As I sat by the fire, next to the Ganges in Rishikesh, something made me look up. What bounced off my city stricken, sodium lit vision was the sight of a gazillion stars occupying every inch of the dark infinity above. Something inside said, you don’t always need deep pockets to enjoy the richer experiences in life, also reminded me of a car that was parked in the background, a Datsun GO+, India’s first sub-4 meter, compact MPV. Aimed squarely at luring away buyers from entry level hatchbacks, this new Datsun wants to become a 7-seater bait for the budget constrained car buying sharks in our country.
Datsun chose a venue where the Ganga exits the towering Himalayas and enters into the chaotic flat plains of India. The place also seemed ideal, as akin to the Ganga, which is an amalgamation of the Bhagirathi and the Alaknanda by the time it reaches Rishikesh, the GO+ is a concoction of the GO hatchback and the newly extended overhangs, merging together, hoping to quench the thirst for a budget car that can move a family of seven, without the need to dig a bore well that reaches a bank locker.
Design and appearance
At first sight, the GO+ looks like an extended variation of the GO hatchback. Viewed head-on, it is the GO without the plus. Everything upfront is similar to the hatchback, including the diamond shaped grille, the headlights, the creases on the bonnet and even the windscreen. Only when you move sideways would you notice the extended length and the glass area. Surprisingly, although the GO+ claims to be a 7-seater, it stands true to its portrayal as a compact MPV, where the width and the wheelbase of the car are similar to the 5-seater hatchback. At 3995mm, the GO+ is only 210mm longer and 5mm taller than the GO.
What pleases the eye though is that in their endeavour to keep the length below 4 metres to dodge taxes, Datsun hasn’t made a haphazard effort in building a hatchback derived MPV. Post the rear door, the shoulder line takes a slightly upward curve and merges with the flared out tail-lamp, while the roof line tapers down to make the GO+ look rather attractive and cohesively proportionate. The only eyesore being the large gap between the wheel and the arches, courtesy of 13” wheels which fail to fill the void.
At the rear, the tailgate has been infused with a glass area that takes an elliptical curve at the bottom, a Datsun logo taking centre stage just below it. The rear licence plate is placed bang in the middle, flanked by a GO+ logo to the right, but nothing that will tell you which variant have you bought. Tail lamps are similar to the one on the GO hatchback, while the large rear bumper does a good job of hiding the spare wheel that hangs below the car, right behind it. In person, when looked at from the rear, the GO+ sits squat and flat, a refreshing change compared to taller MPV’s.
Engine, Transmission, Performance and Efficiency
Surprise surprise, the GO+ will only be available with a petrol engine. Powering the compact MPV is the same 1.2-litre, 12 valve, DOHC, 3-cylinder engine found on the smaller Datsun. Even power figures are the same, where the motor makes an identical 68 bhp@5000 rpm, coupled with 104 Newton meters of torque at 4000 rpm. Equipped with a counter-balancer to check the imbalance of a three cylinder layout, even with which the engine would wobble at idling in the hatchback, Datsun seems to have found a fix to that and the motor settles in a rather composed idle. They seem to have also tuned it for more grunt at the lower end of the rev range, considering the increased seating capacity and the load that would accompany it.
What has been carried forward though is the same old notchy gearbox. Shifting gears isn’t a greased affair, especially slotting the lever into the lower gates. What that does is spoil the peppy nature of the motor, which otherwise would’ve been a perfect symphony with the light clutch. Coming to the engine itself, for a 1.2-litre powerplant, it is rather sprightly, eager and responsive. Taking off from standstill, one immediately notices the decent amount of torque available in the lower reaches of the rev band, however, what one also appreciates is that as the car picks momentum and the revs cross the 1500 rpm mark, a slight dab on the accelerator is all that is required to propel the GO+ forward.
