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The French are known for making things taste fantastic, throwing onions and wine into almost all their main dishes. They feed us snails cooked in garlic butter sauce and believe in small delectable portions of food. Most notable and easily enjoyed are their pastries. They are light in weight, airy in texture and almost malleable on contact with the tongue. They feel just the right size to allow the eater to feel untouched by their guilty pleasures.
You feel satisfied but never overly indulged.
The Renault Sandero made me feel like that, too. This little French Crossover launched back in 2014, has recently undergone a makeover.
Designed as a cheap and cheerful city car, the Sandero is Renault’s answer to those looking for a first car or folks cutting back on their expenses. At R179 900, the Sandero is a good option with its raised height, suitably embellished with chunkier bumpers, protective wheel arches, some fashionable roof rails and finished off with new two-tone 16” rims.
The overall look is good; appearing to be more expensive than its actual value-orientated price.
Looks aside, now what is its tactility like? Open the door, and the handle feels rather delicate like it may pop off one day, leaving you with a sensation that the Sandero was built on a tight budget. The steering wheel feels nice; it’s solid and chunky – I only wish it was reach and not exclusively height adjustable.
The seats look cool: grey, red and white check, finished off with a red Sandero embroidery but offer little support. Cabin space has been intelligently thought-out, with ample head and legroom for four to five large adults. Boot space is pretty good, too and with the rear seats flattened can expand to 1 000dm³. Pity about the tall load lip though.
The dashboard is clean and simple, albeit featuring some up-to-date niceties like Renault’s touchscreen infotainment system that includes Bluetooth connectivity, navigation, maps, reverse camera with Park Distance Control and a radio. Additionally, you’ll find cruise control, a nifty speed limiter, electric windows, air-conditioning. All these features make the Plus model handsomely equipped as the flagship model in the range.
Start the Sandero up, and you notice something rather novel: the sound of the teeny tiny engine. Like a Jack Russel Terrier, the Stepway is driven by a 900cc three-cylinder turbocharged motor - dynamite in a small package. Renault know that this type of engine technology is progressive and perhaps beyond most people’s comprehension, so they have left off the size of the engine in the car’s badging, rather focusing on the turbo and economy. The three-cylinder engine sounds like an angry bumblebee in a jar – romantically, it could be likened to the sound of a Porsche Boxter.
Because the engine is little bigger than an Elna sewing machine, it only really gets going after 2000rpm where 90% of the car’s oomph sets in. Below that, it can feel like it needs a kick up the rear-end to get going. Some of the benefits of the mini engine, like great fuel consumption and CO₂ emissions, are lost because you end up having to rev the engine through each gear to get it up to legal speeds. Highway driving is where you notice the significant drop in fuel usage. I noticed figures between two and four litres per 100km on the freeway at 100 km/h.
The Sandero offers a pleasant ride, breaks and steering are reasonably responsive too, albeit steering doesn’t offer much feedback and is heavily weighted. Where the Sandero used to feel rather rudimentary was with its copy ride. Now more compliant and supple, the ride is perfectly suited to South African roads.
Back to my intro, the Renault Sandero Stepway reminds me of when one ogles over a delectable pastry, only to see it, finally taste it, and feel somewhat underwhelmed. It looks great, you pick it up and bring it closer to your lips. Your mouth waters in anticipation for the perceived taste of the chocolate cracking and flaking in your mouth as you bite into it. The light, yet sweet cream filling pulsates in your month as you compress the éclair. And voila! You’re in heaven.
The Sandero Stepway is more like the prepacked variety of éclair. Like the ones you would find at a local cheerful bakery within a supermarket chain. The chocolate coating isn’t as rich as it could be, the cream filling has been applied sparingly, and the dough isn’t fresh. It’s a let-down – and rather average.
But truth be told, there’s a reality to buying a car that costs around R180 000 +. Obviously, all cars in this category are value-focused, and as a result, either come with very little standard equipment, no service plan and a plastic feel.
Regarding value, the Sandero Stepway is hard to beat. It’s the best-looking car in its class; looks which have been accentuated with costly accessories. The Stepway also offers the best levels of mod-cons and is the safest car in its class – offering ABS, ESP and hill start assist. And to top it all off, it comes standard with a maintenance plan.
Toyota Etios, Ford Figo, Honda Brio, VW Polo, Suzuki Ignis, VW Cross UP!
Sandero Expression R179 900
Sandero Stepway Expression R193 900
Sandero Stepway Plus R213 900
The service and warranty
The New Sandero Stepway derivative comes standard with Renault’s industry leading five-year/150 000km warranty plus a two-year/30 000km service plan (service intervals: 15 000km).
Sandero Stepway Expression R193 900
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