Plus = more: Renault Stepway Plus

When the Renault Sandero first came to market some ten years ago, it struck a chord with South African consumers. It was an alternative – and affordable – vehicle to your trusted offering such as the Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta. But unlike these two vehicles, the Sandero was easier to attain financially, and it offered a comprehensive package.

It was almost unheard of for your ‘lower spec’ vehicles to be fitted with electric windows and Bluetooth connectivity, but the Sandero had these features. Come 2011 and the range was expanded with the Stepway model; which also over the years was expanded with sub-models.

Earlier this year, Renault South Africa again added a new top model to sit at the top of the Sandero Stepway range. The Plus model, at the time of writing, had an asking price of R218 900 and is powered by a small-but-potent 900cc engine.

F1-inspired engine

Renault is very proud of its involvement in Formula 1 and has gone to great lengths to implement technologies used in the sport on its road cars. In the Sandero’s case, just like with the Kwid and of Renault’s other cars, the engines used in these vehicles have something of F1 in their design.

The Stepway Plus is not exempt from this treatment. The turbocharged three-cylinder motor delivers 66kW and 135Nm. It’s not a lot of power, but power delivery always seems adequate. The full amount of torque is already available at 2 500rpm and is there never really the need to push the motor deep into the red.

What would perhaps have been a boon to the model is either a six-speed manual or Renault’s fantastic six-speed EDC automatic gearbox. The five-speed unit used is not a bad choice, but the additional gear would go a long way in aiding the already-impressive fuel return (we got a little over 6.0 L/100km).

Plus = more?

It’s easy to assume that the ‘Plus’ implies that you’re getting more value for your money, and to a degree you do. The Sandero has always been a value-for-money proposition, but in the higher-spec models a bit more so. In the Stepway Plus’ case, the add-ons are a lot subtler than you might think.

On the exterior, the 16-inch wheels have a nice looking wheel hub that might appear like proper rims, but at closer inspection, they’re plastic wheel caps. Still, these are pretty fine in design and the red-and-black paintwork adds a nice touch to it. Along the front, fog lights have been brought on as standard, as well as a silver lip on the spoiler. At the rear, the bumper is rounded off with a silver diffuser that houses a chrome-tip exhaust. On the front doors, the ‘Plus’ sign has been brought on.

The interior does not see much of an improvement over the rest of the range, but the subtle differences make you realise that you are in a different model. For starters, the seats are decked in cloth (leather is optionally available) with a chequered pattern. ‘Stepway’ is embroidered in the seats, as well. The air vents have a red strip running across each one; just to add a dash of specialness to the package.

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Image: Charlen Raymond

Multimedia system

Undoubtedly one of Renault’s greatest attributes has to be the multimedia system used in its budget-beating cars. The system may come across as simple and bland, but the usability and practicality thereof is mighty fine. The system, as used for application in the Stepway Plus, is Bluetooth, AUX, and USB compatible, and features satellite navigation. Drivers have the benefit of controlling some of the system’s features via the controls behind the steering wheel.

The positioning of the USB and AUX ports might not be ideal, especially given that some extension cords are quite short. This results in devices hanging off the cable, or it has to be stored in the air vent just above it. Renault gave this issue attention in the revised Kwid range by positioning the ports much lower down the center console, so it’s fair to assume that the Sandero-range will benefit from this alteration in the near future.

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Image: Charlen Raymond

In summary

The Stepway Plus is a fitting model to sit at the top of Renault’s Sandero-range. In terms of design, it has enough differentiating to make itself stand out, and the cabin sees slight differences to the rest of the range. Buyers looking to buy into something that’ll give them ample of value would not go wrong when considering this vehicle.

It’s not the fastest vehicle in its segment nor is it the best driver’s car, but it’ll get you to where you need to be without missing a beat. And while you’re at it, you can enjoy your favourite music from your favourite device.