Our long-term Datsun Go must have felt like the kid who always gets selected last on the team. It was never the car we rushed off in for our weekly dose of dosas or the car that we pulled rank to get over that long weekend. To be honest, there was nothing ‘cool’ about the car. But in the last few weeks of its time with us, I developed a liking for it. All it needed was a change in mindset. Hear me out.
Rather than approaching it as a bare-bones budget hatchback, I started thinking of the Go as a club racer, or the superleggera of our long-term fleet if you will. All of a sudden, the bits that I formerly despised were in the favourable spotlight for how they helped shave weight off the car. No audio system? Gentlemen racers don’t need one. No driver-side power window control for the passenger window? That’s a kilogram or two saved right there. No glovebox cover or parcel tray? Pah! Someone at Datsun probably dreamt up a stripped-out junior racer version of the Go and that’s how I got myself to see our car too.
The Go’s zippy performance certainly made the idea seem half believable. It always felt light on its feet and was surprisingly quick as city runabouts go. The 1.2-litre engine’s responsiveness made it easy to close gaps in traffic and make green lights in the distance. The Go generally drove with more vigour than something like a WagonR and I liked it for that. Just wish the five-speed gearbox wasn’t so notchy. Crisper gearshifts would have added much to the whole experience, and as would stickier tyres. And how about a performance exhaust too! Okay, better come back to earth and see the Go as the city car it is.
Well, the Go had the basics in place. The light clutch was easy to modulate in crawling traffic, the steering didn’t require much effort to twirl and the turning circle was usefully small. Even the long-travel suspension coped admirably on Mumbai’s roads. But able as it was, there were things about the Go I just couldn’t make my peace with. The inadequate noise insulation, for instance. Must I be forced to hear the sound of the smallest pebbles hitting the wheel wells? This also highlighted the Go’s tinny build. Also, the one-size-fits-all driving position (the steering doesn’t adjust and there’s no seat height adjust facility) didn’t fit anyone particularly well – all of us found the dash-mounted gear lever a touch too high. And don’t even get me started on the silly pull-type handbrake that’s not only annoying to use but also positioned in a way that it comes in contact with the driver’s left knee.
As you may recall, the Go was at the heart of a controversy when the results of its crash test became public. While many in office felt Datsun had been unfairly singled out and that its competitors would fare no better in the same test, the horrid images of the Go crumbling into an unidentifiable mass of metal did play on everyone’s minds. And mind you, ours was the model without airbags. That’s a large part of the reason why our Go saw little highway action. In fact, photographer Vishwajeet was the only one among us to venture beyond Mumbai city limits for a music festival in Pune. Thankfully, there were no untoward incidents and he actually found the car quite pleasant to drive on open stretches. The large boot was also put to good use. That said, his complaints were no different from others who have had a go in the Go. The unsupportive flat seats, the lack of a concealed storage bay in the cabin and the stock audio player arrangement (speakers and aux-in only) were things we just couldn’t get used to.
On the positive side, the Go was always light on the pocket. Our car averaged 12kpl in town and 16kpl on its sole highway excursion with a full complement of passengers. Routine service at 5,000km cost Rs 2,083 (including Rs 828 for engine oil) and we also paid Rs 600 for having the air conditioning ducts cleaned. We didn’t have any problems with the car but the engine check light did come on when it was time to hand it back.
The Go spent a lot of time ‘on the bench’ in its time with us.
Our Go has gone (sorry for the pun) and the thing is, I don’t see anyone missing it. It just didn’t have the pull factor and that’s worked against it right from day one. But all’s not lost. Spacious, peppy and efficient as it is, I am of the opinion the Go can be developed into something a lot nicer. A few more creature comforts, nicer seats and better noise insulation should inject the needed desirability into the package. I’d be happy to give such a version of the Go a second round on the roads.