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Road Test: Dacia Sandero Stepway (2017)

By Nick Francis Published

hatchback | Dacia | Sandero Stepway

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THE phrase “it is what it is” is overused these days.

It has become a tool of the unimaginative, for those who can’t think of something insightful to say.

I’ve heard it more in the past couple of days than in the rest of my life up to that point.

Dacia simply produces staggeringly good-value cars

I’ve been in Croatia with budget brand Dacia, which has given its entire range a facelift.

And the words are entirely apt. Dacia won’t wow us with good looks to make you drool, Nasa-spec technology or face-melting performance. The company simply produces staggeringly good-value cars. That is what Dacia is all about. It is what it is.

The cars are built in Romania (stop sniggering), Algeria (what did I just say?) and Morocco (seriously, stop it).

 

Key facts: DACIA SANDERO STEPWAY

Price: £8,795

Engine: 1-litre petrol

Economy: 55.4 mpg

0-62mph: 11.1 secs

Top speed: 110mph (estimated)

Length: 4 metres

Turning circle: 10 metres

CO2: 115g/km

But the company is owned by Renault, ensuring build quality good enough to make Dacia a sound option for those who need a new car which won’t force them to burn the furniture for warmth in the winter.

And being a nation of thrifty car consumers, we’ve rather taken little Dacia to our bosom since it arrived on our shores in 2013.

This year alone we’ve snapped up 24,000 of them, and the year-on-year figure is rising constantly.

The range starts with the Sandero, a city car which is beefed up in crossover form with the Sandero Stepway.

The Logan is a small family runaround, and topping the line-up is a handsome SUV called the Duster (most popular in the UK).

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They are almost unfeasibly cheap, ranging from £5,995 for the Sandero to £14,995 for the Duster — a car big enough to lug around a family of five and chew up long motorway journeys without a single hiccup or burp.

You know it’s a budget brand when one of the top press conference headlines is the fact that air-con now comes as standard — on a trim level which you have to pay an extra grand for.

In fairness to Dacia, that still makes its cars the cheapest on the market to come with air-con, plus you get DAB radio for your money. To put it into perspective, it means the air-con and DAB-fitted Dacia Sandero is just £6,995.

My favourite of the range was the Sandero Stepway. The leap of quality from the standard Sandero was staggering, and it would only cost you around £2,500 more.

The ride quality afforded by the raised suspension was worth the money alone

I’m not normally a fan of crossovers but the ride quality afforded by the raised suspension was worth the money alone.

And instead of the highly-strung one-litre, 75bhp, engine found in the Sandero, the Stepway is powered by the significantly more punchy 90bhp version, although that is an option in the standard version (I advise you pay the extra two grand if your heart is set on the baby Sandero).

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Britain’s favourite, the Duster, now comes with a highly competent auto ’box, making it a very complete car indeed.

The range has had minor tweaks from hooter to tooter

From the outside the range has had minor tweaks from hooter to tooter, including LED running lights and the odd blob of chrome, but it really is just a nip and tuck.

When an email invite for a launch hosted by brands such as Dacia or Suzuki drops into the inbox, the journalist’s reaction is to be disappointed.

But I often end up more impressed with them than the bigger players.

When the prices are this low, and quality this high, they have a very easy time explaining the product.

Hey, it is what it is.

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