It would be really difficult for any car manufacturer to find a market as complex, diversified, and difficult to demystify as India. From geographical differences to cultural miscellany to linguistic variations to a dozen other things – the customer in this part of the world is just too intricate to define generally. And that’s exactly why you have some really unique things happening here. VW struggles with its products’ positioning, as Skoda, globally considered a relatively ‘lower-spec’ brand is a ‘premium’ nameplate here and is already priced high. Nissan, on the other hand, even after having come up with the high on value Micra Active, feels the need to launch Datsun to deliver cars which are low on cost and high on value. The Datsun Go hatchback is the first product from the resurrected brand which aims at the high volume small car segment, and has the hot selling Alto, Eon and i10 cars of the world within its crosshairs. Here, in this global first Datsun Go review, we’ll try to figure the new elements and features that the Go brings to the table, and see whether it really has to goods to get the rulers of the entry level hatchback segment get worried.
Datsun Go Design and Appearance
Nissan’s prowess in automotive design is absolutely unquestioned, and the brand has been delivering iconic cars generation after generation for ages now. Being an in-house brand, Datsun benefits from Nissan’s expertise in automotive design. Tight lines, squat stance and an athletic, peppy appeal radiate from the Go’s exterior. It’s a well-proportioned, balanced design which doesn’t suffer the visual feebleness of the new Alto 800 or the disproportionate fenders of the Eon.
Good proportions, liberal width, tight lines and an aggressive, diamond shaped hexagonal grille are the hallmarks of the Go’s exterior design. Whether or not someone agrees, that balanced, proportionate sporty exterior is one of Go’s biggest virtues. Look keenly at that diamond shaped black honeycomb mesh grille, and together with the chiseled bonnet merging into that big bumper, it looks like a wolf’s snout, especially when viewed front on.
In a manner reminiscent of the Micra, the frontal shut line of the bonnet doesn’t merge with the radiator grille. The space between the two is filled by the massive plastic bumper instead. The black honeycomb mesh grille on the GO gets the privilege of bearing the big Datsun logo for the first time ever after the brand’s reincarnation. The gap between the bonnet and the bumper is a deliberate design statement, ala Micra and Audi TT – and also works as a flexible space buffer to accommodate minor bumps.
The angular, swept back headlamps are an extremely neat, uncluttered design and appear to be in perfect harmony with the design theme of the car. Blinkers are integrated on the inside of the lamp housings. The flared lower portion of the front bumper, along with the aggressive central air inlet helps lend a bit more purpose to the face.
The athletic proportions of the Go appear even more pronounced in profile. Unlike most of the new tall designs with small bonnets, this one has a conventional long bonnet and a low roofline for a dynamic look. The sharply forward sloping rear windscreen, along with a low roofline, a long bonnet, tight shoulder lines, pronounced haunches and small overhangs endow the Go a lively, energetic character.
We love the way Datsun has added some additional meat to the haunches of this car, mingling neatly with the tail lights. In profile the Go looks like a hunkered down, ready for action hatch. Add a pronounced protruding roof spoiler and a set of roof rails, and the Datsun Go would undoubtedly be the sportiest looking machine in its segment. I somehow get an unappeasable desire to do this car up, and make it look racier, every time I look at it.
The design at the rear is rather simplistic. In keeping with the front theme, the size of the bumper at the rear is quite huge too as compared with other cars in the segment. The wraparound tail-lamps are a simple design – not as striking as the front lights, but not out of place either. The rear hatch door has a high loading lip and bears the Datsun logo in a mildly elevated trough shape chiseled surface just below the rear windscreen. There is also an additional brake light within the rear windscreen to complement the tail-lamps
In all, we don’t have any qualms about the design of the Go, which is easily the sportiest and most well-proportioned looking hatchback within its price segment. If anything, we don’t like the skinny wheels which somewhat distort the otherwise well balanced appearance of this new hatchback. The gap between the big wheel arches and the small 13 inch wheels also looks quite pronounced. Panel gaps are slightly wider than found on more premium vehicles such as the Maruti Suzuki Swift or the Hyundai i20, but they are consistent and quality of the paint is extremely good too.
Parent Nissan has ensured that the first product from the Datsun stable for India is a nice design. The Datsun Go, for the price target should appeal a lot to the customers by virtue of its styling cues.
