Tour de France
Although I’m not a regular Lycra clad middle aged British cycling fan, I do have a bit of a thing for the Tour de France which started this week. I became hooked in the 1980’s when
Channel 4 first began broadcasting highlights & over time have become well educated in the intricacies of the peloton & team tactics. I have to admit that I fell out of love with the race for a good few years after numerous doping scandals & the Lance Armstrong years are a mystery to me. However, perhaps because of British success in recent years with sprinter Mark Cavendish & GC winner Bradley Wiggins I have once again started to follow the race closely & I’m hoping for further British success this year in the shape of Chris Froome.
The Tour is not just about the racers though, there’s all of the support teams that go with each rider, from chefs, to truck drivers, mechanics to team managers, who spend most of the race driving from one stage to another. Back in the day the teams would have driven around in their own cars, usually from that teams country, but as the race has become a world wide media event, car manufacturers have got in on the act as the live coverage of every stage means that their cars are seen by viewers worldwide.
A manufacturer who could probably cope with the rigours of the Tour, where team cars take a real bashing, is Dacia, whose cars are surprisingly sturdy as well as exceedingly cheap. I drove the cheapest Dacia in February the Sandero & it really was a throwback to the late 1980’s in more ways than one & seemed built for the wider European market. What was required I felt, was a better equipped model for the image conscious Brits, & low & behold that is what has happened, with the launch of the Sandero Stepway.
Costing about £600 more than the regular Sandero, with prices starting at under £8000, Dacia have added 40 mm to the ground clearance, a chunkier bumper, aluminium roof rails, black plastic trim around the wheel arches, front & rear skid plates , tinted windows, 16″ design wheels, & a Stepway logo on the front door panel have given it the look of an urban SUV, a sector experiencing incredible popularity in the UK at present.
The interior of the Stepway doesn’t quite match up to the exterior, but with the addition of chrome to the air vent surrounds, heating control inserts, instrument dial inserts & steering wheel surround, Dacia have managed to mask the blandness of the Sanderos insides quite well.
The seats still feel thin to the touch, although when driving, the suspension is very forgiving just like in French cars of old. There is a fair bit of body roll around bends & the suspension does tend to bounce one around over bumpy roads. In a straight line the 1.5 Diesel engine felt nippy & dare I say it, a better fit for the Stepway than other Renault & Nissan products which have this unit in them. The steering is light & the gear box feels quite smooth with the light clutch making changing gears nice & easy.
There is quite a bit of noise from the engine both on the motorway & around town but to defend this, it does feel quite quick when revved & will comfortably hit motorway speeds when required.
The space in the back isn’t bad either, with 320 litres in the boot & for rear passengers plenty of head & legroom & large windows make the cabin feel spacious as well. As I was testing the more expensive Ambience model, my car came with Media Nav 7″ touchscreen multimedia system, sat Nav, radio, USB & Aux connections, Bluetooth, & steering column controls. Add in heated door mirrors, air con, four electric windows, rear parking sensors, 7 function on board computer, cruise control with speed limiter & a leather steering wheel & gear knob & 70.6 mpg & you have a pretty impressive package for the money, £10795.
Fleet users will want to know aboute fuel efficiency & emissions. Dacia claim a combined figure of 70 .6 mpg with emissions of 105 g/km both very impressive. Add in the Sanderos roominess & cost & overall it’s impressive. But, the car still feels dated, with simple things like the location of the electric window controls, touch screen options, cruise control button & radio controls looking very early Star Trek rather than being from 2013’s vintage.
If you can get over the feeling of being stuck in a time warp, the Stepway does offer incredibly good value for money & is well worth paying a little more to have the Stepway rather than the basic Sandero. Limitations aside, I think the Stepway would make a great Tour de France car., bearing in mind how much bashing the Tour cars take over 3 weeks & the Dacia would be much more cost effective than the cars currently be used to cover the race.
Definitely The Badger & not The Professor. 3/5.