Datsun GO real-live driving experience: Entry level hatch reviewed on test track

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Added in: Datsun

Datsun Go Real-live drive event Chennai (18)

In the world of motoring journalism, drive events are a pretty median affair and mostly consist of journalists driving a car in an open environment, in quite a brisk manner so that the car’s dynamics and comfort can be analysed. But Nissan figured, that for the Datsun GO hatchback, it would be better if they did something slightly out of the dry and everyday routine of the industry. Now, the car was launched over a year ago and we have already done a detailed review, and you can read all about it here. However, this event’s primary aim was not to unveil a brand new version of the GO hatchback, but to showcase to us, the motoring journalists, what Nissan’s aim is to achieve with the GO and the Datsun brand in India. They showcased to the participating media, to the last detail, the hard work put in by the designers and engineers to make the GO excel in every department.

Datsun Go India review (16)

Datsun was discontinued in 1986, Nissan brought it back in 2013.

How the day started:

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Vijayendra Vikram Singh, Nissan Motor India Pvt. Ltd.

 The event took place on the 15th of October and was held at the Renault Nissan Automotive India Private Limited (RNAIPL) plant in Oragadam, just outside Chennai.  Waking up at 06:30 am to the electronic rooster in my mobile phone, I was pretty titillated in expectation of the event that was to unfold. After travelling on the Chennai roads for a little over an hour, we arrived at the RNAIPL plant at Oragadam at 09:45 am. All of us were invited inside the presentation room where we had our invigorating coffee (kapi, since we were in Tamil Nadu). Post the refreshments, we were joined by Vikram Singh who explained to us what we could expect out of the event (as seen on the board), by Guillaume Sicard, President of India Operations, Nissan India Pvt. Ltd and Krishnan Sundararajan, Chief Vehicle Engineer, Nissan India Pvt. Ltd.

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Guillaume Sicard, President of India Operations, Nissan Motor India Pvt. Ltd.

What they spoke about:

After welcoming us, Sicard went on to tell us the prime reason we were there for – to see the unique features that make the GO, well, go. He told us that we would see the efforts of the entire team that went behind making the car ”GO”. “I was once asked by a gentleman, do you like Datsun more than Nissan?” started Sicard, “Well, both of them are like my babies, and you simply can’t choose which baby you like more,” he quipped. “Nissan is an adult now, whereas Datsun is still young and there’s a long growth phase, ahead.” chuckled Mr. Sicard. The President of India Operations for Nissan understands that as a brand, Datsun is in it’s infancy in the subcontinent and is well aware that there is quite a lot of brand building to be done. But he seemed confident that Datsun will do a great job in the long run and he said, “The car is perfect.”

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Krishnan Sundararajan, Chief Vehicle Engineering, Nissan Motor India Pvt. Ltd.

After Sicard was done, next in row to fill in with some more knowledge (technical stuff, this time), was the Chief Vehicle Engineer for the Datsun GO, Krishnan Sundararajan. He did give us a disclaimer that some of the mathematical and physics mumbo-jumbo he was to fling at us, might not be entirely comprehendible, but that we shouldn’t really bother with just the numbers. He went on for quite a bit trying to tell everyone in the room that Datsun has managed to make a car which really does everything well (in it’s segment) and that it has been tailor-made according to the inputs the design and engineering team got from the customer surveys and interactive workshops.

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Men on a mission.

Both, Sicard and Sundararajan stressed on the fact that the GO is not only a good value-for-money product, but also a car that someone can enjoy being behind the wheel of. At the same time, they said that the car has not compromised on comfort and ride, and has many best-in-class plus first-in-segment features that aren’t available on any of it’s rivals. But before we could get onto the bus, we were given the dull news that we could not carry any photography equipment (including smartphones) to the track. Photographs of the event, however, were kindly provided by Nissan-Datsun’s official photographers to us and we’ll share them all with you here to give you a better understanding of how the event unfolded.

Time to hit the track:

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The Nissan-Renault-Datsun Orgadam plant. The test tracks can be seen to the left of Phase 1 (small track) & to the top of Phase 2 (larger track) buildings, respectively.

Once we got to the track, we met up with two professional Nissan/Datsun test drivers who had flown all the way from Japan just for this event. We really appreciated their presence and I was glad that I could meet them. There were two cars present for the media to test; one red coloured GO and the other, blue. We were all split into different groups so that all of us got our chance to take the ‘Suns from the east for a spin.