It is so much fun, that even on a grumpy cold morning, we were enjoying driving an MPV around the hills of Rishikesh. Thanks to the low and mid-range torque, the engine scores high on tractability as it lets you putter around town in lower gears. But this is what it is supposed to do you might say, given that it is more of a budget MPV rather than a sporty hatchback. Now, you aren’t always driving around a car with all the seats occupied, unless you do that for a living. For the times when you are by yourself in the car, the GO+ throws a big surprise. It has a rev-limiter that cuts in at 5100 rpm and once past 3500 clicks on the digital rev counter, the exhaust sounds like a free flow unit, making you want to keep gunning until the limiter cuts in and you eventually have to shift. The 3rd gear is such an amazing tool, you could be doing anything between 30 and 130 kph in the same gear, depending on your mood and priorities. Having said that, the Acceleration should be as strong as the GO hatchback, as the GO+ is only about 30 kilos more than the smaller car. We couldn’t test the car at high speeds, given the twisty nature of roads that surrounded us, but on a rare stretch, we figured the GO+ can cruise at 100kph, the engine spinning at about 2500rpm in 5th gear. Do not be fooled by the cubic capacity of this motor as one doesn’t really need to downshift every time there is an overtaking opportunity. Even with some cargo and four adults onboard, the engine never felt anemic or short on power.
For those concerned about efficiency, the onboard computer would show an optimistic 30kpl, every time the foot went off the gas pedal, however, the real time efficiency kept fluctuating in decimals between the 13 and 15kpl mark. Mind you, this figure was achieved even after driving the car extensively while carrying higher revs in second gear around the twisties.
The GO+ needs if not 15″, atleast 14″ rubber
Tail-lights have been carried over from the GO hatchback
Datsun has done well to extend the GO hatchback without making the additional length look like more of an afterthought
Takes on the rough with confidence
The base two variants get plain upholstery while the top two get this Jacquard fabric
That exhaust sounds like a built-to-cost Akrapovic
When viewed from the rear, the GO+ comes across as an estate rather than an MPV
That is the only moniker at the back, there’s nothing that tells you anything about the variant
Power window switches felt flimsy to use, only the front door gets them though
The lone source of electricity in the GO+
Well spaced out pedals and ample room to move your feet around
Second row head rests are as good as non-existent
You must’ve seen that before
Notice the large gap between the wheel and the arches. The GO+ deserves larger wheels
Instrumentation is basic but doesn’t skimp on information
The GO+ will carry everything to this location for a lazy, Sunday afternoon picnic
Headlamp beam can be adjusted if the load at the back takes it too high
That handbrake has been positioned at a convenient location but it spoils with the left knee
Lone wiper does a good job of sweeping the front screen
Flat benches are back! Both seats recline individually though
Non-adjustable headrest could be an issue for some
Front door can accomodate a large 1-litre or two 500 ml bottles
That motor might not sound as much fun on paper, is fun to drive though
Back to the 80’s
The luxury of manual central locking, reserved only for the top-most variant!
As good as zilch boot space with the 3rd row upright
Clicking our friend while he was in there was a task. Getting in there for him was a similar story
With the third row down
What the third row passengers will see
Ride, Handling and Brakes
Similar to the hatchback, the Datsun Go+ employs a McPherson Strut double pivoted lower arm front suspension and an H-type torsion beam rear setup. The system uses a longer stroke rear damper which responds to uneven surfaces in a quicker manner. It ensures more suspension travel which is supposed to result in a more comfortable ride for the occupants. The manufacturer says this piece of tech has trickled down from their more premium Infiniti brand of cars. Over the broken patches of tarmac around Rishikesh, that piece of technology worked rather well. Where the GO+ neither felt overtly soft or stiffly sprung and struck the right balance to achieve a ride quality that belongs to cars a segment above. Even when we encountered deep craters at decent speeds, the suspension on the GO+ felt only slightly stiff. Which is a good thing, as you don’t really want the car to bottom out whilst carrying additional load.
At speeds, the GO+ remains composed in a straight line without allowing any nervousness creeping into the chassis, even when the surface below gets uneven. The ride quality remains comfortable for back seat occupants too, where one feels as if being ferried in a car that must be rather expensive, until they notice the environment around them.
Around the winding roads where we sampled the GO+, the only fly-in-the-ointment was the 13” Strada rubber. It would squeal and cry for grip even when the car was thrown into a corner at only slightly higher than normal speeds. However, thanks to the suspension setup that finds level ground, the GO+ wouldn’t swing from side to side like a typical MPV when we threw it around bends. It remained comparatively composed, only the backpack on the rear seat swinging happily from left to right and back. The steering is light at lower speeds and builds up some weight as speeds build up, typical of most modern day units. The only problem though, power steering only comes standard with the top most variant of the GO+. When questioned about the logic behind this move, Datsun officials replied that the variants that come without a power steering feel similar to drive as the one that comes with it. The difference only felt at speeds below 8kph, which we feel is when you actually need a power assisted steering.
