“How shall I recognise the car?” my daughter asked when I told her that I would be picking her up from the school bus in the All-New Dacia Sandero Stepway
“You know when Grandad makes some English mustard from Coleman’s powder and the remains congeal on the side of the plate and turn brownish-yellow?” I replied.
“Yes, but yuk,” she answered. “Well, that’s the colour of the car you’re looking for,” I said.
Actually, the colour of the car that came to us on loan recently wasn’t nearly so off-putting as that description – accurate though it was. It would be more flattering to describe it as dark honey, but I’m hopeless at coming up with fancy names for car colours. I leave that to the car manufacturers. Dacia’s name for the shade of the metallic paint-job on our Stepway was Desert Orange. So there you go.
The theme continued inside the car, where dabs of Desert Orange illuminated the armrests and air-vents and brightened the stitching in the upholstery. The same reservation applied to the nifty stippled material on the dashboard and doors. This all looks extremely fine when new, but I wasn’t so sure how it would wear in time. It seems as if it might quickly look grubby – if never so unappealing as leftover Coleman’s mustard.
In other words, the Sandero Stepway gives an attractive account of itself in pristine form, but some nagging suspicions arise concerning its longevity.
In my own case, those suspicions may be informed by my experiences as a Dacia owner.
I bought a new Duster as our family bus in 2014, partly on the strength of the favourable impressions I had gathered about the car during a testing launch event at Gleneagles; and partly under the influence of the extended five-year warranty I had bought.
It was never right. A turn-light fell out of the nearside front wing within days. A shrieking whine came out of the exhaust system within weeks and was never fully rectified. The valves on the tyres became deformed and had to be replaced almost every time an air-line went near them. Worst of all, the whole car started to leak after a few winters. Every heavy fall of rain would leave the carpets sodden and the windows so fogged with condensation that the air-conditioning had to be run for about 10 minutes to clear the glass.
It has to be said that our Duster was brilliant off-road. When the Beast from the East cut off our house in Scotland in 2018 and drifts piled up our road to the tops of the hedgerows, the Duster was one of the only cars around our way which was going anywhere. Our neighbour’s Discovery was genuinely no better.
But the Beast from the East was a once-in-a-decade event. You don’t keep a car because it proves its mettle over five days in a decade. Well, Elton John might, I suppose – though it’s not easy to see him and his feather head-dress in a Dacia Duster.
Our All-New Sandero Stepway came with some neat touches. Beside the 8” infotainment screen was a removable smartphone support with its own USB port. Liked that; and the modular roof bars. But the loadspace was small; space for passengers was limited to four or five at a pinch; the one-litre petrol engine pulled weakly; the ride was primitive and the steering wayward. After a week’s loan, the overriding impression left by this car is of averageness, relieved in parts by dabs of Desert Orange.
“Nice little car to get you from A to B,” observed my mother-in-law during her Sunday morning run to the supermarket. “Especially at only £16340,” I replied.
That just about covers it.
Neil Lyndon has been a journalist, broadcaster and writer on the UK’s national stage for 40 years, writing for every “quality” newspaper on Fleet Street. He started writing about cars and motorbikes for The Sunday Times in the 1980s and was Motoring Correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph for 20 years, having previously written a column on motorbikes for Esquire. He is also recognised as a leading commentator on gender politics, having published No More Sex War in 1992 – the first ever critique of feminism from a radical, egalitarian point of view.
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