Let me start off by stating that I pretty much hated the previous generation Renault Sandero Stepway. It wasn’t very nice to look at, or to drive, and there were loads of other, much better options available on the market.
But the thing that really put that final nail in its coffin was the aura of cheapness surrounding the car. If the automotive industry can be likened to a classroom, the previous Stepway would have definitely been seated at the back.
Renault has now launched an all-new Stepway, based on the all-new Sandero and I’m very happy to report that all of the issues have been addressed.
There’s an all-new engine in place of the old naturally aspirated 1,6-litre four-cylinder petrol. It’s a small capacity, turbocharged three-pot, which delivers 66kW and 135Nm of torque.
It doesn’t offer blistering performance, but it does have a lot of character. It sounds great and, if driven carefully, will consume only 5,4 l/100km of precious petrol.
As far as driving goes, there’s been a huge leap forward as well. The Stepway is the pseudo SUV in the Sandero range and as such the ground clearance has been lifted to 193mm.
It was never designed to go much further off-road than that, but SA sales figures suggest that people tend to like the slightly lifted option, even though it offers no real off-road advantage over the standard car.
The biggest improvement of all has been made to the interior. It’s still very much a study in grey plastic, but at least this time round it’s nice looking grey plastic. In addition to the nicer plastic, the new Stepway also includes a leather clad steering wheel and gear knob, which do feel nice to the touch.
Renault has also opted to fit a lot of kit as standard, which will no doubt find favour with a younger crowd. The list of features includes ABS, ESP, front and side airbags, a CD/MP3 player with USB port and Bluetooth connectivity, parking sensors and electric windows all round. It’s also nice to see cruise control, a feature that is often omitted in the Stepway’s price bracket, fitted as standard.
The Stepway has certainly moved to the front of the class in my opinion, but competition in this segment is rather stiff. GWM offers both the C20R and the M4, while Toyota recently launched a crossover version of the humble Etios. We haven’t driven the latter, but we suspect that it might offer an interesting alternative to the Stepway.