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Renault's sporty(ish) Sandero

2010-11-11 09:44
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Renault
Model SANDERO STEPWAY
Engine 1.6-litre 8V Petrol
Power 64kW @ 5 500 rpm
Torque 128Nm @ 3 000rpm
Transmission Five-speed manual
Zero To Hundred 11.5
Top Speed 175km/h
Fuel Tank 50l
Fuel Consumption 7.2l (combined cycle)
Steering Power steering
ABS Yes
Airbags Dual front airbags
Front Suspension MacPherson strut with wishbone arm
Rear Suspension H-type torsion beam with programmed deflection and coil springs
Service Intervals 15 000 km
Service Plan Three year/45 000 km
Warranty Five year/150 000 km
Price R149 000

Sergio Davids

Renault made headlines with its Sandero when it was launch in South Africa more than a year ago - it was the first locally-assembled Renault in 30 years.

Its pricing, features and local manufacture have attracted much success for the French-based automaker so, bolstered by this success, Renault  decided to step away from the norm to make room for a faux SUV version of its Sandero hatchback – enter the Renault Stepway.

The Stepway isn’t bad on the eyes and it comes across as a sportier Sandero... but get behind the wheel and you’ll soon find that’s where any semblance of sportiness ends. It feels roomier than the base Sandero and the higher ride is much appreciated but you’ll soon realise that its more akin to a mom’s taxi than a lifestyle vehicle.

SLUGGISH 1.6 ENGINE

It's well-suited to the MT role, however, with plenty of cabin and boot space (the rear seats fold flat) for the kids and all their kit.

Renault tips its Sandero for drivers who love the outdoors; its ride height is up by 20mm to 175mm, it has adequate ground clearance for soft-roading, but comes without the benefit of appropriate tyres or a 4x4 suspension. Going off-road will soon see you dialling a tow-truck.

Power comes from a sluggish 1.6 engine capable of 64kW at 5500rpm with peak torque 128Nm at 3000rpm. The engine is derived from the United and Cup versions of the Sandero hatchback.

I mentioned already that the engine is sluggish; its a 1.6-litre eight-valve derived from the Nissan NP200 and will immediately have you hunting through lower gears for power that, well, you're not going to find. This becomes particularly troublesome when encountering a steep hill. To some the Stepway may seem like a Sandero on stilts and it’s just as precarious in terms of handling - it wallows through corners.

City driving is a breeze as long as you're just aiming to get from A to B and Renault lists the car's fuel consumption as 7.2 litres/100km.

BASIC COMFORTS

It’s a simple car made for the fiercely contested entry-level market and in terms features and price the Stepway has a lot to offer. There’s plenty of cabin space and it’s suited for long family trips... you may not get to your destination that quickly (0-100km 11.5sec) but you’ll get there nonetheless.

Featurewise it’s decked out in all the basic creature comforts from its hachback siblings. Power windows (with manual stalks), air-conditioning , airbags, power-assisted steering and - always surprising in a vehicle costing more than R140 000 - a detachable Sony audio unit. It’s been a while since I drove a vehicle in which I had to remember to carry the radio face in pocket after parking.

SPORTY LOOKS: The Sandero Stepway comes across as a SUV style crossover.

Where the Stepway will succeed against the competition is through its pricing, managing to stay under R150 000. The Stepway offers something more than a little city runabout in a market that is chock full of vehicles designed for that very purpose.

Renault is one of the few brands where the question of reliability remains “fluid”; at least the French automaker hopes to assuage this by offering a three-year or 45 000km service plan and a five-year or 150 000km warranty with its new models.

The Stepway can expect stiff competition from the likes of Volkswagen’s Polo, Ford’s Figo and even new comers Chery J1 and GWM’s Florid.  You could also consider VW’s CrossPolo but then you’d have to fork out R200 000, not to mention all those optional extras.

CREATURE COMFORTS: The Stepway is decked out in basic creature comforts such a detachable Sony audio unit.

Curiously, I discovered at the vehicle's launch that only one model is available with no plans to add a more powerful engine or even an automatic transmission to the range. This was an excellent chance to offer exactly what I thought the Stepway would be – a sportier, 4x4, tweaked and raised hatchback, possibly with a diesel engine, maybe an auto box.

Instead we’re offered a Sandero which only looks the part of a sporty SUV. At least it offers plenty of features and its price will see it worth considering over the host of entry level vehicles currently on the market.

Price:
Sandero Stepway 1.6 petrol – R149 000.

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