Datsun Go Engine, Transmission and performance
The Datsun Go is powered a three-pot 1.2 liter petrol unit which also propels the Micra Active. Although armed with a counter-balancer to tackle the inherent imbalance of a three cylinder layout, the engine remains quite wobbly at idling – the vibes translate through the body of the car. The unit gets appreciably smooth as the rev needle moves upwards of 1500 rpm though. It’s the same engine that powers the Micra Active, albeit in a different state of tune. The engineers at Nissan-Datsun have worked extensively to enhance the low to mid rev response and fuel efficiency aspect of the powerplant.
On the move, the engine is surprisingly responsive and torquey at low to mid revs. We were pleasantly surprised with the eagerness exhibited by the engine at the lightest dab of the right pedal in city traffic. Unlike the smaller 800cc and 1000cc engine units offered by the competition, this one displacing more volume (1198cc), has more grunt at the bottom end, thus making for a very comforting city runabout. Thanks to all that torque at the bottom, the fuel efficiency within the city should also be one of the strong points of the car. ARAI has given the Datsun Go a 20.1 kmpl rating. We believe that a 15 kmpl figure shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve within the city, with a light foot.
The three pot engine on the Datsun Go is mated to a five speed manual gearbox, the shifter unit for which juts out from the dash like the Hyundai i10 and the recently introduced Maruti Suzuki Celerio. This has been done, essentially to make space for the first of its kind front bench seat meant to enhance the feeling of space and airiness. The five speeder unit isn’t butter smooth in operation, but has a reassuring ‘clicky’ feel to it. There is a slight bit of notchiness to this box, though there is no rubberiness at all. The gear knob falls easily to hand and the shifts happen in a reassuring, precise manner. No false neutrals or that uncertain springy feeling. Third gear is slightly on the taller side when compared to the second, but the torquey nature of the engine still makes the Go pull comfortably from at low speeds.
The Datsun Go, even after being a low cost product, features an electronic accelerator and a hydraulic clutch for consistent, progressive and light feel from the pedals. The responsive engine, along with the light kerb weight of the car makes the Datsun Go a peppy machine to drive around the city. Response from the throttle is crisp and the car doesn’t splutter or show resistance to move even at a low 1200 rpm in third gear with three aboard.
Even on the highway, at higher speeds, the Go feels comfortable and drives like a car that belongs to a segment above the one it represents. The engine which is vibey during idling, feels much more refined between the 2000-3500 rpm band, after which it begins emanating its droning thrum. We would have expected the three pot motor to make a sporty noise closer to redline, but it’s quite monotonous. We’d say it’s more noise than music to the ears of a petrol head. The Go has the low and mid range performance as one of its biggest strengths. However, its engine isn’t keen to rev to the moon and back in a fashion typical of Japanese units.
Cruising above 100 kays in 4th or 5th gear is a breeze, and overtaking without having to downshift is no big deal either. As mentioned, the Go feels like a car from a segment above as regards performance, and offers confident thrust across gears and revs to make for a hassle free, reassuring drive both in city and on the highway. Datsun is claiming a 0-100 km/h sprint time of 13.5 seconds. Realistically, the Go shouldn’t find it difficult to do it in a shade over 14 seconds, which is pretty quick for a low cost car. Top speed can be stretched to nigh 160 kmph, though the Go has to make some effort to build pace beyond 140kmph.
Another very interesting aspect of the Datsun Go is its exhaust sound. In all honesty, we have not heard a better exhaust note on any mainstream hatchback currently on sale in India. As the revs build, the deep, sonorous exhaust would bring a wide smile on your face if you are a real petrolhead. It sounds like a free-flow unit and comes as an extremely pleasant surprise on a budget car.
Just like the exterior design, the engine-geabox combo and performance of the Go should turn out to be a big USP for the car. The engine is not the quietest units around, but it’s nothing worth complaining either. Strong low and mid-range performance, along with a good top speed makes a Go a competent car for both city and highway.
Datsun Go Cabin Quality and Space
The Go features a two tone grey-black theme inside the cabin. Ample elements from the Micra / Active parts bin have been put to use here – and using components from a car belonging to a segment above can never be a bad thing. A/C vents, door handles and wiper / light stalks clearly remind you of the Micra. The grey colored three spoke steering wheel looks decent and is quite nice to hold too for an all plastic unit. While the steering unit, with all its angular creases in the lower portion manages to look nice, we wish some contrasting highlights / inserts were used here. A silver, or brushed aluminium insert on the steering wheel and a few other places within the cabin would really have raised the aspiration quotient of the cabin a few notches. The quality of plastics and the tactility of buttons, though not of a very high quality, is perfectly acceptable for the segment. The dock for the cell phone on the center console, however, has a joystick-like movable mount. It feels rather flimsy – we hope it’s been tested enough for durability.
