The basic but well-engineered Datsun Go is a bit of an enigma. On the one hand, the depth of basic engineering is clearly impressive. The responsive engine, impressive brakes, comfortable ride and decent stability impress. On the other, this is a car that’s chock-full of quirks. The front seats are odd, the audio system is unconventional, to put it mildly, and you have a commercial vehicle-like pull-type handbrake. What will the car be like to live with over an extended period? Will we fall for the strong fundamentals, or will we be put off by all the quirks?
The Go has been with us for only a few days, but already, the Datsun seems to have polarised opinion; it’s that type of car. It’s real easy to get an argument going in the office, and everybody seems to have a strong opinion — it’s quite entertaining. I’ve got the car for the long weekend however, and while I’m Mumbai-bound, I’m going to be zipping all around town, a luggage-hauling trip from the airport included.
My initial impressions of the car are good. I leave office late on Thursday and am quickly reminded of why I like this car so much — it’s just raring to go with its lightning-quick throttle responses and a really strong midrange. A nice, fair-sized gap opens up and I scythe through it, remembering to upshift to avoid running headlong into that wall-like engine limiter. For a car this cheap, it really does go like stink: clearly, there’s plenty of fun to be had here. Of course, the ridiculously light 788kg body also makes the Go feel like it has been launched off a trebuchet every time you push the accelerator into the floorboard. And the motor really is a gem. It may have only three cylinders, but those big pistons deliver so much torque, it really is fun pedalling this car hard. Soon, I find myself enjoying the car more than
I expect to.
Along with the Go’s pluses also come the minuses. To begin with, the thin metal body of the Go and the lack of insulation make you feel like you are driving around a tin box. Cars like the Alto 800 and some others feel tinny too, but the Go’s almost total lack of insulation takes it to an all-new level. Stones picked up and tossed back by the wheels feel like ball bearings hitting the floor and there’s so much noise filtering into the cabin, I often check to see if the windows are open.
The next morning, the long drive to the airport also proves the Go can be a pain in the knee. My right knee continues to rub against the power window pod on the driver’s door and it gets quite irritating after an hour or so. What I also dislike is that the front seats just do not hold you in place. They are flat, slippery and quite hard. And the bench makes no sense at all. What also particularly irks me is that the rear seatbelts don’t retract, and so, getting rear-seat passengers to put them on is very difficult.
Luggage space, however, is good for a low-cost hatch. The rear swallows a full-size suitcase, a smaller strolley and three other soft bags easily. There’s no parcel tray to cover the luggage and no sliding screen either, which means you hesitate to leave a bag in the back of a parked car.
Later in the day, the Go, however, passes the five-star lobby test easily. You don’t get the same quizzical looks you get when you drive up in a Nano or an Alto. No, people don’t mistake this for an expensive car, but the semi-attractive design with its curvaceous bonnet, attractive headlights and interesting profile sure do help get it some respect.
Yes, it’s early days, but for me, the Go has plenty of plusses and a few minuses. Still, can’t help but wonder how nice it would be with better seats, better insulation and better tyres. Go figure.