By Patrick James on 2013-09-29 - The author has been a motoring writer for more than 16 years. Formerly motoring editor at the Coventry Telegraph, he now produces motoring copy, on new car launches and road tests on a freelance basis.
Stepway Ambience 1.5
DACIA has been the butt of a few jokes, notably on a well-known motoring programme.
But the joke is now on the motor mouths - with the Renault-owned car maker's growing reputation for budget, but quality motoring.
The firm started in Romania in 1966 and in 1999 was acquired by Renault and the French firm's expertise is clearly evident, not least in this latest version of the Sandero.
The Stepway is a supermini crossover or mini-MPV that looks pretty much like other MPVs, offering a high level of standard equipment, but with a rock-bottom price.
This range topping model costs under £9,000 and with its 1.5-litre diesel engine delivers the thick end of 70mpg.
Factor in low insurance and carbon emissions and you have budget motoring that doesn't acturally feel like it.
Even the range topper, with all the bells and whistles will set you back less than £11,000.
It looks like an off-roader with high ride height, flared wheel arches, full-length roof bars and front and rear skidplates, all sitting on 16-inch alloy wheels. It has large headlights and grille.
Inside the cabin is a real surprise offering a decent level of standard kit, huge practicality and space with its split folding rear seats. An already generous 320 litres can be extended to a huge 1,200 litres with the seats folded.
It looks pretty good too.
It may not offer the high end soft touch finish but it doesn't feel cheap and nasty either. Instrumentation is well laid and has a French feel, naturally, with chrome surrounds on dials and chrome bezels around the air vents and arrangement of three dials in the instrument binnacle, together with chrome detailing on and around the Dacia emblem on the steering wheel.
The interior of the tested entry Ambiance has a host of standard kit and, given that, a couple of omissions.
It offers Bluetooth, front electric windows, alarm and central locking, fog lights and a radio/CD system with fingertip control, MP3 with aux point and USB connectivity, but I would sacrifice a couple of those extras for air conditioning which is only available on the range topper as is steering wheel adjustment.
But it's hard to believe that this car costs only £8,995 with the petrol powered version a staggering £7,995 - so forking out to customise a bit more will not cost and arm and a leg.
Buyers can also take advantage of budget priced accessory packs like the the Touring Pack, adds great features for longer journeys, including a luggage net for the boot, transverse roof bars, a front centre armrest and an alarm.
There is also the choice of paying extra for five or seven-year extended warranty packages at £395 and £850 respectively (including VAT).
Safety kit is also extensive with ABS, driver, passenger and side airbags, Isofix and stability control.
The Stepway offers two engines, the TCe 90 three-cylinder turbo petrol and the super-frugal 1.5-litre dCi 90 turbodiesel. Both serve up the kind of low emissions and high fuel economy that will help owners save even more money on day-to-day running costs.
The diesel is a really punchy unit offerig brisk acceleration but mind blowing economy and emissions. It is also a refined unit with diesel clatter muted and the five-speed gearbox is smooth and precise.
The official economy figure of 70mpg seems unbelievable, but the fuel gauge was reluctant to budge, even on a long journey up north.
The ride is on the soft side, but it does handle well.
Overall this is a really surpisinge package. You could think you wer in a car that costs half as much again.
The badge may be new to many but Dacia is no laughing stock.
Dacia Sandero Stepway Ambience 1.5
Mechanical: 90bhp, 1,461cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox
Max Speed: 104mph
0-62mph: 11.8 seconds
Combined MPG: 70.6
Insurance Group: 10
C02 emissions: 105g/km
Bik rating: 16%
Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles
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