They say good things happen to those who wait. And so all those months of waiting, bringing you exclusive sneak peeks at the car, our moment with the Datsun Go had finally arrived. What made this drive more special was that we were the first ever journalists in the world... yes, in the world, to drive the Go hatch on the roads. With the official launch just a few weeks away and the interest levels growing, we thought we would put it on the city roads and a bit on the highway to see how the GO fares.
Let's go (pun intended) first with the looks department and this is where the GO really puts itself in a class above its segment. From the attractive hexagonal grille which will be a common link across all future Datsun models worldwide, to sharp-looking headlamps, the face of the car is very appealing. Interestingly, the headlamps come with the Follow-Me-Home activation system which automatically switch off after a pre-set time; a useful bonus feature for many first-time car buyers.
The side and rear profile of the GO is also pleasing to the eye with flowing lines and creases to accentuate the stylish design - and emphasise space. Datsun has gone with small 13 inch wheels which it claims is lighter and offers better fuel efficiency but we just think they just look disproportionate to the overall design. But we do like this Spunky Maroonish Red shade on the hatch that we drove and believe will be the popular choice among Indian buyers, although the Powder Blue - shown at the Expo, might appeal to women buyers too.
Inside the cabin, the Datsun GO tends to lose a bit of its premium exterior appeal with some dull-looking plastic, the long pull-type handbrake, and of course the front connected bench seat. We wondered and scratched our heads about the relevance of this connected seat and of course kept probing Datsun about it, which really thinks it is a more practical option for India. According to the co., the free space in the centre can be used to place a small bag or book and also sliding out from the other side is now easier in tight parking situations.
We are not convinced as it opens up a safety risk if children are placed in the middle of this front bench-seat. Also what we found out during our drive, is that one's elbow will keep bumping into the seat back which is quite bothersome. But the wow factor inside the cabin is really the space with the ample headroom and extra legroom thanks to a generous wheelbase. The seats are comfortable enough but the cushioning could be firmer especially in the rear seat.
The boot is also equally impressive for an entry-level car as we could fit in most of our heavy camera equipment and luggage without a hitch. Now Datsun is offering a whole host of accessories to make the cabin more appealing like a regular stereo system or the centre-seat in front being replaced by an armrest. Airbags and ABS are not available on any of the three variants that the company will launch, but Datsun says it is studying the possibility of offering it as optional sometime in the future. We initially got the GO out on the highway to see what it was capable of and it didn't disappoint. The 1.2-litre, 3-cylinder petrol engine carried over from the Micra performs reasonably well given that this engine has been retuned for better Fuel Efficiency.
The company claims a Fuel Efficiency of 20.63 kilometres to the litre of petrol, just below the Hyundai Eon but importantly above the Maruti Suzuki Alto in the Fuel Economy charts. Engine noise does creep into the cabin along with some amount of wind noise. So you have to get used to the noise filtering in frankly. The clutch and brake pedals required no extra effort although the shifts on the 5-speed gearbox were not exactly smooth - especially the downshifts.
But despite its light weight, the car didn't feel unstable or rattle even at three-digit speeds on the highway. Once we hit the city in the midst of evening rush-hour traffic, the GO really impressed with easy maneuverability in traffic thanks to a quick and responsive steering and the engine offering decent performance at the low-end too. This meant we didn't need frequent gear changes - again a joy really, given the traffic! The relatively high ground clearance meant potholes weren't too much of a bother although the suspension did feel a bit clunky over a few. Ride comfort overall is not plush but is more than adequate.
Dastun really couldn't have found a better product than the GO to announce its revival on the world stage. The car comes across as highly competent with its looks, space and driveability. But despite an attractive price tag that promises to stay under Rs 4 lakh, Datsun will still need to 'GO' all out and boost the existing Nissan network to have any real chance of being a solid player in the highly competitive and very keenly dominated entry small car market in India.