JOHANNESBURG – Renault South Africa has rejigged its three-model Sandero range to focus more on the popular Stepway derivative. That means the Dynamique version of the standard hatchback has fallen away (with the Expression model now the only choice), while the crossover-styled Stepway can now be had in either Expression or Dynamique trim level.
Keeping up appearances
Mechanically, nothing has changed, but there are a few notable cosmetic alterations. These include a redesigned front- and rear-end and some important revisions to the interior. Overall, the facelift results in a significant visual improvement for the budget cross-hatch, mainly thanks to those new headlamps, foglamps and grille. The taillamps also gain a smoother design. The roof racks and wheel designs, however, remain the same.
New toys inside
Inside, there are loads of new practical alterations, such as the addition of a touchscreen infotainment system (with navigation as standard), the re-positioning of the front electric window controls to the doors (the old switches on the centre console now control the rear windows) and the adoption of a new leather-trimmed multi-function steering wheel. These updates go a long way in making the Stepway feel more modern and sophisticated, for both driver and passenger.
The Stepway Dynamique can be fitted with leather seats for an additional R10 000, which is a surprisingly steep price. Cloth seats will do just fine in this cabin. The armrest for the driver, however, is a welcome addition and increases the overall level of comfort.
Unchanged 66 kW engine
Yes, this is exactly the same engine as before: a 0,9-litre turbo-triple petrol engine that delivers 66 kW and 135 N.m of torque to the front wheels via a five-speed manual transmission. The Stepway also benefits from an Eco mode, which Renault reckons results in a 12% saving in fuel.
Seeing as the engine is untouched, the conclusions we reached were much the same as those contained in the road test we conducted on the pre-facelift model. This is still a fuel-sipping mill with a healthy delivery of torque, but the lack of power is evident, especially below the 2 000 r/min mark, where plenty of the turbo-lag lurks.
Regardless, with its softly sprung suspension and light electric steering, the Stepway is a pleasant car to control in most circumstances, particularly when the tachometer needle has passed the point of turbo-lag. The ratios of the five-speed manual gearbox, however, still feel as if they are awkwardly spaced. First to third feel rather short and you might find yourself nearing the limiter when getting up to speed (for merging onto motorways or overtaking trucks, for instance), while fourth and fifth see a dramatic change in power delivery due to their respective lengths.
Not much has been changed on the updated Stepway, but the alterations that have been executed make a noticeable difference to it from the typical consumer’s point of view. The implementation of items such as navigation aid this little cross-hatch in tackling its competition. This becomes even clearer when you consider that, at R189 900 with a two-year/30 000 km service plan, this range-topping Stepway Dynamique is some R5 000 cheaper than the model it essentially replaces. And that’s a highly unusual occurrence in today’s new vehicle market.
Engine:0,9-litre, three-cylinder turbopetrol
Power:66 kW @ 5 250 r/min
Torque:135 N.m @ 2 500 r/min
0-100 km/h:11,1 seconds
Top Speed:169 km/h
Fuel Consumption:5,2 L/100 km
Maintenance Plan:2 years/30 000 km service plan