Datsun’s entry into India has been challenging to say the least. Its first offering, the Go, was a stripped out version of the Nissan Micra and it has been a struggle for the brand. The heavily stripped-out Go also caused Indians to associate Datsun with ‘budget’ and the crash test controversy didn’t help matters either. The fact is that the Datsun brand has good equity as an affordable brand globally and to set things right the second time around Datsun promises to deliver a more upmarket exterior and interior with the all-new Redigo.
Like the Kwid, the Redigo is based on the same, made for India CMF-A platform and it shares engine, gearbox, suspension and other bits with the Renault. But to differentiate the Redigo from the Kwid, Datsun has gone to great lengths and both on the inside and outside there are no similarities whatsoever. The body is all-new and the dimensions differ too. The Redigo is much more compact as compared to the Kwid – it is 150mm shorter and nearly 20mm narrower. To make most of the small footprint, Datsun has tried to use vertical space as a result it is much taller (73mm to be precise) than the Renault. In terms of design the Datsun has taken a chic approach and it looks angular and urban. The front looks aggressive thanks to the chiselled bumper and the signature Datsun hexagonal grille which blends in well with the angular headlamps. When viewed from the side the sharp crease that runs along the bottom tapers up and blends in with the tail lamps and gives it a sporty stance and helps to mask the tallboy design. The angular tail lamps and the bulging tail-gate complete the well detailed look. Though the Redigo looks fresh, it seems like a regular hatchback and lacks the stand-out character which the Kwid has in spades in the form of the mini-SUV stance.
How is it on the inside?
Thanks to the high mounted seats, getting in and out of the Datsun Redigo is easy. Once inside you are greeted by a modern looking dashboard which is finished in dull grey colour. The swooping design looks nice and the well-defined centre console with the integrated music system looks mature. The rectangular centre vent is quite unique, as it is non-adjustable and flow is always directed to the rear passengers. Although this helps in cooling, you can’t shut it which is quite irritating especially for the front passengers. The high driving position and the low dash gives you a fantastic view and what helps further is the tapering front window-line which help make you feel at home in worst of traffic conditions. But tall drivers will find the seats placed too high and steering too low and as both are non-adjustable you just have to get used to it. What makes matter worse is the short seat travel, so, a six-foot above driver’s knee room is in short supply and the protruding centre console fouls with your left knee too. The thin seats though are quite comfortable with good back support and all the controls fall to hand easily. At the rear, Datsun claims to have class leading space but on our measuring scale it proved otherwise as we got slightly shorter readings than the Renault Kwid. The space though is enough by class standards and the high mounted bench offers good under thigh support and the upright backrest felt comfortable too. The narrow cabin though makes it best for two in the back. In terms of practicality you get as many as nine storage spaces upfront which includes the tiny glovebox, two large bottle holders and the thin door pads. But the rear passengers will feel short-changed as there are absolutely no storage spaces except for the rear parcel tray.
As the Redigo is substantially shorter than the Kwid, Datsun had to compromise boot space too and its volume at 222 litres is well short of the 300 litres offered by the Renault. Apart from the small boot the high loading lip compromises ease of use further.
This car was built with a price in mind and it shows. The exposed metal surface inside the front door pockets, pillars and other places looks crude and lets you know you are sitting in a budget hatch. Quality, fit and finish though decent is not as good as the Kwid either and even in terms of equipment it lags behind.
How does it drive?
The Redigo uses the same 799cc three-pot 53bhp motor from the Kwid, as a result they drive and feel very similar. Refinement levels are more than acceptable for a small motor. At idle you can feel vibrations filter through especially through the steering and gear-lever but things do smoothen out once you are on the move. As soon as you let go of the light clutch you realise that the engine doesn’t feel very peppy and low engine speed responses are mediocre, so this motor needs to be revved a bit to gain momentum. But when not in a hurry, the Redigo has enough verve to satisfy most first-time buyers, as it accelerates smoothly for such a small motor. The gearshifts though, are a bit rubbery especially when shifting from second to third. Out on the highway thanks to tall fourth and fifth gears the Redigo cruises quite well but the motor doesn’t feel well suited for narrow two-lane roads. It gets a bit thrummy when worked hard and the engines lack of relative torque. It means, you have to downshift more often than you would like to. We managed to do some acceleration runs on the Redigo and unsurprisingly it took a similar 17.5 seconds to hundred time as the Kwid.
The Redigo’s low speed ride really impressed us. The long travel suspension and high profile tyres help the Redigo gobble up the biggest of potholes with ease and the suspension doesn’t bottom out easily either. At higher speeds the ride does get bouncy over undulating surfaces but you don’t get thrown around too much. In terms of handling, the main deterrents are the narrow tyres which tend to lose grip quite easily and the numb steering feel. Other than that the Redigo has a reassuring handling and despite the excessive body roll it feels safe and predictable. Although the braking is more than adequate, the pedal feel is wooden and with no ABS, emergency stops can be unnerving.
Should I buy one?
The Redigo, then, has quite a bit on offer especially to the young buyer. The chiselled exterior will appeal to the urban crowd, the cabin has decent space, low speed ride is excellent and the motor feels refined in the city too. Add the best in class 185mm ground clearance and the short 9.46m turning circle, then you get a tiny car which is very well suited to our urban environment. But perhaps these traits are not enough to fully camouflage the Redigo’s weaker aspects. Leading the list here are the exposed metal parts in the cabin which make it look too budget, the driving ergonomics are not the ideal and a brochure-to-brochure comparison will also reveal that the Redigo is down on equipment compared to the Kwid too. The only important element missing from the puzzle is the price which we expect to be around Rs 2.5-3.5 lakh which will undercut the Kwid ever so slightly. This will allow Datsun to play the value card perfectly and hopefully bring the Datsun brand back on the buyer’s radar.