Until the Kanjara/Duster compact SUV hits the markets in 2010, the Sandero Stepway is the closest thing to a four-by-four in the current Dacia model line-up. Without having an all-wheel drive system – albeit it sure looks like a small SUV – the Stepway can really hold its own on more-than-rough roads. We're talking cross-country mountain roads with huge potholes, where a high ground clearance is vital.
As we mentioned before, the Stepway sports no less than 18 centimeters (7.1 inches) of ground clearance, more than enough to tackle quite a good number of poor roads without any major sweat. To really put it to the test we took our car through a mountain road where the only other vehicle we met was a modified Suzuki Jimny with lifted suspension and all-terrain tires.
The Stepway proved to be a very good companion in this situation, but the lack of all-wheel drive, some proper off-road tires and, of course, decency, stopped us from climbing all the way to the top of the mountain. All in all, the Stepway's destiny as a road trip car is to tackle some of the poorest roads in the world.
On a nice, pothole-free road though – such as, let's say, a highway – the best addition to the Stepway (the high ground clearance, ed) is transforming into its enemy. The regular Sandero we tested before also had a mildly high suspension setup, but it was much more adequate at high speeds or during "dynamic" driving. To put it shortly, the Stepway's SUV-like height is doing nothing but hurt its medium-to-high speeds capabilities.
The JH five speed gearbox is probably the least fortunate piece of technology to make its way on the Sandero 1.6 MPI. The thing is, this isn't such a terrible transmission, it's just that its ratios are too long, especially for an engine as "powerful" as this. Another downside is probably the fact that the gearshifts aren't the most precise in the world and you might find yourself missing third from time to time.
As for the other dynamic qualities, the 12.4 seconds from naught to 100 km/h (62 mph) feel like forever, especially when even the non-Stepway Sandero achieved a time of 11.5 seconds. That one felt slower than that in reality as well, so you can imagine how a time of almost a second more felt. Also, probably "thanks" to a drag coefficient of 0.39 and about a hundred kilograms of extra weight, the top speed dropped from 174 kilometers per hour to a rather shabby 163 km/h (from 108 mph to 101 mph).
All in all the Sandero Stepway is MUCH better than the regular Sandero on poor roads, but it's also infinitely worse on smooth surfaces, "thanks" not only to the raised suspension but to the poorer aerodynamics and the extra weight.Continue reading
Hold on, Mary would like to say something...
You know, I've been wondering for quite some time now what is the cheapest Sport Utility Vehicle in the world. When I first saw the Dacia Sandero Stepway and read the price sheet I thought I had finally gotten my answer, only to be immediately contradicted by the rest of the guys.
Read the full opinion and flame the editor →