to fly out of showrooms, it's no wonder the Stepway version of the Sandero is going down well with customers. It doesn't offer all the capability of a four-wheel drive Jeep Renegade, or even a Peugeot 2008 with its clever Grip Control system, but the Dacia is simpler, and therefore far cheaper. If you want a tough and practical hatchback on a budget, it's a solid choice. For a more detailed look at the Dacia Sandero Stepway, read on for the rest of our in-depth review.