Steve Cropley: How can they make the Dacia Sandero Stepway for £15,000?

Our man has been running a Sandero Stepway in Prestige trim for four months, but still can’t get his head around its value for money. Over the last seven days Steve Cropley has got behind the wheel of a Porsche 718 Boxster, been to Donington for a bank holiday gathering, chased a VW dealer over a faulty door on his £50,000 campervan, and scratched his head regarding the price of his Dacia Stepway…

Friday

A Porsche 718 Boxster arrives, but a different edition from the kind of road test fodder we usually see. This is a near-standard edition, powered by the ‘basic’ 296bhp 2.0-litre turbo flat four, driving through a dual-clutch gearbox. This engine has proved unpopular with some of the Porsche fraternity, chiefly it seems to me because it’s not a flat six. By any other measure, it’s great. It’s absolutely as quick as you need (0-62mph in 4.9sec; 170mph fl at out), and when you give it the beans, it sounds pretty damned good. Sure, the vaunted 4.0-litre flat-six GTS is a quicker machine, but I doubt it’s significantly faster between here and Edinburgh, while being 40% more expensive. Me, I’d settle for this model and spend the rest on a new garage.

A bigger question loms, however. Exactly how does this basic Porsche sports car compare with the Alpine A110 I’ve just returned, which costs almost the same money? That’s a £50k turbo four as well, and to me it’s a burning question. But I’ve got a whole week to decide.

Monday

Forty cars for 40 years: wonderful bank holiday gathering at Donington of after-market turbo machinery developed by legendary Northants fast car firm Turbo Technics and its 80-year-old founder, Geoff Kershaw. TT started life doing turbo kits for Austin Metros and it was behind the wheel of one of these that many of us first learned how much turbocharging could do for an ordinary car. The magic soon spread to machinery like the Peugeot 205 GTi 1.9, the Ford Sierra V6 and even the Jaguar XJ6.

Kershaw, a seasoned racer, came to Donington in a much more recent TT creation, a 600bhp Ford Focus, in which he proceeded to punish pricier entries in the event’s Time Attack series by setting the fastest lap in his class. However, his main focus was on how many of his early cars continue to be hale and hearty. Early turbo conversions could be unreliable, but Kershaw and his team always fought back with superior engineering, and here was evidence that he won the battle.

Tuesday

I’m feeling a little bit of Dacia’s reflected glory, having just learned that its Sandero has beaten the VW Golf to become Europe’s best-selling car. In my book, the car deserves every bit of its popularity. As you may know, I’ve been running a Stepway (the raised, slightly pricier edition) for the past four months and 8000 miles and have enjoyed it all the way. One of the more bizarre delights of running this car is boasting to friends about how I’ve got the full-house Prestige edition – complete with the only two options offered, Desert Orange metallic paint (a regular talking point) and a full-sized spare wheel. The price has sneaked up a little since I ordered mine, but only to £15,140, including both options. Still have no idea how they can do it for the money.

Thursday

Aargh! Our VW California camper van, (nearly) three years old and with less than 10,000 miles on the clock, is suffering from a recurring gremlin that has turned into a really serious problem just as the warranty runs out. The passenger’s door won’t open. I’ve complained to the dealer four times now and they’ve done some ineffectual stuff, but the truth is the problem has peaked, not disappeared. Dealer staff are nice enough but hamstrung, it appears. Parts are “all on back-order” from Germany, with the result that we won’t be able to use the passenger door of our £50,000-plus Veedub van for a month. You couldn’t make it up.

And another thing…

Very sorry to see the back of the Alpine A110 that came my way for a memorable week recently. Only on my last day with the car did I discover the front boot, which was just about large enough for our trip to pick up the Sunday papers.

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