The seats are all fabric and are available in two trims – plain and jacquard. Our test car featured the Jacquard trim. The rear window glasses go down into the door by up to 95%. The metal panels have been covered well with fabric and other materials inside the cabin, except for the boot area, where the painted metal sheet is amply visible.
Knowing the segment that the Go represents, the new car just blows you away with the space made available for the passengers and for the luggage. To give you an idea, the wheelbase of the car at 2450mm is longer than the Maruti Suzuki Swift. Its boot space, at 265 liters is a full 60 liters more than the Swift’s 205 liters, and just 30 liters short of the cavernous 295 liter boot space of the Hyundai i20. The overall length and width of the car is slightly less than the Swift, but the difference is very less.
The front bench seat does project a feeling of increased elbow and shoulder room, but loses the opportunity to give the front passengers a couple of cup / bottle holders or a cubbyhole to put wallet or mobile. Unlike what you may like to think, the front seats are not unified, and are independently adjustable for fore and aft movement and recline angle. The gear shifter unit and the handbrake have been shifted to the dashboard to facilitate the integrated front seating.
There is a big recess over the dashboard on the left hand side to keep stuff. The front door pockets have space for a big bottle (even bigger than 1 liter) and an integrated recess for documents – though it’s not as wide as the door pockets in some of the other cars. In addition there is also a small crevice in the door armrest which can accommodate a small wallet.
The glovebox on front passenger’s side is an open unit with no lid. This unit has a sloping interior shape towards the bonnet and a raised lip to ensure than nothing falls off it. There are perforations on the far end of the crevice which for once made us think that it’s a chilled unit. However, on enquiring the product development team, we realized that the holes are required for being able to mould the inside of the glovebox in the requisite shape. While a closed glove box is more preferable, the Go’s glove box offers an advantage of its own. Its unique shape and smaller size allows more knee-room for the front passenger. While the glove boxes and the storage compartments on some other models strike with knees, the Go’s front passenger gets ample knee room even with the seat moved relatively towards the front.
There are two more storage spaces to the right of the steering wheel. These openings are decent sized (the bottom unit is much bigger than the top one) and can be utilized for storing a variety of wallet or cell phone sized items, toll tickets or the odd bunch of keys.
Front seats feature slim backrests to maximize the space for back benchers. Headrests are integrated in the seat like on the Hyundai i10. Even with their not so premium looking design and less width, both the front seats are quite comfortable with good thigh support and a special design to offer extra support to the lower back. Datsun engineers have paid special emphasis on ensuring that the lower back remains unstressed even during long drives, and have shaped the lower portion of the seat uniquely to attain that. The positive result is quite evident, and the seats do come across as extremely comfortable as regards back support
The space on the backseat is not as astonishing as it is at the front. With an average heighted (5’10”) driver at the wheel, an equally tall passenger behind him wouldn’t find the knee-room ‘liberal’ to say the least. Leg space becomes a bit of an issue with tall passengers, but the Go isn’t cramped either. The rear seat squab is generous and offers good thigh support. The headrest for the backseat, however is a foam unit with no rigid support and tends to get squashed when you rest your head over it. We cannot be very sure how long the rear headrest will retain its shape for if used regularly. Head room is liberal though, and the Datsun go wouldn’t have any problem accommodating tall passengers in the backseat. The width of the car is impressive too for the class, and the Datsun Go can actually accommodate three adults in its backseat albeit with a bit of squeeze.
The rear door doesn’t have any pockets or bottle holders like the front units. The armrest on the rear door, though, does have a small recess to store the odd small-sized cell phone.
As mentioned above, boot space is class leading and the Datsun would wow most of the customers by virtue of the acreage it offers in its luggage compartment. At 265 liters, the boot space on small cars doesn’t get any bigger than this. There is no parcel tray though, so you’ll have to find an alternative place to store you soft tissue box.
After design and engine performance, cabin space is the third straight parameter where the Datsun Go hits the bulls-eye. It’s bigger on the inside than any of its possible current competitors. While the interior, especially the seats may not appear to be very premium, the comfort offered is not compromised. Our biggest grouse would be the headrest of the rear seat, which could have done with some stiffening to provide good, sustained support. While there seems to be a chance of them deforming over a long period of time – insufficient support also exposes the passengers to the risk of a serious whiplash injury in case of a rear collision.
Apart from that one little thing, the target customer of the Datsun Go would absolutely adore it for the playground it offers inside.
