Nissan uses a very interesting strategy to market its cars. Apart from the cars sold directly with its badge, the Japanese carmaker has dedicated brands catering to different needs. Infiniti builds luxury cars for customers mainly in North American markets and Nismo keeps motorheads happy with performance versions of Nissan cars. Now that the sales focus is shifting to developing markets, Nissan is introducing yet another brand, actually resurrecting an old brand, Datsun, which will concentrate on selling budget cars. Datsun is starting operations with India and since we are primarily a small car market, their first model is the entry-level hatchback, the GO.
Looks & Styling
The Datsun GO looks pleasing. It is not radical like the Eon, but the styling has been given enough attention to make it look modern. It is based on the same platform as the Micra, but the designers have taken care that they don’t look similar from any angle.
The front is dominated by the hexagonal grille – a feature that is becoming too common on modern day cars. This one, though, is small and has nice chrome surrounds. The creases on the bonnet are bold and the bumper is well sculpted (especially for the entry-level model). The side profile is relatively sedate with the only highlight being the well-defined wheel arches. The black wing mirrors and similar black treatment for windows look nice, smartly hiding the fact that it is basically a cost cutting measure. The rear design is clean and simple and without any unnecessary badging.
In the entry-level segment, where the GO will compete, the looks is not the primary concern – had it been the case, Maruti would never have managed to sell half its products. It is the value-for-money packaging that matters the most, but then again the GO makes a strong case for itself in the looks and styling department.
With the length and width of close to 3.8 meters and 1.6 meters respectively, the GO is significantly bigger than the competition. In fact, talking specifically about these proportions the GO is larger than the Wagon R and the i10.
Interiors & Features
Let’s continue to talk about the dimensions, and you will find that the wheelbase of the GO is once again more than its competition. That means it has more cabin space, especially for the passengers sitting on the rear bench. Actually even the front seats are a little benchlike, with the gearlever pushed ahead to look like it is part of the dashboard and the handbrake lever being old-school pull and twist type, creating extra space between the front seats. Now Datsun literature says that the space between the driver and passenger is for utility and not to seat anyone, but we are in India and I am reasonably certain that it will be used as an extra seat, which is a safety issue and that is why I am against it.
The light coloured interiors make the cabin look even more spacious and the fit and finish is quite neat. However, it is evident that it is put together under strict budget constraints; the plastic is hard and the features list is a bit of an issue. The on-board stereo system has an AUX input. It gets an innovative built-in mobile holder and a USB port for charging, but that will not play music. Similarly, the driver-side door does not have power window controls of the passenger window, the cabin mirror does not have a dimmer and the glovebox does not get a lid – an error that was made and rectified with the Evalia.
The instrument cluster on the other side provides all the required information. It has a digital tachometer, tripmeter, distance to empty and shows average and instantaneous fuel consumption. The follow-me home headlamps is a segment-first feature on the top-end variant of the Datsun GO. The boot at 265 litres is very big while the Suzuki Swift has 205 litres of boot space. It is enough to accommodate luggage of five for a short weekend trip and after folding the rear bench sufficient to carry luggage of two even for long holidays.
The GO is powered by the same 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine from the Micra, but detuned a bit for efficiency. It is good to deliver 67bhp – that may not be a lot but with 104Nm of torque, it is once again a lot better than the output of the 800cc units used by the competition. It gets to 100kph in less than 14 seconds and will stay there for as long as you want.
On the flip side, the engine is quite harsh at idling, only after it crosses 1,500rpm does it start feeling smoother. The red line is at 5,000rpm and it pulls cleanly in all gears, comfortably managing a speed of around 140kph with three passengers and their luggage. The gearbox is very notchy – the throw is short and initially it takes a bit of effort and concentration to shift gears.
The power steering is light and city drives are a cakewalk, it also weighs up a bit on the highways but there is some amount of play at high speeds. We went over a few speed bumps and through some potholes in Hyderabad city and I really liked the ride quality – it absorbs bumps nicely, although the suspension thud percolates into the cabin. That brings us to the NVH levels, Datsun has built this car to a budget and evidently there has been some amount of cost cutting even in soundproofing and insulation. The prime time drive through the city is going to be a little noisy, even when the windows are rolled up. The handling is ok – the 13-inch tyres start squealing the moment you try and push it through corners, but there is only so much that you can expect from a car in this segment.
The Datsun GO is a big car and that is its primary USP in the segment. The styling is conservative, efficiency is on par with the competition and the features list is not too bad to be a deal breaker. So all in all Datsun has managed to make a car that objectively outdoes the competition on all the important factors. However, building a good car and managing to sell in substantial numbers are two completely different issues – especially when the direct competitors are Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai.
I think the easy part is done, the real test for Datsun begins now. The pricing will be crucial, we know the top-end trim will be priced under Rs 3.8 lakh and that is an incredible price looking at the size of the car. Also Datsun will have to work on building goodwill and inspire confidence in first-time buyers, who would contribute the most to their sales.
Purely looking at the product, I will definitely recommend the Datsun GO to first-time buyers, but factors like after-sales service and ownership cost might play on the minds of the prospective customers. So thumbs up for a solid product, but only time will tell if the GO will get the desired results for Datsun.
Datsun GO First Drive Video Review