The Datsun GO is one of the most awaited small cars of recent times. The brand, a reincarnation of the original, has returned after nearly 33 years, with a new design language and a new market focus. India is the first market where the first completely locally produced Datsun car will be launched. The GO will be officially launched by the third week of this month. It is all set to take on the likes of the Hyundai Eon, the Maruti Alto, the Ford Figo and the other B-segment cars.

So how does the Datsun GO feel to drive. We get behind the wheel to bring you an exclusive review.

Build

There has been enough said about the Datsun GO's design. But this time around when we got to spend many hours with the car, the purpose of the design could be understood better. The front of the car reflects the new design language that has been adopted for the Datsun brand. Hexagonal elements with thicker D-Cut side bars in the headlamps and the D-cut bonnet grille introduce the onlooker to the car. The stance of the GO is neither tall-boy nor that of a squat, low small car. The result is a stout presence on the road and easy access into and out of the car.

The design lines all around the car merge into other elements and the general vibe one gets from the car is that of a well thought-out, focused design. The surfaces are all clean and the build quality is above average for the B-segment. The curved rear design of the Datsun GO is the kind of angle that lets into the bit about how the design has allowed the company to maximise volume inside the car. The boot is one of the largest in the segment with 265 litres of space for luggage.

Cabin

The interior of the GO is different and immediately strikes you as being oriented towards practicality. But, from no angle does it look like a low-cost kit, focused on economising. A pull and retract kind of hand brake on the dashboard and a gear shift stick that has been set right on the centre stack means that the floor has been freed of the restrictions of a centre console. The dashboard itself is a pleasing combination of three coloured panels, all in pastel shades of grey, light brown and mild biege.

The amount of space available in the Datsun GO's cabin is the bit that surprises you. There is enough shoulder room and legroom at the front and rear to even challenge the cabin volume stakes amongst some of the B+ segment cars. Seat squabs are thin, but the jacquard fabric (in the top trim) makes them quite comfortable even after we spent about five hours in the car. The overall symmetry of the layout and the fit and finish gives the cabin a quality feel, though clearly being that of a B-segment hatch.

The only element that sticks out as being a bit rough is the one that is being talked about by Datsun as a differentiator - the mobile dock. The holder a simple spring-loaded clamp feels too flimsy and a bit tacky. It also blocks the air-con vent when a phone is docked. Air-conditioner performance is good though, as is the functionality of the mobile connected music system, which features only a charging USB slot and a volume knob. If you want to play music it will have to be through your phone and you can receive calls hands-free.

The connected front seat is another unique feature in the GO. The rectangular squab extensions that connect the driver and passenger seats enable the user to leave a handbag or other object by the side. It will probably also allow passengers to exit on the other side of the car in case the parking slot is too tight. With the floor being free of a centre console or an armrest, it is easy to slide across. But our worry is the kind of violations that might happen where GO users might unwittingly end up using the space for seating a child or small adult.

Performance

The Datsun GO features a three-cylinder engine that has been developed using a light-weight architecture and is focused on maximising efficiencies. But the engine manages to surprise us with its nimbleness and relatively refined performance. Compared to some of the other 3-cylinder engines in the market, the GO’s unit is quieter and less ‘vibey’. Yes, listen carefully and during hard acceleration one can easily figure out that this is a three pot engine, but inside the cabin during city driving and cruising, the engine is quiet enough. The GO is said to be capable of doing a 0-100 kmph run in 13.3 kmph. During our test drive, we found that the 104 Nm of torque available to be a big plus in city traffic. The 64 PS of power seemed adequate for a car that weighs barely 800 kg. Power delivery is also quite linear and the car sprints all the way to 70 kmph in second and 130 kmph in third gears respectively. Even at speeds of up to 140 kmph, the GO feels planted. ARAI rated fuel efficiency is 20.63 kmpl.

Handling

The GO has seen considerable work done on its suspension, especially at the rear, with the set-up being copied from some Infiniti vehicles, Nissan’s luxury car brand. The suspension travel has also been increased to make it more pliant and at the same time capable of handling some really poor quality roads here. Shod with 13-inch rims, pliant suspension and with the raised stance, there is quite a bit of body roll, but it is not unsettling even at high speeds. The power steering is speed sensitive and so it does stiffen up at high speeds. Overall handling is on a par with cars in the B and B+ segments.

Some nifty features in the Datsun GO include the speed sensitive automatic windscreen wiper and follow-me-home headlights that can be activated by simply toggling the high beam flasher when you exit the car.

Bottomline

The Datsun GO is a complete package for an entry hatch buyer. With unconfirmed rumours about the company’s plans to launch a diesel and an automatic transmission in the car, there will be more choice for the buyer in the future. At the time of the launch, the GO will be available only with the petrol engine in three trim levels. Safety features such as ABS and airbags are also being considered as an optional addition to be introduced at a later date.

Datsun is said to be considering a competitive price for the GO. To be announced later this month, it could be in the range of Rs 2.9 lakh to Rs 4 lakh. Now, the folks at Datsun need to work on their distribution and service network and set up a few more showrooms, to inspire confidence amongst prospective buyers.

Differentiators

-- Extra-wide body with shoulder room in the cabin comparable to B+ segment cars.

-- Connected front seats to ensure easy egress in crowded parking spots.

-- Mobile dock with telephone connectivity.

-- Gear shift guide and digital tachometer

-- Suspension set-up adopted from luxury brand Infiniti

-- Automatic, speed-sensing wiper system

-- Fuel efficiency of 20.6 kmpl

Technical Specifications

Dimensions

Overall Length : 3,785mm

Overall Width : 1,635mm

Overall Height: 1,485mm

Wheelbase : 2,450mm

Ground Clearance : 170mm

Kerb Weight :

Engine

Type : DOHC, 3-cylinder

Displacement : 1,198cc

Max. Power : 68PS @ 5,000 rpm

Max. Torque : 104 Nm @ 4,000 rpm

Transmission

5-Speed manual

Steering

Type : Speed sensitive EPS

Brakes

Front / Rear : Ventilated disc / Drum

Wheels & Tyres

Front & Rear : 13-inch steel, 155/70R13

Suspension

Front : McPherson strut with double pivot lower arm

Rear : H-Type Torsion beam with linear damper

Fuel Efficiency

ARAI Rated : 20.6 kmpl

Expected Price

Ex-showroom : Rs 2.9 lakh to Rs 4 lakh

(This article was published on March 1, 2014)
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