Datsun Go Features and Convenience
It’s easy to think that the Datsun Go is stripped of features as its been built to a price, but that’s not entirely true. In spite of targeting a sub 4 lakh rupee price tag (which may be OTR for the top end T variant, if some sources are to be believed), some of the features on the Go really amaze you. The instrument cluster, for example, though a simplistic unit, still features a digital tachometer and more importantly an MID, which delivers a sea of information.
Twin trip-meters, odometer, average and instantaneous fuel efficiency and distance to dry – all the data is available at the push of a button. The car also features follow me home headlamps, which stay turned on for a preset time to illuminate your way leading to the door of your house. You can pull the stalk once to keep the headlamps on for 30 seconds, every subsequent pull will add 30 seconds and the lamps can be programmed to stay on for a maximum of two minutes,. Talking of headlamps, Datsun is claiming class leading brightness and illumination from the Go’s hexagonal headlamp reflectors and halogen lamps.
There is no CD player on the Datsun Go, which we hear will be available as an accessory. However, there is a pod mount where you generally have your audio unit. Now, you can place your smartphone on this mount and use it as a navigation device. Also, you can connect the system to the Aux-in socket on the center console to play music via the basic twin speaker system which comes as standard. It’s an average sounding unit, and prone to distortion as you increase the volume. There is a volume contol knob too, along with a power on-off button. There is a USB socket peeping out of the audio unit, but this one doesn’t play any music, and is meant only to charge your electronic devices. There is also a 12V power socket in the center console.
The conventional A/C controls are simple to use, with a black plastic background, silver finish knobs and white markings. The weather in Hyderabad during our test drive was surprisingly cool and pleasant with intermittent rains, and with such favorable conditions around, the A/C worked just fine. We’ll have to test this car on another, hot day to pass a more authoritative judgment on its A/C unit. However, within the prevalent not so challenging conditions, it performed well.
The front windscreen wiper is a single blade unit. It features variable speed intermittent wipe action, with a smart, speed sensitive wipe stroke frequency. This means that the wiper strokes get more frequent as the speed builds up, and consequently the intensity of the raindrops hitting the screen increases.
There is no ABS or airbags on offer, not even as an option. Datsun, however, are offering ventilated (not solid) discs up front to deliver a more robust braking performance. Things like driver seat height adjustment or steering mounted audio controls are absent, and to be honest, we never expected those features in this category of cars. However, there isn’t a rear windscreen washer / wiper, or defogger – these are things which we believe are very important for visibility and should have been included as an option.
A few other, more serious gripes would include the omission of a day/night dimming inside rear view mirror and ORVMs which are not internally adjustable. We honestly think that those changes would not add much to the cost of the car, but would add dramatically to its functionality. We gave our feedback regarding the aforementioned omissions to the Datsun product development team, and they acknowledged the oversight, promising that they will look into adding these features to the car in the coming times.
Datsun Go comes with remote release levers for fuel lid, as well as boot-lid. The interesting thing here, however is that the boot-lid cannot be opened from outside with a key. You either have to use the boot release lever near the driver, or a teeny lever on the inside of the hatch to manually release the lock.
The rear seat can be tumbled down to increase the loading capacity. No split seats here though – tumbling the seats down would mean that only two passengers can travel in the front seat. Oh wait – this one’s got a bench seat, so you could possibly squeeze the third one in too. Seats belts, however, are available only for two front passengers – third passenger has neither been provisioned for, nor is advisable on the front seat.
At the back seat, the seat belts are not self retracting type. Now this is another omission, which we think takes cost cutting to another extreme. One may argue that no one wears a seat belt on the backseat in India, but then again, that’s a notion which needs to be changed, not promoted. You have to manually tighten/adjust the seat belt to ensure that there’s no slack left to crush your ribs in case of a collision.
In essence, the Datsun Go is rather basic as regards features and equipment. While the MID and ventilated discs are surprise inclusions, we hope and wish Datsun introduces some other important features such as day/night mirrors, rear wash/wipe and internally adjustable ORVMs as soon as possible.
Datsun Go Ride and Handling
The Datsun Go features a McPherson Strut double pivoted lower arm front suspension and an H-type torsion beam rear suspension. The company has used a longer stroke rear damper to ensure more suspension travel and comfort for the passengers. The dampers used on the Datsun Go rear suspension are special ‘linear’ dampers with quicker response to unevenness. This is a technology which apparently has trickled down from the Infiniti brand of luxury cars owned by Nissan. The technology allows the dampers to generate the damping forces more appropriately than traditional dampers, allowing for a more ‘settled’ ride even over rough surfaces.
