Dacia Sandero Stepway TCe 110 Expression – The huntress on steroids

The Dacia brand has recently changed its identity and, among other changes, introduced a new logo. As part of these changes, the Sandero Stepway has undergone a minor refresh to its appearance, so we checked out how it now looks to those around it and how the most powerful version, the TCe 110 Expression, drives. After all those tests of large SUVs in full-featured journalistic configurations, here at last is a car that is realistic in its price range even for me, the common man.
Like the other models, the current Sandero has adopted a new brand identity, which has brought a few visual changes. So we can talk about a sort of generational mini facelift, and of course this also applies to its lifestyle version, the Stepway, with its lower body cladding and raised chassis. The new Sandero is thus recognisable from the outgoing version by the new brand logo at the front and also by the revised front grille.
The Expression trim also includes Megalith grey exterior mirror caps as standard, and this colour can also be found on the very clever modular longitudinal roof rails, which can easily be converted into crossbars if required. Then, as part of the new brand identity, Dacia lettering appears on the rear instead of the logo, and the model designation has been moved down a few numbers on the fifth door. However, the model designation is just stickers, as with the black strips on the side doors, which is a bit of a shame.
These are all basically just small cosmetic changes, but if you know what to look for, you can easily tell the new from its predecessor. Even these small tweaks lend Sander a slightly more modern look. Sure, the brother Clio is obviously a bit more handsome but the Sandero also has balanced proportions and a few interesting details. For example, the shape of the front and rear lights with nice daytime running light graphics or the line of the side glazing.
There were no major changes to the interior, except perhaps the steering wheel, where the traditional logo has once again been replaced by white lettering. Otherwise, however, everything has remained the same, which is more than good. We last tested the Sandero Stepway roughly a year ago, and apart from the automatic gear selector, the interior of the newcomer is pretty much identical, including the seat covers, the décor and even the handy phone holder with a conveniently placed USB connector.
The roominess is also decent, and at 186 centimeters I didn’t miss the space in front even when I sat behind myself. The boot offers the standard 410 litres of luggage space, plus it pleases with its double bottom, hooks or even the presence of a spare. The split rear seats may not fold flat, but apart from that the boot offers a double floor, a spare wheel and handy hooks on either side.
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Higher ground clearance brings the benefit of easier entry, while the seats are typically soft for the Dacia and the visibility from the car is decent. When parking, you can rely on both front and rear parking sensors, as well as a rear camera with good resolution. The rear parking sensors are standard on the Expression trim level, the rest is included in the Parking Plus package (front and rear parking sensors, rear parking camera, blind-spot monitoring system) for €330.
There were a bit more of those extras in the case of the tested Sander. Specifically: electrically operated rear windows  for 100€, alloy wheels for 200€, Media Nav Plus package again for 330€, automatic air conditioning for an extra 190€, Extra package (hands-free card + electronic park. Brake, centre armrest with storage space) for 300€ and in addition still Heated front seats for 150€ and full Reserve for the same 150€. Plus there was also a great “hunter” color, Dusty Green, for 510€. All the extras bumped the final price up to 17 660€. However, if you skimped on the bulk, the Sandero Stepway in base can be bought in this motorisation for as little as 15 500€.
And the motoring is great, too, because there’s an interesting change to the new identity, and under the bonnet of the Sandro Stepway we find the new top-performance TCe 110, which Sandero has borrowed from the larger Jogger. We’ll be testing this one with a new identity and in its most powerful version very soon… This most powerful version of the turbocharged three-litre three-cylinder engine, commercially known as the TCe 110, offers not only 81kW (110hp) between 5,000 and 5,250rpm, but also 200Nm between 2,900 and 3,500rpm. The engine works with a six-speed manual and, as a result, the Sandero Stepway tested accelerates from 0 to 100km/h in just 10 seconds and has a top speed of 183km/h. The engine’s three-cylinder delivery is audible from the start and vibrations can be felt at lower revs. However, when driving it is refined and you are practically unaware of it.
Although the engine parameters don’t impress anyone on paper, in the real world the Sandero Stepway is very nimble, helped by an operating weight of around one tonne. When you’re driving alone, or two abreast, and with minimal cargo, you’ll feel like you have at least a litre more volume under the bonnet and twice the number of cylinders. The six-speed manual gearbox, with fairly precise trajectories, ably keeps up with the engine, and if it weren’t for a slightly oddly tuned clutch that took it all the way down, I’d give it a one-star rating.
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The Dacia kind of masks its true acceleration and inside it’s not what it might seem. This is mainly due to the overall tuning, which is more geared towards a quiet ride and low consumption. When you start loading the Sandra up and pushing for sporty driving, the relatively powerful engine won’t be kept up by the soft and lifted chassis. Under harder acceleration, the front end and the already light steering lightens up, leaving you feeling momentarily out of touch with the road, while the front wheels know how to rake and rake. That is, until the electronics intervene.
The chassis, which uses Renault’s modern CMF-B platform, feels soft and comfortable. It eliminates bumps very capably, helped by the 205/60 R16 tyres. I was a little bothered by the slight understeer when exiting corners but it’s important to note that the chassis is lifted compared to the classic Sander and apparently didn’t get a different damper and geometry tune. While it’s nothing terrible, it’s worth remembering that in some ways the Sandero Stepway can’t quite hide its cheaper origins. At motorway speeds of 130km/h, the rev counter needle hovers around 2500rpm and the engine isn’t even excessively noisy. However, the aerodynamic noise is more noticeable, and on poorer surfaces, so is the noise from the wheels. Incidentally, the chassis soundproofing is generally rather poor and any flying pebbles that hit the bodywork make a proper thud.
The carmaker officially states that the three-cylinder TCe 110 with the six-speed manual runs on an average of 5.5 liters of gasoline per 100 kilometers. After a week’s cohabitation, the Sandero reported an average consumption of only a bit higher at 5.6 l/100km. At a quieter pace and if you avoid motorways, there’s no problem getting to the five-litre mark. On the other hand, if you use the motorway to the max and more and drive more dynamically outside the city, the average consumption can be up to a litre or two higher. But that’s a normal thing with a small turbo petrol engine.
So let’s recap. The days when you could get a new car for under €10,000 seem to be irretrievably gone. Not only because of inflation, but also because Dacia as a brand has headed a bit higher. However, it is still one of the most affordable variants on the market. The cheapest Sandero Stepway, according to the current price list, can be had for €13,650 and as we’ve written, once the most powerful version is topped up, you’ll be looking at a sum easily hitting the €18,000 mark. So the price of the test specimen may not be as tempting as one would imagine with a Dacia, but it’s true that for the money you get decent equipment, a reasonably powerful and fuel-efficient engine and stylish styling with increased ground clearance.