Up until a few years ago, automatic transmission was a luxury that was mostly offered with premium cars in India and there were hardly any models in the affordable cars space that would offer one. However, all that changed when Maruti Suzuki introduced the 'Automated Manual Transmission' a.k.a. AMT in the Indian market with the Celerio in 2014. Essentially a pseudo automatic transmission, AMTs were affordable and offered the convenience of a conventional automatic. With increasing traffic in the cities, the demand for automatics grown across the segment range, with an affordable option like AMTs, even entry-level cars started coming with an automatic options. Some of the key players in this space are - the Maruti Suzuki Alto K10, the Renault Kwid AMT and even the Tata GenX Nano AMT. Now, Nissan-owned Datsun is now set to introduce a new contingent in this space with the new redi-GO AMT in India. We recently got to drive the car, ahead of its launch this month, in the heavy traffic-laden roads of Delhi and Noida, here's our experience driving it.
Also Read: Datsun Starts Pre-Booking Of The redi-GO AMT
The Datsun redi-GO is based on the same CMF-A platform as the Renault Kwid and under the skin, both the cars are essentially the same. This would lead one to think that new redi-GO AMT is, in fact, same as the Kwid AMT, which has been in the market for over a year now, right? Well, not exactly. It's the same 5-speed AMT unit from the Kwid, and hardware has come from Bosch and the software to run it from FEV. But, the Japanese carmaker promises an entirely different driving experience and we have to say the company has managed to achieve that.
For starters, Datsun has named its AMT unit 'Smart Drive Auto', unlike the Kwid AMT which gets Renault's Easy-R system, but the differences are not just limited to the name. The biggest difference is that the redi-GO gets a conventional shifter. So there's a lever instead of the rotary dial. Another key difference is the manual model, which will particularly come in handy when you want to overtake someone, or trying to go up-hill. This was one function that went missing in the Kwid. Lastly, unlike the Kwid AMT, the redi-GO's AMT unit also gets the 'creep' function, which allows the car to cruise at low speeds of 5-6 kmph without you having to depress the accelerator, a smart feature to have in bumper to bumper traffic, in our opinion. In fact, Datsun has also given this a fancy name, and it calls it the 'Rush Hour Mode'.
The Datsun redi-GO AMT gets the same 999 cc, three-cylinder petrol engine with Datsun's i-SAT or Intelligent Spark Automated Technology. Power and torque figures also remain unchanged at 67 bhp and 91 Nm respectively. In fact, the car has been really well received in India, and Datsun says that over 30 per cent of the redi-GO sales come from the 1.0L model. Now, when we reviewed the manual version of the car, we had mentioned that the gearshifts are not seamless and lack feedback, sadly Datsun hasn't addressed to those problems in the AMT version as well. In fact, we could hear gearshifts quite evidently. You can hear the engine rumble and it's not quite above 3000 rpm, which points a finger to the NVH levels it has. There was need of some low-end torque, but once you are above the 2nd gear, and have crossed the 4,000 rpm mark, power and torque gradually come into play and that's when the redi-GO AMT is in its zone. It's happy, peppy and fun. Of course, if you try and hurry and floor the accelerator, well, the AMT takes some time to respond and that's a very noticeable lag. This is where the manual mode comes in handy. Shift the lever to the left and now you can toggle it up and down to downshift and upshift. In the manual mode, the car feels a little more responsive and allows you to manoeuvre more quickly. Also, if you are not in the right gear you'll hear a continuous beeping sound with an indication on the instrument cluster.
Visually, there are no changes made to the car, not even a badging that differentiates the manual version from the AMT. The equipment list also remains unchanged and there no exterior additions what so ever. It is based on the T(O) and S variant of the redi-GO, so you get all the top-end feature like the hexagonal grille with chrome surround, sweptback headlamps with integrated turn lights, LED daytime running light on the bumper, wheel cover, and body coloured bumpers and door handles. In fact, dimensionally the car remains unchanged so you still get the segment best and ground clearance of 185 mm, along with a total length of 3429 mm, a width of 1560 mm, and height of 1541 mm.
Step inside and you'll notice that the cabin too largely remains unchanged except for, of course, the new AMT gear lever and a new audio system. The updated audio system now comes with Bluetooth connectivity that allows you to pair your phone with the car enabling hands-free calling and music streaming. The rest of the cabin, however, remains the same as the manual version and you get the same all-black interior, the car given to us was the top-spec version so we even got to experience the optional faux leather upholstery which comes with the redi-GO stitching on the driver and passenger seat. The wheelbase of the car remains unchanged at 2348 mm so the legroom remains the same making it a suitable for 4 average sized adults and the tall stance of the car offers good headroom as well. The top-end S trim is still the only one that comes with a driver side airbag, three-point seat belt for front and rear passengers, central locking, and the remote key is available in both variants.
The ride and handling of the car hasn't changed compared to the redi-GO 1.0L manual version. The suspension is still a bit on the stiffer side, so you do feel the undulation on the road and the small thuds can be heard inside the cabin. The steering is light and it helps in city traffic conditions but doesn't impart a lot of confidence when you are on the highway doing high speeds. The shorter turning radius is a big help when it comes to taking tight turns within the city and around traffic and just helps you squeeze out of the small alleys. You also sit tall inside the redi-GO which offers a good field of view when you are driving and even the brakes are pretty good and offer enough bite and stopping power.
The AMT unit is, in fact, a much needed addition to the redi-GO. It just eases the way you drive and there's no pressure to get around the city traffic and that's where the future is headed to. It's not too eager, but when you're just cruising it's quite great to move around in. The redi-GO is a small, good-looking car that offers you the comfort of an automatic for your daily commute and should definitely be on your options list if you are searching for one. Datsun has already started accepting pre-bookings for the car and the prices are expected to be announced before the end of January 2018, with an expected starting price of ₹ 3.65 lakh.