DACIA has built a reputation for its no-nonsense approach to developing budget priced cars that are well-equipped offering bundles of value and the latest Sandero Stepway is another fine example of that thinking.
The compact five-door SUV-styled hatchback is a beefed-up version of the Sandero and it looks great from any angle, offering a slightly increased ride height and neat styling. But where it beats all rivals hands down is the incredible pricing structure.
Our car was powered by a 1.0-litre petrol engine delivering 90hp and 160Nm of torque mated to a six-speed manual gearbox.
Costing £13,895 (£14,605 with options), it could complete the 0-62mph dash in 12 seconds, topped out at 107mph and, according to official figures under WLTP testing, could deliver a combined 50.4mpg with carbon emissions of 127g/km.
And despite the jaw-dropping prices, it's always worth remembering that many of the components and switchgear within the car are already tried and tested Renault products.
The Sandero Stepway is a good looking five-door car and our test model looked dazzling in a Desert Orange shade.
Design cues include LED light signatures, front fog lights, body-coloured bumpers and mirrors, roof bars, black plastic cladding on the wheel arches, heated and electrically-adjusted door mirrors and 16-inch diamond-effect alloy wheels.
Moving inside, the interior is bright and well laid out with a neatly upholstered dashboard and doors, titanium black seat fabric, plus smart orange contrast trim on the air vents, seats and doors.
On-board techno treats also impress with the likes of a navigation system, DAB radio, smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, an eight-inch display screen, six-speaker audio and air conditioning.
Comfort levels are certainly good enough up front, but like most hatchback or compact SUVs, back seat passengers will soon be complaining about the limited leg room, especially if the front seats are pushed back a long way. Smaller children would be fine though.
When it comes to performance, it would be hard to describe the Sandero Stepway as dynamic in any way, but it definitely gets the job done. The acceleration through the manual transmission is smooth enough and there is enough power on tap to overtake slow-moving farm traffic. But it lacks real zip and firepower and gets noisy at 70mph on motorways - which is hardly surprising considering the price.
On country lanes, it is quite grippy with nicely weighted steering and, although there is a little body lean into bends, it is certainly agile enough in town centres with good all-round driver visibility which is a plus factor.
All the switches, dials and readouts are perfectly positioned for ease of use and there is an Eco mode to maximise fuel efficiency further.
The boot is well-sized and can hold 328 litres of kit, increasing to 1,108 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped down. Additional storage options include a central cubby box, front and rear door bins, a glovebox, front cupholders, a tray and pockets in the front seatbacks. The car also came with a spare wheel stored beneath the boot floor that added £150 to the cost.
On a negative note, and it is a big factor here, the Dacia Sandero Stepway was only awarded two out of a possible five stars when it was tested for its Euro NCAP safety rating recently.
Although the car received a 70 per cent score for adult occupancy and 72 per cents for the safety of children, it scored just 41 per cent on the vulnerable road users category and only 42 per cent for safety assist.
Safety systems on the test car included anti-lock brakes with emergency brake assist, active emergency braking, hill start assist, an emergency call button, tyre pressure monitoring, Isofix points for the rear outer seats and a suite of airbags.