Will­ing on the N3, ea­ger on dirt

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - BRIAN BAS­SETT

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.

Styling

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.

In­te­rior

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.

PHOTO: YOUTUBE

For un­der R190k, the Step­way copes with any road driven by the av­er­age South African fam­ily — and fit their lug­gage to boot.

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