However, one thing that would make potential owners of this MPV happy is the ridiculously short turning radius of just 4.6mm. Where on a similar turn an Innova required a three pointer, we went only slightly wide and managed to turn the nose around in one go. On the braking front, the GO+ came to a standstill without any drama from speeds of around 80kph. The chassis pointed straight, the wheels locked only slightly and the brake pedal sent back a reassuring feel.
Equipment, Interiors & Safety
Inside the cabin, with the exception of the third row, everything else has been carried over from the GO hatchback. So to start with, the quality of plastics will not astound but remains acceptable. The all plastic steering wheel unit is the same non adjustable unit. We feel the usage of some soft elements on the dial would’ve helped, since we live in a country where at some places you could sweat all year long and the fact that the GO+ comes with an air-conditioner only on the higher two of its four variants. Datsun has tried to place the gear lever and the hand brake ergonomically, making it easily accessible for the driver. However, the hand brake lever fouls with the left knee, especially in the case of taller drivers. Instrumentation is basic, with a large speedo that has markings for recommended gear change which maximizes economy. It is flanked by a digital orange lit display that includes a rev counter, a vertical bar that tells you about fuel levels and a trip computer that calculates instantaneous fuel consumption, average consumption, Distance-to-empty, low fuel warning and a trip meter. All of this can be toggled through a flimsy switch near the speedometer.
The mobile docking station and the aux-in music system is opulence only available on the top most variant, while the glovebox unit continues to act more like a shelf rather than a space where you can keep things away from prying eyes. Power windows are only available for the front doors and that luxury too is reserved for the top most variant along with the grandiosity of manual central locking. The locking mechanism will remind you of your Dad’s Maruti 800 as we aren’t sure if it is still acceptable to provide a pull and push lever next to the window to lock doors. Retro it might be, but an integrated locking mechanism in the door handle is more convenient.
As much as you’d like to believe that the front seat is a bench which can be used to reduce the distance between your pretty co-occupant and you, those seats are actually two separate pieces of cushion which can be adjusted for recline and reach. The driver seat continues to remain scared of heights as it still cannot adjust itself to go higher. Finished in Jacquard upholstery on the top two variants, the front two seats in particular according to Datsun are designed to reduce the stress levels on the human spine, which we agree to an extent as even after driving the car for nearly three hours, we didn’t feel any discomfort. But then we are a young team and none of our bones show any sign of being rickety yet. Having said that, the front seats offer good under thigh support, but there is hardly any side bolstering on the backrest to stop you from sliding around. The integrated head rests carry the built-to-cost flag with pride. On the flipside, the rear seat offers poor under thigh support and with a taller driver sitting ahead, one might feel the lack of leg room. Three people on the rear bench will be an uncomfortable squeeze, while two adults can remain seated in relative ease. The integrated headrests on the rear seat are set too low and are as good as non-existent for tall or even not so tall passengers. It is a serious concern as in an event of an impact, the absence of any support behind the head could cause a serious whiplash injury.
Coming to the highlight of this machine, the third row, which is more like a bench that is at sea level. If you do manage to reach there as an adult after pulling the rear backrest down and tumbling the rear seat, it’d be an experience similar to sitting on the ground with your knees up. We tried spending some time there and it isn’t a comfortable place to be, unless you are a toddler.
We couldn’t ascertain if the air-conditioner does a good job of cooling the increased cabin space enough, as we were at a place where the temperature plummeted to shivering degree celcius in the night. One other thing that Datsun has skimped on is providing any roof mounted lights at the rear, the only source of illumination in the cabin being the one above the internal RVM. The bonnet comes devoid of any damping material, neither does the car manage to shun outside noise to acceptable levels, keeping it quiet inside the cabin. One area where the car lacks is that none of it’s variants come with ABS and Airbags, they are not even there on the options list.
The Datsun GO+ is India’s first compact MPV, which we agree. However, calling it a proper 7-seater will be injustice to the other vehicles who manage to carry those many passengers in relative comfort. What the GO+ can do though is carry 5 adults and two kids when the need arises, or carry 347 litres of luggage while acting as a hatchback. With the third row up, you can anyways only carry 48 litres of nothing behind that child seat. The GO+ will also be only marginally pricier than the GO hatchback, which means we could be looking at a vehicle, prices for which would start near the 3.5 lakh mark, extending till 4.3-4.5 lakh for the top-most variant.