Whatever fancy names Nissan-Datsun may want to give to the new damping tech, we know only one thing – it works wonderfully well in the real world. Throughout our drive, which included some long sessions on the pristine outer ring road of Hyderabad and the crowded and broken inner streets of the city, the car never felt unsettled, wobbly or thudding.
At 769kg, the Datsun Go, even with its relatively big size, is a light car. With the rather firmly sprung suspension, the car does feel a tad stiff at low speeds, especially with only one occupant on board. The ride, however, settles progressively as the car gets loaded. With three on board, the Datsun Go showed great poise even when we drove it deliberately faster than required over some of those small, but steeply raked speed breakers and deeper potholes.
Backseat comfort too was surprisingly good, with the ride feeling like that of a bigger car. Even after being light and not so well appointed or equipped from the inside, the Datsun Go feels sturdy and like a car from a segment above. It terms of ride quality it doesn’t have any of the flimsiness that the entry level hatchbacks (Etios as a reference point) exhibits. It feels well built, and takes whatever torments Indian roads throw at it with confidence.
With a turning radius of 4.6 meters, the Datsun Go is a very maneuverable car. The energy saving electric power steering which is appreciably light at low speeds, firms up nicely and offers great feedback and precision as the speed builds up. Except for a slight bit of dead feel dead straight, the steering of the Datsun Go is quite direct, precise and involving – we loved the way it’s tuned and enjoyed using it across the vehicle’s speed range.
On the fantastic outer ring road of Hyderabad, we let the Datsun Go stretch its legs, and it delighted us with its composure and poise even at higher speeds. There was no nervousness or wobbliness here, which is generally associated with most small cars and some big hatchbacks as well. The Datsun Go holds its line with confidence while going straight, even in the upper extreme of its speed range. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a winding road to test the handling aspect of the Go to the limit, but to their credit the Indonesian Strada 155/70 – R13 tyres never lost traction or squealed. The only wailing we heard from the tyres was when we tested the car for hard braking performance, dropping the anchors at 80 km/h. The Datsun Go will also see similar sized Apollo rubber as alternative tyres on some batches.
The suspension and the dampers have been tuned well enough to lend this big-small hatchback the capability to attain composure quickly after getting overly loaded on one side. On performing the double lane change maneuver at about 80km/h, while the Datsun Go did get loaded to one side, it regained its poise almost immediately. The dampers don’t perform an unsettled pogo dance after being loaded to one side, like on some other cars – they come back to their original position rather quickly, making the Go a surprisingly composed vehicle.
There is no faulting the ride and handling of the Go. It drives like a much bigger car, and is fairly capable of handling whatever the power delivered by the engine may throw at it. We may have preferred slightly wider tyres from an academic standpoint, but in all honesty we did not find the 155/70 rubber lacking in terms of grip.
In all honesty, we are quite blown by the Datsun Go. It’s really a very well designed, well engineered and well packaged product. It’s a striking, energetic design, it’s got loads of space inside and it drives like a dream for its segment. Our only problem is that some of the important basic equipment is missing, but it’s not a deal breaker. Moreover, Datsun is already working on addressing these needs.
For a first time entrant in the Indian market, Datsun must be liberally congratulated for having come up with a product which is extremely well suited to the target customer.
The Datsun Go, as we hear (not official) will be available in three treims – D, A and T. The top spec, T trim that we drove is rumored to cost less than 4 lakh rupees OTR when launched. If that happens, the Datsun Go, with its size, design, space and powertrain will represent absolutely unmatched value for the first time car buyer. It seriously has the goods to get the rulers of the small car segment very, very worried.
Datsun Go Prices (ex-showroom)
- Datsun Go D INR 3.25 lakh
- Datsun GO D1 INR 3.28 lakh
- Datsun GO A INR 3.61 lakh
- Datsun GO T INR 3.86 lakh
Datsun Go will be available in 4 colours – Red, Light Blue, Silver and White
Datsun Go will come with a 2 year, unlimited kilometers warranty
Datsun Go Tech Specs
- Engine: 1198cc, three cylinder, DOHC, petrol
- Power: 68bhp @ 5000 rpm
- Torque: 104 Nm @ 4000 rpm
- Fuel efficiency – ARAI: 20.6 kmpl
- Fuel Tank: 35 liter
- Boot Space: 265 liter
- Wheelbase: 2450mm
- Length x width x height: 3785 x 1635 x 1485 mm
Datsun Go Image Gallery