The all-new Datsun Go is the first new car from the resurrected Datsun brand. Thirty-three years after Nissan put Datsun to rest, it has revived the brand as its low-cost arm in emerging markets. We’ve just driven its first new car, called simply the Go. So, just how much get-up-and-Go does this little hatchback provide?
That is has the onerous task of taking on the might of Maruti and Hyundai is Datsun’s biggest challenge. The Go aims to take sales away from the Alto K10 and the Eon, which are the two models that Datsun has clearly benchmarked for the Go. On the face of it, it might sound like too big an ask, but we’ve come away after driving the new Go mightily impressed.
Design & Engineering
Simple, clean lines and well-judged proportions make the Datsun Go a smart-looking car.
The subcompact hatchback segment has its own unique challenges. These small cars are expected to be small yet spacious, fuel-efficient yet perky and responsive to drive, lightweight yet provide good ride quality and have good ground clearance. Reconciling these contradictory requirements often results in a compromise too far, but on the face of it, Datsun has managed this remarkably well.
The Go utilises a pressed-steel monocoque construction, with the front suspension comprising regular McPherson struts at the front and a simple torsion beam at the rear. The build quality more than meets the expectations of the class, and frankly the Go feels more sturdily built than either the Maruti Alto or the Hyundai Eon.
Datsun Go's wing mirrors are unpainted on all versions. They are notinternally adjustable either. Single wiper leaves part of the windshield near the A-pillar unwiped, increasing the blindspot for the driver on the right side of the car. Small rear hatch means smaller and lighter gas struts are used. No scrimping on quality though.
There is enough evidence of cost-cutting in the new Go, but Datsun hasn’t cut any corners as far this car’s engineering is concerned. The build quality is better than expected, and the interiors, plastics and general fit and finish is superior to what Indian car buyers have otherwise been treated to.
Interiors & Comfort
On the inside is where penny-pinching is most obvious. The Go we drove was the top-of-the-line version, which came equipped with power steering, front power windows and air-conditioning. It also had a multi-media system which Datsun calls MDS, or Mobile Docking Station. Simply put, there’s a clamp on the dashboard for your smartphone. It plays music through an Aux-in cable, and can charge the device simultaneously through an USB port. Do note however, that the Datsun MDS will not play music directly through a USB device such as a pen drive. The USB port is for charging only. There is no radio or CD player, though. Sound quality through the two door-mounted speakers is poor, with weak volume, not bass and a generally tinny sound.
Door pads have some stowage. Note the single power window switch for driver side window; simple intrument cluster with digital tacho; good quality stalks and switchgear (from Micra); cable type rotary headlamp leveller
The Go also gets contoured front seats. Yes, the seat fabric is of the hard-wearing variety, and the front headrests are integrated into the seatbacks, but they’re well shaped and accommodative. The padding is thin yet firm, and the seats provide good support. Nissan claims the seats were shaped using the same lessons learned while designing seats for its luxury brand Infiniti.
The rear seat is similarly padded, but does not have the contoured back support like the front seats do. However, despite the small seat squab, rear legroom is adequate as you can see. The model in the picture is about 5’10”, and the driver’s seat has been adjusted for an adult of a similar stature.
The Datsun Go has impressive ride quality, especially for the class. Datsun engineers claim that the Go has 30 % more suspension travel that its competition, and while we didn’t verify that independently, we can say that it rides very well. Not only does it acquit itself commendably, but it does so without feeling too soft or wishy-washy, while maintaining adequate ground clearance too.
No dimming function on rear-view mirror; MDS is simple and useful, but execution is poor; no seat pockets; no self-rewinding seatbelts. These belts are tedious to use and need to be adjusted manually.
But don’t think for a second that I’m sold on the little Datsun’s interior. The open glovebox is sure to put off some people, and while the bench-type front seat is different, there isn’t any storage space or cubby holes in the front console. There aren’t seat back pockets on the front seats either, which in my opinion is pinching one penny too many. Storage for odds and ends is what every customer wants, and this something the Go lacks.
High load lip will make lifting heavy luggage into and out of the Go difficult. Storage space is good though.
Boot space is claimed to be 265 litres, and I won’t contest that. The Go is substantially more spacious than an Alto for sure, and appears to have more room than the Eon as well. However, make note that there is no parcel shelf, although this can be bought as a dealer accessory.
Performance & Handling
So what’s the new Datsun Go like to drive? One tends to have enough and more pre-conceived notions about entry-level small cars, but the Go does its best to dispel these ideas.
For starters, the power-assisted steering feels light yet precise, with none of the vagueness you tend to find in the Maruti Alto. Vibrations through the pedals and steering wheel are well damped, with the 3-cylinder engine’s natural oscillations being well controlled. The clutch action is precise, with a linear progression and predictable bite point.
