New Car Review: Dacia Sandero Stepway Prestige

Starting Price: €12,990

Price as tested: €19,810

GOOD STUFF

  • Incredible Value, very easy to live with, much better-looking than before

BAD STUFF

  • Why be picky at this price?

WHAT IS IT?

The Dacia Sandero is the cheapest new car you can buy in Ireland. And this is the Stepway, the pseudo-SUV-ish version which offers a plucky upgrade from the bare basic appliance that is the worthy entry-level Sandero. Dacia has been a big success since it was launched here a few years back. We know Irish buyers are shrewd and also, no fools. So the fact that Irish car buyers are embracing this brand is a testament to just how much they are improving. This year (2021) the brand is 26 per cent ahead of last year in terms of sales. They are selling similar numbers to the likes of Opel. This isn’t the new Fiat, this is more like the new ŠKODA – a brand that was once sniffed at but now has to be taken seriously. 

HOW ABOUT THE LOOKS?

The styling of this latest Dacia Sandero is a significant step-up from where it had been, in both versions. The Stepway offers a chunkier, utilitarian look and it does look more upmarket and “du jour”. Everyone at the moment wants a car that is a Crossover, or at least looks like one – it seems. 

This is not a cheap-looking car. There are LED daytime running lights, a chrome surround on the front grille and 16” Flex alloy wheels. Our test car, in Desert Orange (+€520) was striking and overall it is a design that works. Inside, the cabin is well laid-out, with Satin Chrome and Copper Orange Air Vent Surrounds, good storage including a high central armrest with console storage and the centre console is dominated by a large 8” infotainment system with Navigation, DAB radio and wifi smartphone mirroring. 

There is an electronic parking brake which frees up some space too and what is remarkable is just how decent the plastics are. Sure enough, lower down they feel a bit more brittle but overall most of the main areas are shod in really decent materials. 

The Interior of the Prestige version includes an 8″ infotainment system.

WHAT IS IT LIKE TO DRIVE?

The model we were testing was the Dual Fuel version and this employs two tanks, one with regular petrol and the other with LPG. LPG is popular in Europe, but never really took off here despite some aborted attempts at popularising it. 

This LPG model gets a 50-litre petrol tank that powers a 3-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine in the normal way, but there is a switch in the cabin that allows you to move to a separate LPG gas tank. This promises, according to Dacia, a 40 per cent saving in fuel costs, as well as an 11 per cent reduction in CO2. 

You will find a few places to fill up, but they aren’t that plentiful outside of Dublin. The 99hp engine needs a little coaxing to get the best out of it but it is ‘sufficient. LPG model is fine too, although it can get a bit spluttery when you push it hard. 

This isn’t an interesting car to drive and doesn’t pretend to be. Sure, it is easy to park, easy to navigate and the ride is compliant and easy. It is motoring at its most anodyne but many people are totally fine with that. 

WHAT IS THE INSIDE LIKE?

Much, much improved. The last Dacia Sandero was very functional and hard-wearing and that was about the nicest thing you could say about it. This one has taken a giant leap in terms of design, layout and quality. This top-spec Prestige model gets the 8” touchscreen that we mentioned and a built-in mount for your phone off to one side. It also gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It all works very well and is simplicity itself to operate. More basic models get a more purposeful phone mount instead, which does a surprisingly good job. 

WHICH ONE SHOULD I BUY?

It depends on what you want from your car. If you want a second car as a runabout then the bare-bones basic Sandero might just well be the right car for you, which only costs from €12,990 (or €39 per week). This will be perfect as a runabout, and you don’t have to worry about frills, because there aren’t any. However, if you want a sub-€20,000 new car that comes with all the extras and that doesn’t look half bad at all this Prestige model wants for nothing. It will still cost you around €200 per month on a PCP and comes with a long warranty. 

IS IT SAFE? 

The Dacia Sandero didn’t manage a great score in the Euro NCAP safety tests – it scored just 2 stars out of a possible 5. Euro NCAP said; “​​structures in the dashboard presented a risk of injury to occupants of different sizes and those sitting in different positions, and protection for this part of the body was downgraded to marginal. Chest protection was also rated as marginal for both front seat occupants, based on dummy readings of chest compression.” Should this put you off? Well no. This is not a big or heavy car, so you have to take that into account and NCAP did commend the model in some areas but criticised the brand for not fitting a more sophisticated automated braking system. It will still be streets ahead of many used cars in this area. 

VERDICT: Well worth a look

Sure, it isn’t that sexy, unless you love a bargain in which case it is incredibly enticing. This car makes a ton of sense to many buyers because they want a new car, they want it to look a bit like an SUV and couldn’t care less about driving dynamics. Budget buying never looked or felt this good. 

To find out more – go to www.dacia.ie

Check out our YouTube video here: