Willing on the N3, eager on dirt
IN 2015 Renault sold 2.1 million vehicles worldwide. The company’s alliance with Nissan has made it the fourth — largest motor manufacturer in the world. Some of its most interesting vehicles, however, come from its purchase of the Romanian Dacia Motor Corporation in 1999 and the Renault Design Studio’s association with that company, which existed throughout the Communist era and produced vehicles for the working classes.
The Sandero is marketed under both the Renault and Dacia Badges and it is interesting to note how the new Sandero has made the transition from a working ethic to middle class comfort and enjoyment.
In South Africa the new Stepway, introduced in 2014, has big boots to fill as it predecessor; the rebadged Dacia made its reputation as a rugged, crossover hatch in the B- segment.
We are grateful to the Dealer Principal of McCarthy Renault in Pietermaritzburg, Venesh Sewsunker, for making the Stepway available us for a few days.
The Stepway is both elegant and rugged in design, with a noticeably beefed- up suspension from 164 mm to 193 mm.
The car also has chunkier 15inch wheels and roof rails. Ren- ault manufacture a range of accessories, from cycle carriers to simple roof boxes, which leave the car’s spacious interior to yourself and your family.
You can also purchase side protector strips if you driving in rough country.
The front end has a Clio- like elegance with headlight modules linked by a small, black grille carrying a Renault badge. Lower down the two fog/ running lamps are connected by a slatted, black grill. There are also skid panels, both front and rear.
The side panels are ribbed and the wheel arches trimmed in chrome. At the rear the tailgate, flanked by large well- designed tail light modules, is easy to operate and opens to a height and width which allows easy loading.
The bumpers and the electrically- operated side mirrors are colour coded. The Stepway’s exterior exhibits an attention to detail and quality finish, which shows that, though it is from the Dacia stable, it is designed as a Renault with the French flair and chic which that implies.
The interior of the Stepway is impressive. The plastics are hard but the doors shut firmly.
Tall adults fit comfortably into the two robustly upholstered, fully- adjustable, front seats, while the rear seats provide accommodation for three adults. Even the 1,8 metre- plus brigade will find that the rear legroom is adequate.
The Sandero Stepway has a practical, almost Minimalist dash, with a three- dial module in front of the driver carrying the speedometer, rev counter and a third dial with digital information from the six- function onboard computer.
The central stack carries controls for the radio/ CD/ MP3/ Auxin audio with Bluetooth telephony, which can also be operated from column- mounted controls, as well as for the climate control system and door locks.
The boot is substantial and can be doubled in size by folding down the rear seats in 60: 40 fashion.
Safety and Security
The Stepway is designed with families in mind so it has the usual ABS with EBD, seatbelts for all and ISOFIX fittings for child seats.
I particularly liked the Hill Start Assist and the rear parking sensors. The high driving position results in improved visibility and the Brake Assist and Cruise Control with speed limiter comes in useful in all road conditions.
There are also driver and passenger airbags, side airbags and ESP.
Making the Stepway one of the safest cars in its small segment. As usual the car also offers a built in alarm and central locking.
Performance and Handling
The Renault Sandero Stepway has a 0,9- litre turbo- petrol engine, delivering 66 kW/ 135 Nm.
Top speed is around 168 km/ h and 0- 100 km/ h will take you around 14,6 seconds.
Fuel consumption depends very much on driving style and terrain but I managed 6,7 litres per 100 kms with 25% of the driving being done of poor roads.
In town the Sandero is ideal with a smooth, pleasant, fivespeed manual gear change, a turbo which deals easily with the need to accelerate on urban roads in low gear and a responsive steering.
On the N3 I found the car peppy and willing but the engine is small and if you are going to overtake a 60metre truck/ trailer you have to plan ahead.
The key to the Stepway is the realisation that the gears are an integral part of the car’s driving environment.
On bad D- Roads and rutted farm roads in the Midlands the car performed well.
The damping could be improved, as successive bumps proved a little choppy, but the car recovered easily and I believe it will cope well with any of the road surfaces encountered by an average South African family.
The car is also stable at speed on bad roads and using the gears sensibly I experienced no indication of the back breaking away on sandy corners.
In all the Sandero Stepway is a safe, pleasant, spacious family car that offers a really good value for money.
Costs and the Competition
The Stepway sells for just under R190 00 and comes with a fiveyear 150 000km mechanical warranty, a 6- year anti corrosion warranty and a two- year 30 000km service plan.
Also look at Toyota Etios/ Cross, Ford Figo, Honda Brio, VW Polo Vivo Maxx.
For under R190k, the Stepway copes with any road driven by the average South African family — and fit their luggage to boot.