Dacia - so what's the catch with this bargain car?

Dacia Sandero StepwayDacia Sandero Stepway
Dacia Sandero Stepway
So, what’s the catch? A new motor for less than the price of a second-hand rival. All the kit you could reasonably expect. And a car you could happily park next to a model costing twice as much without feeling you had lost at life.

This is a Dacia and incredibly it undercuts rivals, not by a slim margin but by thousands of pounds. Yet unlike other bargain cars over the years such as Skodas and Ladas in the 1980s, it isn’t viewed with disdain.

People tend to be surprised by the quality. The styling isn’t cutting edge but all Dacias are decent looking cars.

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Dacia is a fairly new brand to the UK, although its history globally stretches back further. It was created in Romania but was launched here in 2013 by Renault as a bargain alternative.

Dacia Sandero Stepway at Wetherby RacecourseDacia Sandero Stepway at Wetherby Racecourse
Dacia Sandero Stepway at Wetherby Racecourse

It recently celebrated reaching 200,000 sales in the UK. Year on year, Dacia has built a strong reputation of offering consumers essential, practical, and robust vehicles.

In 2013, when Dacia launched in the UK, the range was made up of the second-generation Sandero and the first-generation Duster, bringing unprecedented and unrivalled value to UK consumers for the first time. These models were quickly followed by the Logan MCV. In such a short space of time, Dacia has gone from strength to strength, mirroring its success across Europe. Some 89 per cent of its sales are to individuals rather than fleets.

Sandero is the best-selling retail car in Europe but tested here is the more rugged and adventurous Sandero Stepway, a crossover between a traditional hatchback and an SUV..

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Stepway is the UK’s favourite Sandero, making up almost 60 per cent of sales. Stepway features innovative patented modular roof bars that cleverly convert into a roof rack to carry loads up to 80kg.

Sandero Access is priced from just £7,995 on the road, also available in Essential and Comfort specifications. Stepway Essential available from £11,495 on the road, and is also offered in Comfort and newly introduced Prestige specifications.

It is a smart car with something of the look of the Duster about it. Standard Sandero is good but slightly anonymous in its styling while the Stepway is cuter. Not sure about the same though – it sounds like a stairlift brand to me.

The test model has alloy wheels, air conditioning and powered windows. Do you like the colour? I think it’s a smart gold but officially it’s Desert Orange.

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It also has an interesting feature for mobile phones. If you imagine Dacias are basic cars, you would be wrong. This version has a hi-tech link-up to mobiles. The clever new Media Control provides effortless hassle-free connectivity, seamlessly integrating a driver’s device to control various functions within the Sandero Stepway. In addition to the standard radio, it combines a dedicated housing for the smartphone and a free, easy-to-use customisable smartphone app to operate the system.

The Sandero Stepway rides well and has a mid-market feel to it which belies its low price. And it’s incredible to think the engine is actually a one-litre unit. It is refined and quiet with plenty of pull.

If you think buying a Dacia might cost you in the long run, then you may be wrong. They hold their value relatively well.

Sandero and Stepway achieve class-leading residual values, including up to 57 per cent for Stepway Essential TCe 90 over three years and 30,000 miles.

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The latest version has been enhanced, with a higher-quality interior, the latest in-car technology and more space than ever without increasing the cost – it remains the UK’s most affordable new car. As always with Dacia, things have been kept simple for buyers with just two optional extras available – a spare wheel and metallic paint.

Dacia also means business with another new model, the Duster Commercial. It is based on the rugged New Duster SUV, but has been converted to a practical, professional light commercial vehicle (LCV).

It has a practical load area which offers up to 1,623 litres of useful volume and up to 503kg payload. Prices start from £12,795 excluding VAT.

Dacia Sandero Stepway Prestige TCe

Price: £14,295. Range starts at £8,995

Engine: A 999cc three cylinder petrol engine generating 91bhp

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Transmission: Six-speed manual transmission via front wheel drive

Performance: Top speed 107mph, 0 to 60mph in 12 seconds

Economy: 51.4mpg combined

Insurance: Group 14E

Emissions: 121g/km

Warranty: Three years, 60,000 miles

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