The GO+ is fun to drive, will appeal to logical, accountant minds, and it could be a steal at that low price tag they might launch it at. You could carry your kid and parents along in comfort and make those airport runs without the need to hire a cab. Whilst driving the car we came across a few taxi drivers who swarmed around the car to know if this could be their next investment, however, when they got to know that the GO+ will only come with a petrol motor, their interest fizzled out. The base for the drive event was a campsite by the Ganges in Rishikesh.
As we retired for the day, stepping into our Quechua tent and a sleeping bag on a cold, breezy night. It was a refreshing change compared to the traditional five star locations such events are organized at. In a fluttering tent and cold weather, we realized the power of rudimentary, the magic of basics, and for some, that is all that is needed.
|Engine Type||DOHC 12 Valve 3 Cylinders|
|Fuel System||Electronic Gasoline Injection System|
|Configuration||In-line 3, DOHC|
|Max Power (PS / rpm)||68 / 5,000|
|Max Torque (Nm / rpm)||104 / 4,000|
|Mileage (kmpl)* Company claimed||20.62|
|Overall Length (mm)||3995|
|Overall Width (mm)||1635|
|Overall Height (mm)||1490|
|Front Track (mm)||1440|
|Rear Track (mm)||1445|
|Minimum ground clearance (mm)||170|
|Minimum turning radius (mm)||4.6|
|Luggage Capacity (L)||347 (3rd row folded) 48 (W / 3rdrow seat)|
|Fuel Tank Capacity||35 litres|
|Front||Macpherson strut with suspension member and double pivot lower arm|
|Rear||H-type torsion beam with high performance linear damper|
|Steering||Speed sensitive EPS (T) / Manual (D, D1, A)|
|Size||155 / 70 R13|
Features and Variants:
|Safety & Security||D||D1||A||T|
|Front seat belt: 3 point ELR (Driver + Co-driver||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|2nd row seat belt: 3 point seat belts x 2 (side) centre 2-point lap belt||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Central Locking (Manual)||Yes|
|Clear Tail Lamp||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|High mounted stop lamp||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Radiator Grille (Silver frame)||Yes||Yes|
|Radiator Grille (Chrome frame)||Yes||Yes|
|Body Color Bumpers||Yes||Yes|
|Passenger side outside mirror||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Full wheel cover||Yes|
|Speed sensitive wipers with intermittent and drop wipe function||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Door handle: Black||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Door Handle: Body Color||Yes|
|Back Door Finisher: Black||Yes||Yes|
|Back Door Finisher: Body Color||Yes||Yes|
|Sash Type: Rear Door Edge||Yes||Yes|
|Sash Tape: Center Pillar||Yes|
|Rear assist grips||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Connected front seats||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Silver finish on AC vents||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Three spoke steering wheel||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|B-pillar full trims||Yes|
|Spinal support seat (Front)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Seat upholstery Fabric: Plain||Yes||Yes|
|Seat upholstery Fabric: Jacquard||Yes||Yes|
|Seat Integrated headrests (Front + 2ndrow)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Front seats slide and recline||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Third row seating||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Second row tumble down seat||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Door armrest (Front)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Ergonomically located parking brake and gear shift lever||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Bottle Holders (Front doors)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Passenger side storage tray||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Driver side storage tray & ticket holder||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Interior room lamp||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Speaker grille (Front doors)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Door map pockets||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Comfort & Convenience|
|Distance to Empty||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Average fuel economy||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Instantaneous fuel economy||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Low fuel warning||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Electronic fuel gauge||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Follow me home headlamps||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Gear shift guide (Markings)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Remote fuel lid opener||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Remote tail gate opener||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Air-conditioner with filter||Yes||Yes|
|Heater + Blower||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Speed Sensitive Electronic power steering||Yes|
|Power Windows: Front||Yes|
|Mobile Docking Station with amplifier||Yes|
|USB Port (Charging only)||Yes|
|Speakers: Front doors||Yes|
|Accessory Socket 12 v||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Second row: Tumble Down||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Third row seat: Bench Folding||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|