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Will the third be a charm for Datsun?

S. Muralidhar | Updated on January 20, 2018

Cool hatch The Datsun Redi-Go boasts of a very practical design but it could end up dividing opinion. - S MURALIDHAR

Datsun eps

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The Redi-Go is set for launch next month and will be Datsun’s third entry-level car. We had a ‘Go’ in it and here is what we think



Platform sharing is a commonly used strategy across car brands around the world to keep costs in check and to leverage strengths that are common between multiple brands. Even luxury car brands do it, though it would be difficult to guess that the Audi R8 and the Lamborghini Gallardo share the same platform.

Within the Renault-Nissan alliance too platforms are shared between the two partner brands, though in India, the two have more often than not resorted to badge engineering, where the cars are almost identical except the change in logo on the bonnet. The Micra and the Pulse, the Sunny and the Scala and to a large extent the Duster and the Terrano are all examples.

A big exception from this trend will be the new Datsun Redi-Go, which shares the same platform as the Renault Kwid. Nissan brought back the Datsun brand with a plan to make cars that are more relevant to new, emerging automotive markets like India, Indonesia, South Africa and Russia. Datsun’s previous two cars for the Indian market – the GO and the GO+ – have had mixed responses, affected by the unfortunately timed bad press that the former got from the poor Global NCAP ratings it was given.

Design

So, the new Redi-GO will need to contribute more than a fair share for rebuilding the reputation of the Datsun brand. This is not an easy task when the model that is stepping past the ropes and into the ring is another entry-level small car. Effectively, Datsun will soon have three offerings for the entry small car buyer.

This built-to-a-price strategy need not necessarily mean that the car is a compromise in any respect or looks bad. The Redi-Go’s design is a big shift towards the edgy. Unlike the French partner’s more boxy Kwid, which tried to generate a buzz around its SUV-body style, the Redi-Go sports a crossover or upright hatchback design. Potentially, this design could be viewed as being more practical, though opinions about the car’s aesthete are likely to be divided.

The Redi-Go’s design has the classic small hatch traits. Wheels at the extremities, an A-pillar that almost seems to visually extend all the way to the edge of the front fender, a stubby rear and a raised stance are all characteristics which have worked for cars across the price range all the way to the original Mercedes-Benz A-Class. The Redi-Go’s small, sloping bonnet and the steeply raked windscreen help improve visibility in the front. However, the raised and overly straight dashboard seems to cut into the view a bit.

The large headlamps and the hexagonal Datsun signature grille add some heft to the front of the car. The belt line boosts the crossover/tallboy design feel by emerging from the front fender and rising gradually towards the rear. Exaggerated wheel arches and an oversized rear fender give the Redi-Go more character. Datsun officials point out that more redesigning work has gone into the top half of the Redi-Go compared to the Kwid. The rear hatch door is compact, with access to the boot area fairly constricted. But, the space in the luggage area is not bad for a car in this segment.

Top trim variants get LED daytime running lamps and chrome bits. The door mirrors are said to be the best in class in terms of sheer mirror real estate and visibility offered. The 13-inch wheels look puny on paper, but the 155/80 ratio and the way they fill the arches manage to redeem the overall image. Shaped a bit like boomerangs, the tail-lamps sit in the middle of the rear, with the design arching out to leverage more space inside the boot.

Cabin

The cabin is also likely to see a fairly divided opinion amongst potential buyers. However, those looking to get a bargain entry small car are unlikely to be deterred by the lack of finesse. The interior sports a light grey and beige colour theme. The dashboard has a dual-layered layout with the lower section focused on providing storage. Some of the elements like the aircon controls and music player get pushed up to the top of the centre stack, as a result.

Average quality hard plastics abound, but the overall fit and finish is not bad at all. Our test mule, which is the top trim, had power windows, power steering, aluminium inserts and a CD-music player with speakers. The features which are most likely to be niggling for buyers are the over-flat seats and the exposed body panels that are visible through the door trim. Datsun officials say that there are optional additions that will enable buyers to improve the trim quality in the cabin.

Performance and ride quality

The Redi-Go gets the same 800cc engine from the Renault Kwid and pretty much in the same state of tune. The 3-cylinder, petrol engine develops a peak power of 54PS at 5,678rpm and a peak torque of 72Nm at 4,386rpm, similar to the Kwid. The gearbox is also the same 5-speed manual with the gear ratios remaining the same too. The engine feels like a 3-cylinder during idling and the initial acceleration, with a bit of vibration and noise seeping into the cabin. Noise insulation could have been better to cut traffic, but the ambient noise levels are not too high in the cabin. Gearshift quality is excellent and the ratios are also likely to match the urban driving cycle.

The suspension has also been carried over from the Kwid, so the ride quality is also similar. The Redi-Go doesn’t get thrown about on bad roads, and its 185mm ground clearance is also a big plus going over speed breakers and potholes. But, clearly, there are limitations to the 13-inch Ceat rubber that it was fitted with.

Bottomline

There is no escaping the fact that the Redi-Go is a car that has been built to a price. But, there is a whole section of buyers for the Alto 800, the Kwid and the Hyundai Eon, who will be targeted by this new model from Datsun. The Redi-Go’s built quality could have been better, especially given the fact that Datsun wants to leverage the brand’s Japanese heritage. Company officials are stressing the fact that the Redi-Go’s safety credentials are good and that it meets all the standards that it is expected to meet. The top trim variant also gets a driver airbag. Some additions like a headlamp on warning and better return assistance to the power steering would have helped, especially given that it is going to be targeting first-time car buyers.

But, the final bottom line will be the price and we hope Datsun will not disappoint. Prices could range between ₹2.5 lakh and ₹3.5 lakh

Published on May 12, 2016

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