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The star of the show – Datsun GO.

Without any further ado, let’s get into the reason behind this whole setup – the drive on the track of the Datsun GO. Well, I won’t dwell too deep into the bowels of the car in this article, as we at Motoroids have already done that many moons ago. This will be more of how the entire experience was and to put into perspective, the dynamics and other performance related aspects of the car that’s claimed by the company.

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Not sure about the dynamic bit, but ride comfort is quite good.

  • With a minimum ground clearance of 170 mm, the GO is good to go for speed-breakers and the cabin is roomy, thanks to the 2,450 mm wheelbase and generous shoulder and headroom.
  • The acceleration is good as the car is light and 0-100 km/h is dispatched in 13.3-seconds as the 1.2-litre petrol unit has good pulling power, especially in the first two gears.
  • The GO brakes quite well thanks to those ventilated discs at the front, but the brakes may be prone to locking if you push them through the firewall.
  • Ride is very good and the GO takes undulations of the tarmac well without much fuss, but you will hear the suspension at work as cabin insulation is accomplished at a cost.
  • The company claims that the GO is a fun to drive car. And it does exhibit great straight line stability and composure.  It’s pretty good for the segment around bends too – isn’t quite the hoot we are made to believe it is though.
  • With it’s 1.2-litre 3-pot petrol unit dishing out 67 horses and 104 Nm of Japanese twisting force. The GO manages to impress with a 20.63 km/l (ARAI) mileage.

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The GO is quick off the chocks.

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  • When you put into contention cars like the Alto K10 and the Eon (0.8-litre), the GO most definitely has a power and torque advantage.
  • The engine noise didn’t seem like an issue when I drove it on the track, but the tyre roar, wind noise and suspension chatter, did.

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I was never good at maths back in school, so no idea what this graph means. Maybe you do.

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  • Though ventilated discs are now a common fitment in most B-segment and above cars, the GO is the first entry-level car to have one (two, actually). This allows for better heat dissipation during hard braking and thereby reduces the chance of brake fade and helps prevent lock ups. But the latter can happen, and the lack of an ABS unit is sorely missed.
  • As the above figure shows, the GO’s brake pedal is designed to be easy to use (less pedal travel) when driving under average city circumstances.

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GO will make maneuvering easy with that short turning radius.

  • The space on the inside of the cabin of the GO is impressive, it feels airy, though the space at the back seat could have been better, knowing that the GO is blessed with a 2,450 mm wheelbase. If you’re over 6-feet tall, this won’t be the most comfortable place for your tall stature.
  • Thanks to the light, yet communicative steering, the GO feels like and involving car to drive. Through its talkative steering, it also manages to tell you that pushing the dynamic envelope around the bends isn’t exactly s bright idea with entry level cars.  

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Shoulder room is good, legroom at the back, not so much.

We were asked to do a fast run, again, in different groups, taking the GO from 0-100 to showcase the car’s acceleration, and then brake hard to stop within a set of cones. The car pulled hard through the first two gears, and before I could go through the entire powerband on the third, I had to perform the braking. Thankfully, the brakes didn’t lock up despite the lack of an ABS system.

The next one was a rather slow run, usually not exceeding 25 km/h over some rough patches to replicate the average Indian road conditions. The car remained level and took the bumps and rough bits well, but I could clearly hear the suspension at work. Road/tyre noise was quite audible, too. But, all this said and done, I came out quite impressed with the Datsun GO. The engineers and designers both seemed to have got their way and the end result isn’t bad. Yes, to keep the price low, there has been some cost-cutting measures employed. But for it’s intended customer (mostly first-time car buyers), the Datsun GO seems to be an great choice.

Wrap-up:

Time to get back on the bus and go back to the presentation room where most of us had left back our cameras and mobile phones. There was a group lunch, post which, it was 2:00 PM and that meant it was time to head to the airport for our (most of us) flight back home.

On the way back to ‘home’, I couldn’t help but think that the economical and cheerful GO had the ‘Follow-me-Home’ (FMH) headlight option which I last found in a BMW 5-series! The GO’s programmable FMH system can keep the headlights on for between 30-120 seconds.

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