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From the simplicity of a Sinclair C5,  to various Ferraris ,I have test driven hundreds of cars and on my way clocked up just shy of 1,700 flights on my motoring journey. Often to far away places  in my quest and there have been many surprises; my most recent surprise came on home tarmac as I put the latest Dacia Sandero Stepway through its paces. I will admit I approached this vehicle without a lot of expectation,and as my week behind the wheel rolled on I discovered just how good it is and it manages to be one of the best value means of transport today.

Many may immediately discount the Dacia brand. Stop right there- I challenge you to have a look, or better still, take the wheel as they say. Highly practical, well equipped and frugal and with a decided quality feel and rugged styling which manages to deliver a fair helping of street cred. A new design, the latest technology and many advanced safety features which are perhaps more common in much more expensive vehicles. The exterior boasts greater presence with more premium details, including distinctive new Y-shaped LED lights an improvement of thirty seven percent over conventional lighting and the interior greets you with a premium feel with room for five adults who travel in comfort.

An efficient engine range includes the TCe 100 Bi-Fuel powertrain, plus the SCe 65 and TCe 90 units with a new automatic gearbox option. My test car had the latter power unit, a modest three cylinder 90bhp from 999cc boosted by a turbo. Not exactly earth shattering performance, but perfectly acceptable, with a top speed of 163k/ph (101mph) and rest to 100kph (62mph)achievable in 14.1 seconds and vey acceptable economy and the emission figure 139g/km. Based on the CMF modular platform shared with the Renault Clio, the new Stepway is a good deal more robust, safer, spacious and the quality of drive is improved. Some moths ago I got to test the latest version of the Clio and on occasion behind the wheel of the Stepway it felt just like the Renault model; good news indeed. Yet another surprise and a very practical one an innovative patented modular roof bar arrangement that cleverly convert into a roof rack to carry loads up to 80kg; making an ideal choice for the family motorist or one who indulges in outdoor pursuits.

More and more the modern motor car comes complete with the latest technology something which is very much in demand, particularly with the younger driver. Dacia certainly does not lag behind as this model features an intuitive new Media Control smartphone dock with dedicated app and eight-inch MediaNav infotainment system; so behind the wheel you are always informed and if you so desire music on the move. Latest ADAS safety tech is available including Blind Spot Warning, emergency brake assist, parking sensors and hill start assist; again these are safety features which thankfully are no longer exclusive to up market models. I welcome when manufacturers deliver on technology in cars that many can afford; for many it really does add to the joy of driving.

My test example was the newly introduced Prestige version and all models are covered by Dacia’s comprehensive three year, 60,000-mile warranty and Roadside Assistance. The Prestige tested had two options, metallic paint and a spare wheel; this paint finish really does add to the overall look of the car.

Summing up, the Dacia Sandero Stepway may never challenge many others in the looks department, but for many what will be important is affordable motoring; now my next Dacia challenge will be to drive the Duster. Pricing- model tested- from €19,290 (ROI); £16,340 (NI).

Ian Lynas