We’ve just got our hands on the new Datsun Go and here are our first impressions. It is a good looking car – the diamond-shaped grille, the angular, peeled-back headlamps and its attractive lines do have appeal, and it’s clear that the designers have tried hard to keep it from looking too basic. The character lines along the side of the car that run into the tail section ensure this. And the rear, with its swept forward windshield, even has a hint of Nissan Leaf to it.
Now, it’s only the skinny 155/70 R13 tyres that make the Go look grossly under-tyred in those huge wheel arches. Under the hood is a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol motor that’s similar to the one in the Nissan Micra Active. It makes slightly less power than in the Nissan, but then again, the Datsun Go isn’t that heavy. It’s the car’s light kerb weight that makes it such a peppy performer.
It responds to light taps on the throttle eagerly and is happy pulling away from low engine speeds in high gear. There’s more – pardon the pun – go, as it climbs up the rev counter too. The mid-range is strong and it’s only when you get to around 4,000rpm that the engine tends to get thrummy in the way the Maruti 800 used to; the lack of cabin insulation is partly to blame here. The responsive nature of the engine makes it really easy to drive around the city – third gear is suitable for most city driving situations, but you will have to shift down into second if you want to get a move on. The five-speed manual is also light (if a bit notchy, especially shifting to first and second) and the clutch is progressive enough. Interestingly, this is not the same gearbox as the Nissan Micra Active, and has entirely different ratios that have been chosen to match the Indian driving style; a short first, and longer ratios for the remaining four gears.
Push the engine hard and it will easily propel the Datsun Go to triple-digit speeds. Our testing equipment shows that it will get from rest to 100kph in a reasonably quick 15sec and you can easily cruise at those speeds with minimum fuss.
The downsides? Well, there’s a bit of vibration from the three-cylinder engine at idle, but that’s it. It smoothens out when you rev it, and also quiets down when you are cruising.
Around town, the ride is quite supple although there is a bit of underlying firmness. Bigger bumps thump through but, having said that, it’s still got that big-car feel in the way it tackles bad roads. An issue we had, however, was with the suspension and the road noise that filters into the cabin, especially on coarse surfaces. Datsun, in the interests of cutting costs, hasn’t provided any sound absorbing cladding in the wheel wells and this allows quite a bit of noise to get through to the cabin, and this is also why the engine noise is so much more prominent.
The Datsun Go is an easy car to drive though – the power steering is light, and it feels very manageable from behind the wheel. Helping you along is the great visibility and the engine’s responsive nature. It doesn’t like to be pushed hard – around corners, the suspension’s generous travel allows for plenty of body roll and even though grip is decent, the car tends to move about on the tall tyres. It’s under such circumstances that your front passenger will find he has no ceiling-mounted grab handle to hold on to. It’s much nicer to drive at a suitably gentler pace
Out on the highway, there’s decent straightline stability and the steering weighs up enough to not make the car feel nervous at speed. It does get quite affected by crosswinds, thanks to its light weight, and it performs emergency stopping manoeuvres with plenty of squirming and squealing.
In terms of size, the Go is 3,785mm long and 1,635mm wide and has a wheelbase of 2,450mm. Compare that to the Eon’s 3,495mm length, 1,550mm breadth and 2,380mm wheelbase and you can see how much more real estate you are getting for your money.
Open the light doors and step in and you can see that the interiors aren’t very plush, certainly not as good as the Hyundai Eon’s. Slide into the driver’s seat and you are faced with a simple, three-spoke steering wheel and even simpler dials – there’s a speedometer and a digital display that includes a rev counter, trip computer and fuel gauge. But this digital display is too small to read while driving. Another issue is the minimal lighting in the cabin and on the instruments, which at night makes them even harder to read.
The centre console is well-styled but bare bones – it has air-con vents from the Micra Active, an aux-in audio input with a phone/iPod holder next to it and a USB charging point; but you don’t get a radio or a CD player. The gear lever and pull-type handbrake sprout out of the centre console to make place for the bench-style front seats. Knowing how we here in India try to squeeze as many people into a car, Datsun has cleverly provided a wide left seat; but there is no seatbelt provided, so we wouldn’t recommend using it for anything other than a small bag.
The fit and finish is not bad – there’s lots of grey plastics and the dashboard may look quite unexciting – but there’s no faulting the panel lines and the surprising heft with which the switches and stalks work; the stalks are, after all, from the Micra. There is quite a lot of cost cutting in here – some not so obvious, some annoying. Even though the Go gets front power windows, the driver has a switch only on his side, and the rear windows are manual. There's also no internal window adjustors, so you'll have to physically push each mirror into the correct position with your fingertips before you set off. Then there’s the bare metal adjuster for the seat’s fore and aft movement, a rear windshield that looks like its missing beading on the inside, and rear seatbelts that don’t automatically retract; although Datsun says they will hold you back like normal seatbelts in the event of an accident. The dashboard also varies in thickness, in the interest of weight reduction.
There is, however, a lot of space on the inside. Clever management of space – the dash-mounted gearlever and the slim seats – makes it quite an airy cabin. Indians love storage space and there’s an indent on top of the dash to keep loose stuff, the glovebox is big and there’s space under the steering column near the driver’s knees to keep stuff too. Add to this the big door pockets on the front doors and you’ll find you don’t need much more space. The only problem is that the Go gets a lid-less glovebox (cost cutting again) and there are no other closed storage spaces in the cabin.
The driving position is nice, with good visibility, though some might find the dash-mounted gear lever quite high-set and even a bit too far back, especially for those with long arms. Also, the steering wheel isn’t adjustable and is set a bit too high, which can get uncomfortable over long distances.
Datsun says the Go’s seats have been designed using technology from Nissan’s luxury brand Infiniti, for optimal spinal comfort. The front seats, though basic, are decently supportive, except at the shoulders where they feel a touch too narrow. The rear seats have quite a lot of legroom and there’s even more space than in the Eon and the Alto 800, though taller passengers will find the rear headroom just a tad tight. The seat itself is quite flat, the squab is short, there aren’t many contours and the fixed rear headrests don’t offer much neck support. The view forward is limited as well, thanks to the unusual bench seat in front, so it’s a sitting position reminiscent of a HM Ambassador. The boot, however, is a fair bit bigger than its competition and it’s well shaped, but there’s no parcel shelf. The loading lip is high, though, and the boot floor is low, so you’ll have to lift your luggage over and into the boot.
The Datsun Go won’t come with ABS and there aren’t any airbags either. In fact, even basic safety equipment is missing – the rear windshield doesn’t get a demister, there’s no rear wiper, and only a single wiper at the front.
Other irritants include the hatch that doesn’t have a key lock, so you have to open the car and unlock the boot from the internal boot release next to the driver’s seat every time you want access. And, while we are at it, the single horn isn’t loud enough either.
Still, the Go should prove to be quite a cheap, easy-to-own car. Datsun says that top-end variants of the Go will come in at below Rs 4 lakh and the base variants will start at around Rs 3.2 lakh. Datsun will also offer a two year/unlimited kilometre comprehensive warranty when the Go goes on sale later this month. The manufacturer claims an ARAI fuel efficiency figure of 20.6kpl. The Go will be sold through Nissan dealerships (Nissan owns Datsun, remember) and where there are no Nissan dealerships, Datsun plans to set up its own.
For now though, the Go has a peppy engine, spacious interiors and is easy to drive. And when you think about how much it will cost, it seems like a lot of car for the money.
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