Spacious interiors, easy to drive and reasonably priced too. Ouseph Chacko on the much-awaited Datsun Go that is being launched today

Nissan’s budget brand Datsun is ready to launch its first product in nearly 32 years, the Go hatchback, today. Like any budget segment offering, this little car has been eagerly anticipated, considering the carmaker’s promise of a sub-Rs. 4 lakh price tag. We managed to get behind the wheel of the Go days before it is launched and this is what we thought.

It is a good looking car — the diamond-shaped grille, the angular, peeled-back headlamps and its attractive lines do have appeal, and it’s clear that the designers have tried hard to keep it from looking too basic.

Now, it’s only the skinny 155/70 R13 tyres that make the Go look grossly under-tyred in those huge wheel arches. Under the hood is a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol motor that’s similar to the one in the Nissan Micra Active. It’s the car’s light kerb weight that makes it such a peppy performer. It responds to light taps on the throttle eagerly and is happy pulling away from low engine speeds in high gear. The mid-range is strong and it’s only when you get to around 4,000rpm that the engine tends to get thrummy. The responsive nature of the engine makes it easy to drive around the city. The five-speed manual is also light (if a bit notchy, especially shifting to first and second) and the clutch is progressive enough.

Push the engine hard and it will easily propel the Datsun Go to triple-digit speeds. Our testing equipment shows that it will get from rest to 100kph in a reasonably quick 15sec and you can easily cruise at those speeds with minimum fuss.

The downsides? Well, there’s a bit of vibration from the three-cylinder engine at idle, but that’s it. It smoothens out when you rev it, and also quiets down when you are cruising. 

Around town, the ride is quite supple although there is a bit of underlying firmness. Bigger bumps thump through but, having said that, it’s still got that big-car feel in the way it tackles bad roads. An issue we had, however, was with the suspension and the road noise that filters into the cabin, especially on coarse surfaces. Datsun, in the interests of cutting costs, hasn’t provided any sound absorbing cladding in the wheel wells and this allows quite a bit of noise to get through to the cabin.

The power steering is light, and it feels very manageable. Helping you along is the great visibility and the engine’s responsive nature.

It doesn’t like to be pushed hard — around corners, the suspension’s generous travel allows for plenty of body roll. Out on the highway, there’s decent straightline stability and the steering weighs up enough to not make the car feel nervous at speed. In terms of size, the Go is 3,785mm long and 1,635mm wide and has a wheelbase of 2,450mm.

Open the light doors and step in and you can see that the interiors aren’t very plush.

Slide into the driver’s seat and you are faced with a simple, three-spoke steering wheel and even simpler dials – there’s a speedometer and a digital display that includes a rev counter, trip computer and fuel gauge. But this digital display is too small to read while driving and at night.

The centre console is well-styled but bare bones — it has air-con vents from the Micra Active, an aux-in audio input with a phone/iPod holder next to it and a USB charging point; but you don’t get a radio or a CD player. Knowing how we here in India try to squeeze as many people into a car, Datsun has cleverly provided a wide left seat; but there is no seatbelt provided, so we wouldn’t recommend using it for anything other than a small bag.

The fit and finish is not bad — there’s lots of grey plastics and the dashboard may look a bit unexciting —but there’s no faulting the panel lines and the surprising heft with which the switches and stalks work.

Even though the Go gets front power windows, the driver has a switch only on his side, and the rear windows are manual. There are also no internal window adjustors, so you’ll have to push each mirror into the correct position before you set off. Then there’s the bare metal adjuster for the seat’s fore and aft movement, a rear windshield, and rear seatbelts that don’t automatically retract; although Datsun says they will hold you back like normal seatbelts in the event of an accident. 

There is, however, a lot of space on the inside. Clever management of space – the dash-mounted gearlever and the slim seats – makes it quite an airy cabin. Indians love storage space and there’s an indent on top of the dash to keep loose stuff, the glovebox is big and there’s space under the steering column. Add to this the big door pockets on the front doors.

The driving position is nice, with good visibility, though some might find the dash-mounted gear lever quite high-set and even a bit too far back. Also, the steering wheel isn’t adjustable and is set a bit too high, which can get uncomfortable over long distances.

Datsun says the Go’s seats have been designed using technology from Nissan’s luxury brand Infiniti, for optimal spinal comfort. The front seats, though basic, are decently supportive, except at the shoulders where they feel a touch too narrow. The rear seats have quite a lot of legroom, though taller passengers will find the rear headroom just a tad tight. The boot, however, is a fair bit bigger than its competition. The loading lip is high, though, and the boot floor is low, so you’ll have to lift your luggage over and into the boot.

The Datsun Go won’t come with ABS and there aren’t any airbags either. In fact, the rear windshield doesn’t get a demister, there’s no rear wiper, and only a single wiper at the front. The hatch doesn’t have a key lock, so you have to open the car and unlock the boot from the internal boot release every time you want access. The single horn isn’t loud enough either.

Still, the Go should prove to be quite a reasonably-priced, easy-to-own car. Datsun says that top-end variants of the Go will come in at below Rs. 4 lakh and the base variants will start at around Rs. 3.2 lakh. Datsun will also offer a two year/unlimited kilometre comprehensive warranty when the Go goes on sale later this month.

The manufacturer claims an ARAI fuel efficiency figure of 20.6kpl. The Go will be sold through Nissan dealerships (Nissan owns Datsun, remember) and where there are no Nissan dealerships, Datsun plans to set up its own. 

Keywords: Datsun GoDatsun