Datsun GO Review - 1.2l Luxury

  Luke Preston

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 15 Jun, 2015



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The Datsun GO is not without controversy - it ships sans basic safety features such as ABS or Airbags - but beyond that, what is it like to drive one of the cheapest cars on sale, and is there a place in the South Africa market for the Datson Go?

Carshop Likes:
Cheap as chips
Perky 3-cylinder engine
Compliant ride

Carshop Dislikes:
Cheap as chips
No ABS. No airbags
Aftermarket radio

The car in question of course, is the Datsun GO and apparently there is such a gap in the market, because 406 new GOs found new homes in May this year. To put that in perspective, a direct competitor such as the Tata only managed to shift 23 Indica’s in the same period.

Does Global NCAP, the safety test company behind the public shaming of the Datsun GO, have an agenda against Datsun and parent company Nissan? Perhaps. What is of interest though is that the company tested similarly budget models from Suzuki, VW and Ford, all of whom performed just as poor with all of them getting zero stars (out of five).

All these models in question are price-cut budget beating models meant for third world markets such as India, who are seemingly less concerned with safety than other parts of the world. As such, Global NCAP has made it their mission to test these entry-level cars, for good reason too. Because, why should very cheap cars not be subjected to first world safety standards?

Perhaps Datsun has come in for more flak than the others due to the fact that they don’t even offer an airbag or ABS as an optional paid extra in the one-model range. Of course, the Polo, Figo and Swift models sold locally do have ABS and at least one airbag and have passed the same Global NCAP test. It should also be noted that South Africa’s cheapest car, the Chery QQ3 (R88 900.00), also snubs ABS and airbags safety features yet has managed to avoid similar controversy.

It doesn’t look that bad. Or is this a ‘nice from far but far from nice’ situation?

Compared to the Chery QQ3, Chevrolet Spark Lite, Geely LC or Tata Indica, all of which are ‘worthy’ competition, the Datsun looks positively sexy (not quite), or at least the most modern of the bunch.

Clearly most of the development budget was spent on the exterior of the GO because on face value it looks quite promising, look closer though and there are a few cost saving measures, such as the large body gaps, and horrid overspray, particularly under the bonnet.

This being the Lux model you get body coloured door handles. The rear spoiler and go faster stripes fitted to my test unit are aftermarket additions, although if you speak to your friendly Dastun dealer I’m sure they’ll be willing to ‘make a deal’ for you, so to speak.

Sadly things don’t improve on the inside either, if anything they get worse. The interior is not particularly bad, rather, everything has a rather flimsy feel to it. Will the Datsun GO live up to the harsh realities of South African life? Well, time will tell.

Perusing the official Datsun South Africa website in search of standard features on the GO and you’ll notice a host of ‘features’ most of which you’d expect to be fitted as standard on a car. The GO does have a drive computer which displays average and instant fuel consumption as well as a digital tachometer. I’m not entirely sure what ‘spinal support front seats’ or ‘intelligent wiper with drop wipe function’ actually means. You do get air-conditioning as standard though. However ‘follow me home headlamps’ seemed to be absent on the car I drove.

The Lux model adds other, er, ‘luxury’ features such as 1.5-litre bottle holders in the front doors, electric windows for the front, mobile docking station, amplifier, universal mobile holder, auxiliary-in, USB port and manual central locking.

There were a few other omissions on the test unit I drove. The ‘mobile docking station’ was missing, as well as the option to connect your smartphone up to the GO’s preinstalled sound system, along with the USB charging function. Instead replaced by a retro-fitted Sony front-loading CD/Radio player. However, what the aftermarket installers failed to realise is that without a similarly retro-fitted aerial, the radio function is all but redundant.

Alright, is all doom and gloom?

The 1.2-litre 3-cylinder is ray of light in an otherwise gloomy package. It only produces 50kW and 104Nm of torque and while that might sound laughable – in this class of super-cheap entry level econoboxes – it’s actually not that bad.

It idles with more 3-cylinder thrum – vibrating most of the car – than other little three bangers but is eager to be thrashed towards the redline. Which you need to do fairly often if you’re keen to get north of 100km/h. It is a noisy little thing – devoid of any sound deadening – but saying that it averaged a pretty respectable 7l/100km over a week of varied driving conditions.

The front bench seat is quirky, so too is the dashboard mounted handbrake which is in the same style as old bakkie handbrakes. The gear lever is mounted nice and high and falls to hand comfortably.

The GO is a comfortable commuter, soaking up traditionally rutted and potholed roads just fine. Point it at a corner with anything resembling speed though, and you are left wondering if you’ll exit the corner facing the same way as you entered.

Okay, let’s wrap this up

For R102 500 the Datsun GO ships standard with a 3 year/100 000km warranty and the option o

f a service plan. The warranty and prestige of owning a new car versus stepping into something pre-owned will perhaps be the deciding factor for those in this market segment. Did I miss not having ABS or an airbag during my time with the Datsun GO? Not really no, bu

t, I’d counter that question with another question: “Would you miss, day-to-day, not having medical aid or household insurance?”Of course, the answer to that can only be found on the flipside of the situation, if you go

t burgled or if when you get quite ill and need hospitalisation, then those safety nets become necessity. In that regard, I drove the Datsun Go for a week and I’m still here to tell you the story.


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