Life Motor Reviews

Saturday 30 August 2014

Step out in style

Dacia's soft-roader is a bargain buy but watch the upgrades

Philip Hederman

Published 05/06/2014 | 14:40

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Dacia Stepway pictures
EN DYNAMIQUE SUR ROUTE
Dacia Stepway pictures
VERSION E2
Dacia Stepway pictures

At first glance it may seem to be just a muscled-up version of its five-door cousin, but it’s actually a bit more than that.

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Never look a gift horse in the mouth.

That’s certainly the case with Dacia who are fast becoming the automotive success story of the decade with their “cheap as chips” ethos.

 The method in their madness is that they never pretend to be anything else and what you see is basically what you get.

No fancy pants marketing just reasonable motors at very affordable prices.

It’s worked a treat so far, but they needed to keep the momentum going.

The answer it seems was under their very noses.

Considering how successful the Sandero has been it was a no-brainer not to capitalise on it further.

Now the Romanian born, Renault- supplied manufacturer has taken the concept a whole step further with this SUV-based offering of the same model.

In a bid to cash-in on our new-found love of the soft-roader, the marque that brought us the “shocking affordable” hatch has now rolled out the Stepway.

At first glance it may seem to be just a muscled-up version of its five-door cousin, but it’s actually a bit more than that.

For starters, the whole chassis has been lifted by 40mm giving that all- important elevated driving position and the suspension has been lifted and stiffened a little to cope with roughish terrain. (or potholes to you and me).

Add aluminium-style skid plates front and rear, matching roof rails, fog light mountings and thick body mouldings that run around the entire car and you have  the makings of a hardy looking little buck.

Inside it’s less exciting and is pretty much identical as the Sandero with very familiar switch gear, steering and gear stick as that of the second generation Clio.

It’s all a bit dated in here and the over use of hard, scratchy plastics especially around the entire dash is not what you’d call pleasant.

That said it is functional, easy to use and clutter-free although the placing of some vital controls beggar belief.

The electric windows are a prime example – situated below the gearstick means you can’t shut the window whilst driving away from say, a toll booth as you need to change gear.

The cruise control switch is situated right to the left of that is nigh on invisible – particularly at night – and you find yourself looking below the steering while at high speed.

Standard kit on the entry- level Alternative includes  electric front windows, Bluetooth, CD player, Eco Driving control and 60/40 split fold rear seats.

Opt for the Signature and you’ll get foglights, air conditioning, leather steering wheel with mounted controls, electric rear windows, chromed front grille, cruise control, rear parking sensors and 16” alloys.

There’s two frugal engines to choose from – a 900cc, three-cylinder  petrol with 90bhp or the 1.5 litre diesel with the same output.

The oil burner is the more efficient returning an eye-watering 70mpg (4.0l/100km) over the 55mpg  of the petrol.

Drive-wise, the Stepway is comfortable and workman-like but the handling and connectivity to the road are non-existent.

There is zero feedback from the steering and the gearbox is nothing short of atrocious.

It is cheap though and to retain it’s bargain status buyers will have to steer clear of the whistles and bells option.

Stick with the Alternative  TCe petrol and the Stepway will cost €12,290, but have your head turned by the  Signature diesel and the price shoots up to €15,690.

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