Datsun Go not quite coming of age
The updated Go is smarter-looking inside and safer, but refinement still lags behind the opposition
Relentless criticism about the Datsun Go’s lack of basic safety features finally encouraged Nissan to install dual airbags and ABS brakes in its baby hatchback.
The updated Go, launched in SA a couple of months ago, sports a facelift, updated suspension, added insulation for better refinement, but most importantly improved safety in a car that previously had only a driver’s airbag and no antilock brakes.
After being launched here in 2014 at a starting price of R89,500, the Go was lashed for receiving zero stars in a crash test conducted by Global NCAP’s Indian division. The addition of a driver’s airbag later raised the car’s rating to one star out of a possible five, but its body crumpled so much under impact that it negated the effect airbags may have had.
Nissan claims to have made improvements to the Go’s upper body and front body structure, while stability control will be introduced later in 2019.
Despite its dismal crash-test result, the car’s keen pricing made it a popular seller among cash-strapped local motorists, many of whom were moving up from the public-transport ranks for the first time and, since the launch, the range has grown to include the Go+ panel van and the seven-seater Go+ hatchback.
The latest improvements to the Go range have pushed prices beyond those early bargain-basement levels and the baseline Mid version now sells for R144,500. With a few more bells and whistles the higher-specced Datsun Go Lux — the subject of this test — sells for R165,000. Both versions come with 1-year insurance included in the price.
A redesigned front grille and front and rear bumpers give the updated Go a fresher look, but the main work’s taken place inside. An interior revamp has noticeably improved the cabin appeal with smarter-looking seat upholstery, and a combination of silver finishes and a carbon-fibre look for many of the plastic surfaces.
Nevertheless, there are signs of cost-cutting: for instance the levers that adjust the fore and aft movement of the front seats — they’re just bare metal and they feel cheap.
The Go is compact but not impractically small, and four adults will fit tightly but without unwanted intimacy, while there’s decent oddments space including a lidded binnacle between the front seats. The 265l boot is a little larger than the segment average and includes a full-size spare wheel, and the single-piece rear seat backrest folds down to expand the cargo hold.
Standard niceties include reverse parking sensors, central locking, air con, front and rear electric windows, onboard computer, and speed-sensitive power steering. The Lux grade, in addition, lays on a rear wiper with washer, 14” alloy wheels (instead of steel versions), and LED daytime running lights.
The original Go had just a smartphone docking station connected to a pair of speakers. Now all versions have an 18cm touch screen infotainment system with radio, USB and Bluetooth phone connectivity, and Apple Carplay and Android Auto capability.
Navigating the infotainment is fairly straightforward, except for tiny volume icons which were finicky to use (note to all car manufacturers: knobs are much easier). These icons had to be employed quite regularly to crank up the volume and drown out the sound of the 1.2l three-cylinder engine as the revs rose.
The Go is a noisy driving experience, compounded by an intermittent loud whistle from an ill-fitted driver’s door window on our test car and, in overall refinement, this Datsun lags behind rivals in the small-hatch segment. The five-speed gearshift is also quite sticky, particularly on cold start-up when trying to select reverse, adding to the mechanically low-rent feel of this Datsun.
Performance-wise the Go wins back some kudos as it doesn’t make a bad urban runabout. Although its outputs are a humble 50kW and 104Nm, the power-to-weight ratio is decent because the little car is a flyweight at 829kg. Light and small, with a tiny turning circle, the Datsun scurries with rodent-like agility through the urban jungle.
Its power limitations (and noisy engine) are more keenly experienced on the open road and I wouldn’t necessarily want to drive one twixt Joburg and Durban, but the car’s mostly able to maintain the 120km/h national speed limit in 5th gear — even up some medium-gradient hills. Fuel consumption is a creditable 6l/100km (the factory claims 5.2l).
The handling is acceptable, though the skinny tyres tended to squeal prematurely when I tried to push through bends a little faster.
The ride quality, while choppy in a typically small-car way, is acceptably comfortable on most surfaces. The little Datsun’s high-profile tyres and above-average 180mm ride height competently absorbed bumps on our gravel road test. The suspension sometimes thunks noisily when driving over potholes, however, and felt as if it was bottoming-out.
In summary, the refreshed Datsun Go is an improved effort over its dismal predecessor, particularly in its smartened-up cabin and boosted safety levels. On paper it seems like a relative bargain with a higher level of features than its similarly-priced competitors, along with that enticing one-year free insurance deal.
But the Go’s refinement still lags behind the opposition. A question mark also still lingers over its structural integrity and we’d be keen to see how the latest version fares in a crash test.
Type: Three cylinder petrol
Type: Five-speed manual
Type: Front wheel drive
Top speed: 161km/h
0-100km/h: 13.3 seconds
Fuel Consumption: 5.2l/100 kml/100km (claimed); 6l/100km (as tested)
Air conditioning, front and rear electric windows, electric mirrors, 18cm touchscreen infotainment system, central locking, reverse parking sensors, LED daytime running lights, tilt-adjustable steering, onboard computer, ABS brakes, dual front airbags, 14” alloy wheels with 165/70 R14 tyres.
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Maintenance plan: Optional
Lease*: R3,600 per month
* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit
Datsun Go Lux
Improved interior, added safety
Refinement, sticky gearshift
Better, but we still prefer the Picanto
**Value For Money
Honda Brio 1.2 Trend — 65kW/109Nm - R164,200
Hyundai Grand i10 1.0 Motion - 48kW/94Nm — R164,900
Kia Picanto 1.2 Start — 61kW/122Nm - R162,995
Renault Kwid 1.0 Dynamique - 50kW/91Nm — R143,500
Suzuki Celerio 1.0 GL - 50kW/90Nm — R156,900