Renault is expanding its Dacia Logan-based vehicle line-up in the Mercosur region with a new Stepway version of the Renault Sandero hatchback, to be launched in Brazil in October and then in Argentina.

The five-seat 'urban sport' variant was planned from the start and developed primarily for Brazil. The automaker said the Stepway "targets sophisticated urban customers looking for a vehicle with assertive and distinctive styling".

It has raised ground clearance, roof bars with an integrated spoiler, exclusive bumpers and grille, and a chrome-finished exhaust pipe, similar to the 'on-road, off-road-look' of a number of similar model variants already on sale in the South American country.

The Stepway will be offered initially with just one engine: the 112hp, 1.6-litre, 16-valve 'Hi-Flex', Renault's most powerful bio-ethanol powerplant in Brazil. Argentine models will get a dCi diesel engine.

The new version, like the rest of the Sandero range, has a three-year/100,000km (60,000 miles) warranty in Brazil.

Built at the Curitiba plant, the Stepway is the fifth of six models to be launched in Brazil under Renault Commitment 2009. The automaker is spending R$1bn (EUR400m) in the country as part of the plan.

Driven by the product offensive kicked off in 2006 with the Mégane sedan and Grand Tour (wagon) and continued by the Logan in 2007 and Sandero in 2008, Renault do Brasil's sales reached record levels in H1 2008 - it sold 58,800 units - twice as many as in H1 2007.

This 92.4% increase took market share from 3% to 4.4% in one year, placing the brand among the top five best-selling carmakers in the country.

With sales of nearly 18,500 vehicles in first-half 2008, the new Sandero made a significant contribution.