I say gearbox but it isn't a box of gears at all - in fact its more akin to a box of rubber bands, accompanied by the soundtrack of a hairdryer. But while CVTs are an annoyance to some, it's the safety aspect of the Datsun GO that the motoring press is offended by.
Now, this review comes with two caveats - and no that is not the long form of 'CVT', rather two considerations. Firstly, that Datsun is a client of mine, I sometimes photograph and film their cars. This means there is potentially a conflict of interest, you might think that would make me biased and whilst I say this is not the case - you're more than welcome to make that assumption. Caveat number two is this. If you think the Datsun GO is too unsafe then you are correct. Also, if you think a zero-safety rating is acceptable as long as the buyer is aware of it and based on their circumstances, they insist on buying one anyway - then you are also correct.
Like the slightly smaller Renault KWID and other cars with the barest of safety precautions, I recommend them only after making it clear that there are better options out there - in the second-hand market and new. Cars with Hyundai and Suzuki badges for example.
But let's keep talking about safety
The Datsun GO comes with dual airbags and ABS with EBD and VDC and Brake Assist plus rear parking sensors and follow me home headlamps. A fair amount of safety tech in an attempt to overcome its crumbly safety cell – the remaining bone of contention and rightly so. According to representatives at Datsun South Africa, structural changes include a new (stronger) roof, reinforced door panels and bolstered seats.
I cannot give you an updated safety rating as they haven’t been retested but I appreciate that development is ongoing, at least to match the pace at which Datsun is rolling out new toys and equipment.
Where show meets go
I refer to equipment such as a 7-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto plus a host of other connectivity options. I like the dark look and feel of the new dark cabin, and at this price the materials and surfaces used are great.
Under the Vivid Blue bonnet, the CVT model gets an extra 7kW to make it’s now 57kW feel less sluggish, and to give its 104Nm an actual chance of finding their way to the 14-inch diamond cut alloys in each corner. This new union makes for marginally improved fuel consumption, is quieter and whilst Datsun proffer smooth acceleration, I’d rather use the term sluggish – CVTs just work better when given large amounts of torque to deal with.
That is until I found the Sport button on the gear lever after which the Datsun GO’s acceleration from a standstill was upgraded to ‘almost competent’.
Pulling off remains slow for a city car but once you get it on the boil, the GO goes just fine - I spent my entire time navigating Jozi in the fast lane with no need to escape to a slower lane for fear of slowing down traffic. The chassis feels planted considering its diminutive footprint and light bodyweight. I like driving the Datsun GO. I just do. And if your life is made up of treacle like commutes along the N1 during peak hour, you'll learn to love the CVT.
Let’s wrap this up
The GO has been upgraded in my brain – from a car I wouldn’t recommend to anybody, to one I’d recommend with a warning, to something I’d drive myself. I own a 1983 Toyota Supra and a 1975 Chevrolet 4100. I drive these quite a lot, usually quickly despite the fact that I own and have access to cars that are immeasurably safer.
I also remember a time in my life where I would have driven a shopping trolley with a motor if you gave me one. But, and this is more relevant, I remember a time in my life when I was not in a position to buy a good safe car, and my priorities were aligned with saving money, getting to my job, fulfilling my family obligations and more.
The Datsun GO is NOT a death trap. The original launch car wasn’t either – but it was unsafe in 2016 when our roads were far more congested than they were 20 years ago – my reference point from earlier. Which is why the Datsun GO continues to be controversial. But because it isn’t alone in this arena, I think it’s fair to leave the onus on the consumer.
You’re armed with the information you require to buy one for yourself or save up for something that will better survive a collision. There are also virtues here such as the fact that the GO wins best in class for parts sales according to the AA KINSEY report. And that the car has some cred, even winning the Bronze award at the Loeries. And, if you are a first-time buyer, a 1-year subsidized insurance and 6yr/150,000km warranty will be incredibly alluring. Personally, I think the pros are finally beginning to outweigh the cons.
|Datsun GO CVT ||R184,200.00|
|Datsun GO Lux ||R170,200.00|
|Datsun GO Mid ||R159,100.00|
|Datsun GO+ CVT ||R194,800.00|
|Datsun GO+ Lux ||R180,800.00|
|Datsun GO+ Mid ||R169,500.00|