Perception and reality are strange bedfellows, made even more so when the one transmogrifies (thank you Calvin and Hobbs) into the other in a seamless stream where reality is perception and perception becomes the reality.
This is the situation Renault in South Africa lives with on a daily basis.
In an earlier time, going back quite some years, the reality was the company had a fairly small local parts inventory, these were expensive and often there were service delays while parts were shipped in – a reality that gave rise to a perception this applied to all Renault models, all the time.
The reality has changed dramatically over time and management to the point the local company has a very significant parts stockholding and regularly has category wins in the annual Kinsey Report that surveys the retail prices of a basket of parts across a broad spectrum of cars.
Yet, the perception remains. And, it is wrong.
When Sandero first entered the South African market in February 2009, Renault’s key objective was to provide a high-value proposition in the entry level passenger car segment.
Initially locally produced in alliance partner Nissan’s Rosslyn plant, the newcomer was perfectly in tune with customer needs and market trends. With its introduction of the Sandero range, Renault promised an unparalleled package that would meet the need for affordable motoring and outright value in a tense economic climate.
Since its inception in 2009, the Renault Sandero has evolved dramatically with numerous quality, feature and styling enhancements. The introduction of the First Generation top-of-the-range Sandero Stepway in 2011 set a tone for the crossover concept in South Africa.
Sandero has continued to enjoy ever-increasing success recording sales of 52 200 units to date, a notable achievement considering the aggressive competition within AB Entry Hatch, with the likes of Polo Vivo, Ford Figo, Toyota Etios, Suzuki Ignis, Hyundai Grand i10, a segment which represents the lion’s share of the PC market (YTD being 26%).
The flagship Stepway model has racked up sales in excess of 21 400 cars since 2011.
And now, the new Renault Sandero Stepway Plus.
To bring it into line with other Renault models, it gains the lighting signature that sees headlamps that incorporate the characteristic C-shape Daytime Running Lights (LED) plus C-shape, while rear lights and both the front and rear bumpers are a new design.
Stepway’s crossover styling remains contemporary and refined with features and fitments that include an integrated roof spoiler, higher ground clearance than the entry Sandero Expression, roof bars, front and rear skid plates, wheel arch mouldings and front fog lights.
The interior is surprisingly generously proprtioned, providing comfortable and roomy seating for five occupants plus luggage while the boot space (292 litres) can be further improved upon thanks to the split rear bench.
Sandero is the only car in its class to include EBA (coupled with anti-lock braking) and ESP + ASR as standard across the range.
In addition to the front seat belts with load limiters and ISOFIX fasteners for child and baby seats, Sandero is the only car in its category to offer a three-point safety belt at the central rear seat.
By electronically modifying the engine’s response at the push of a button, Eco Mode enables drivers to automatically optimise fuel consumption and correct energy-wasting driving parameters to achieve greater economy. It adjusts engine operation within acceptable limits and can reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by as much as 12% depending on driving styles and road conditions.
Powered by a three cylinder, 900 cc petrol Turbo engine, the Sandero has a maximum output of 66 kW at 5 250 r/min and peak torque of 135 Nm at 2 500 r/min of which 90% is available from 1 650 r/min.
This compact new generation Turbo power plant is standard across the Sandero line-up and highly efficient thanks to its lightweight 100% aluminium (HPDC) engine block, low inertia turbo, variable valve timing, piloted variable oil pump and lifetime engine chain.
To put it in context – the Sandero has the same power output as the Toyota Etios Cross 1.5 Xs but has a 3 NM advantage in torque and more of both than the Suzuki Ignis or Volkswagen Cross Up!.
Mated with a manual 5-speed gearbox, the Sandero returns 5,4 l/100 km and produces 124 g/km of CO2.
The exterior of the Stepway Plus is distinguished by badging with specific two-tone 16-inch flexwheel covers and standard features include side air bags, front and rear power windows, power side mirrors, leather steering wheel and gear knob and rear park assist.
Cruise control and navigation are also standard while leather seats are an option.
In many ways it has more than its nearest rivals and, although more expensive (R11 900 on the Etios), does generate a perception of value for money.
Performance is not everything – and the Sandero will certainly not set the tarmac alight – and solid, reliable and inexpensive to run are active bywords considering the runaway price of fuel and crashing Rand.
Used in context, the Sandero is an easy-to-drive pleasing motoring experience – and that is reality, not perception.