What is it?
Automatic hatchbacks are all the rage in our market, from the run-of-the-mill models like the Nano GenX and the Kwid AMT to the highly sophisticated Polo GT TSI; Indians are flocking to the convenience that comes with an automatic small car. Looking to tap in and gain some traction in this up-and-coming segment, Datsun has now introduced the redi-GO AMT which is an automated-manual version of the standard 1-litre model.
Despite offering two engine options and special edition versions along the line, Datsun has struggled to sell the redi-GO, with sales number dwindling by the month and hitting an all-time low of 1,750 units in December 2017. Now with the AMT version added to its stable, the Japanese carmaker is looking to make an impact at the budget end of the automatic hatchback segment.
For some, the redi-GO AMT may feel like a totally different car to drive compared to the manual, however, there are no tell-tale signs to differentiate it from the rest of the range. In fact, it retains that angular, tall boy design and that bold front-end including the hexagonal grille, curvaceous profile and the lean taillights contribute to make the redi-GO stand out in a sea of budget hatchbacks. All in all, the design is pretty cohesive while the compact dimensions help keep the redi-GO’s footprint as wee bit as its name.
How is it on the inside?
Behind the wheel of the redi-GO AMT, it’s mostly basic, clean and functional. The lack of buttons on the dashboard and multilayer upholstery remind you that you are driving an entry-level car but all in all, it’s not a bad place to be. For starters, despite the pocket-size exterior, the cabin is more spacious than what one would expect. Also, getting in and out of it is effortless thanks to the high stance and the fairly large glass area (for a small car) aids visibility all around.
Appearance wise, the dashboard layout is low-key, but the plastics are tough and hard-wearing. The redi-GO has a handful of funky design touches like the unique rectangular centre air vent and the blue instrument panel but neither can make up for the overall mediocre plastic quality. In comparison, the Alto 800 or even the Kwid offer more tactile plastics. That said, the redi-GO is well thought out at places – the lower half of the dash, for instance, gets a handy exposed storage bin to store loose items.
As one would expect in a car of this segment, there is no height adjustment for the steering column or the driver’s seat which means finding the ideal driving posture is bit of a task. Also, we noticed that the lower half of the centre console eats into the foot well, ultimately fouling with the driver’s knee.
That being said, the redi-GO scores well as we move onto the rear – the high mounted bench offers good under thigh support and the upright backrest feels comfortable too. Knee and head room are better than both the Alto K10 and the Eon. The Datsun also has a flat bench, which doesn’t do much favour when it comes to lateral support but the upside here is that it becomes easier to accommodate three occupants across. As for the features, the list is hardly comprehensive with standard features including a new-for-2018 Bluetooth audio system, body coloured bumpers, piano black finish for the centre console, fabric seats, central locking, MP3 and front power windows. There’s also daytime running lamps and a driver airbag for the top-spec trim.
How does it drive?
The redi-GO can be had in either 800cc or 1-litre form. This new AMT version, however, is exclusive to the bigger 1-litre model which makes 68bhp of power and 91Nm of torque from its 999cc, three-cylinder motor. Now these figures may sound like you would need to push the Datsun hard to get anywhere, but in reality it doesn’t take that much effort to get up to speed although you won’t be going anywhere rapidly.
We have experienced the 1-litre motor with the manual gearbox-equipped redi-GO and its business as usual in this car. It’s a willing little unit, one that revs cleanly from about 2,500rpm with surprising amount of gusto. Being a three-cylinder unit, this engine does vibrate at idle but the redi-GO feels right at home once you are on the move and doing city speeds. As for the highlight i.e. the AMT gearbox, it’s a bit indecisive at times, notably in stop and go traffic. The shift quality is fairly smooth for what is basically a manual gearbox with an automated clutch. That said, the gear changes aren’t as crisp as a conventional auto, especially when downshifting, but most owners wouldn’t mind it one bit and we would recommend the AMT over the manual for city driving. Also, what comes as a distinct advantage over the Kwid AMT is the fact that you can switch to manual mode for better control over gear changes.
The redi-GO AMT is made purely for inner city driving and in that regard it’s got a lot to offer. Despite the rudimentary gearbox, it does well when it comes to keeping up with traffic and when you are not working it hard, the drivetrain is refined and unobtrusive. However, things aren’t as effortless as you up the pace. On the highway, the motor gets vocal at normal cruising speeds. Sure, you can easily maintain speeds of up to 100kmph all day long but you will have to mash the throttle when overtaking, especially with all the seats occupied.
As we have concluded in our previous tests of the redi-GO, the ride quality is one of the key highlights of this car. For a budget hatch, it tackles bad roads with ease thanks to the long travel suspension and the high profile tyres absorbing the bumps and potholes. Overall, the ride is marginally on the stiffer side but it’s no deal breaker. At higher speeds, the softly sprung setup results in more vertical movement than what one would expect and there’s some notable road noise from the suspension and wheels over rough surfaces.
Should I buy one?
The redi-GO AMT is not a bad car in any way. Unfortunately, it’s just bettered in several areas by its rivals. If you are after low cost of ownership and hassle-free service network, the Maruti Alto AMT is a better option. For rugged looks and more features, you are better off with the Renault Kwid and if you want something upmarket, the Tata Tiago AMT is a good pick. The redi-GO though really shines when it comes to space and driving convenience. Sure, it’s low-grade cabin and lack of features are sore points but there’s little doubt this automatic version is a superior choice for budget car buyers compared to the standard 1-litre model.
Where does it fit in?
The Datsun redi-GO AMT competes in the entry-level automatic small car segment, sharing showroom space with the likes of Renault Kwid AMT, Maruti Alto AMT and the Tata Nano GenX.
Pictures by Kapil Angane
Click here for our comprehensive road test of the Datsun redi-GO
Click here to read our comparison test between the redi-GO and the Kwid