The 1.2-litre engine has a definite capacity advantage, being 50 % larger than its key competitors, so it’s no surprise that it feels pleasantly sprightly to drive. Although the Datsun Go’s engine is directly derived from the same HR12 engine which the Micra uses, it gets its own gearbox. This new gearbox has the first and second gears quite short, with a reasonable gap between 2nd and third gear. While this is intentional, giving the Go good drivability in stop-and-go traffic, it is intended to ensure good mileage as well. However, on occasion we found the gap between second and third a little too much. Case in point was while negotiating some roads around Hyderabad’s Banjara Hills. With four people on board, plus the AC running and a boot full of soft luggage, 2nd gear felt too short, but when I shifted up to third, the loss of torque was more than the engine could manage on the slight incline, and I had to downshift again. Such a real-world scenario debunks the good mileage theory of a long third gear.
Flat-out performance was impressive too. Shifting up at a heady 5,000 rpm, the Dastun Go reached an indicated 150 km/h on the speedometer, with something still to come. That’s sizzling performance by class standards.
The brakes felt a little wooden and spongy. Again, Datsun says the Go’s brakes are best in class, given that it has vented front discs, the feel through the pedal leaves something to be desired. We didn’t experience any brake fade despite driving spiritedly. From memory, the Hyundai Eon’s brakes felt better.
The light and positive steering action in the Datsun Go makes it very easy to steer through traffic. The consistency and feedback of the Go’s steering can be felt at highway speeds as well. We didn’t experience any strong crosswinds however, which would have given us a better indication of whether the Go flies true.
What I didn’t like was the amount of road noise filtering into the cabin. Datsun has used minimal sound deadening material in the interests of saving both cost and weight, but the oucome is that a lot of road noise filters into the cabin.
The Datsun Go has the same 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine as the Nissan Micra Active. The gearbox is new though.
Mileage kitna hai. That question always brings a smile to my face, and every person who stopped to look at the Datsun Go in Chintal Basti asked me that question. 20.63 km/l is what ARAI says the new Go achieves, and we’ll believe them. For the record, that’s a little less than what ARAI says the Alto manages, but a bit more than what the Eon can deliver. In the real world, I think it’ll be a cose call, but don’t be surprised to see the Alto win the fuel efficiency battle.
You’re as safe as your driving is, goes an old adage. In the Go, you’d better practice this. There are no airbags, or ABS, even as an option. The rear seatbelts are of the fixed variety with no self-rewinding spools. In a country where most are reticent to wear seatbelts, the inconvenience of the Datsun Go’s rear seatbelts will see even fewer people using them.
There are no active and passive safety systems, but yes, the body structure has been optimized to absorb as much energy as possible in the unfortunate event of an impact.
There is no rear wiper or even a demister on the Datsun Go, but the design of the ear is such that there is little or no wash from the rear wheels on the rear windscreen. Whether this is intentional, or a happy outcome of the Go’s design isn’t clear, but the fact of the matter is that it will make the Go easier to use in the monsoon (see picture).
A new beginning for Datsun and for Indian car buyers.
I’m sure some folk have skimmed over the rest of this road test to read the verdict on the new Datsun Go. As always, let’s see what we get, for what kind of money, what else the market offers and what’s different about this one.
Yes, Datsun has cut a few corners to save costs. In the interests of saving some money, the Go gets a single front wiper, simple wing mirrors which aren’t internally adjustable, a single power window switch on the driver’s side, no night dimming function for the rear view mirror, no self-rewinding reels for the rear seat belts, no rear parcel tray, a single reversing lamp (on the left), no CD player or radio, no glovebox lid and no outside boot release. That’s a lot of extra bits and pieces and Datsun has done without them in the interests of making the new Go as affordable as possible.
Datsun will also offer a substantial accessories catalogue for the Go, which is likely to include front fog lamps, rear parcel shelf, a better stereo, remote central locking, alloy wheels and internally adjustable mirrors (we hope).
But there’s so much more about this new car which more than makes up for it. The new Datsun Go is bigger and better than its immediate competition in all the areas that matter. It is more spacious, feels much better built, is nicer to drive, is fuel efficient despite being more powerful, has better ride quality, more effective air conditioning, better seats and a lot more boot space. And the best part is that the new Go will cost similar money as either the Hyundai Eon or the Maruti Alto K10.
There's a simple assessment that a buyer can make; does he or she want more features, or better quality. It is a simple trade-off at the end of the day. The Datsun Go is devoid of frills, but the basic car is robust and practical.
The new Go will likely be available in three variants from launch, with the base variant being a bare bones version without either power steering or air conditioning. The mid-spec variant of the Go will add an AC, while the top version will get both AC and power steering, plus the MDS and front power windows. All three variants will be priced between Rs 3 – 4 lakh.
You can’t really argue with such a value-for-money equation. Datsun is still a new brand in India, and that might limit it somewhat, but for what the Go offers as a product should prove hard to resist. Very rarely can such a small car meet such big expectations, but Datsun seems to have judged the sweet spot quite perfectly.
Maruti Alto K10, Hyundai Eon, Hyundai Santro