Ease of driving is something all the car manufacturers are collectively working towards. While autonomous driving is being fasttracked, given the government clearances as well as policies, it is going to quite sometime away in India. Instead, the easier fix is to have semi-autonomous as well as automatic vehicles. The former is again a few clearances away while the latter has been in use since 1940. Over the years, expensive as well as affordable automatic transmissions have been developed. The latter is what we get to experience in the Datsun Go as well as Go+. The Continously Variable Transmission or CVT as it is called is not the most affordable around though but is touted to be very reliable. Nissan, Datsun's parent company has been using it in their Indian products like the Micra as well as Sunny. For the Go and Go+ it has been used in the same configuration - lock, stock and barell. We spent an entire day with the cars (95 per cent Go and rest with Go+), driving them in Chennai's traffic and highways.
Engine and transmission
Let's get directly into the biggest change. The transmission. The first question that we had for Datsun officials was, "Why a CVT when you have the more affordable AMT?" The answer was very interesting. Because of the higher power output (we will come to that in a bit), the CVT was found to be more suitable. Moreover, the head-nods that are usually associated with AMTs was something Datsun didn't want the Go and Go+ customers to experience. We think this is a fair enough reason though the fact that alliance partner Renault has clearly said that the Triber will come with an AMT is on another tangent.
Right now, one can buy the Go and Go+ with a 66hp/104Nm, 1.2-litre, 3-cylinder petrol engine and a manual transmission. This is a detuned version of what one will ideally get in the Nissan Micra in India. However, for the CVT versions, Datsun has got the higher strung 75hp/104Nm from the Micra. Speaking of the transmission, there is the L mode that doesn't let the engine shift to a higher point. It can be used in situations like going uphill or even while driving through flooded areas. You also get reverse, neutral, park and drive gates. The gear lever will only move if your foot is on the brake.
Fire up the engine and you will immediately notice the enhanced refinement on offer. There are three cylinder vibrations that do creep in and we wish Datsun could have done something about it. However, given the price point, it is fair to hand it over to the company that they have done a fairly decent job. The transmission shifts without any hiccups and a newbie driver (the target customer) will not be hassled in any way. Slot into D and the car moves ahead. Part throttle responses are good and the added pep from the motor shows. However, if its a quick overtake, stomping on the accelerator will introduce you to the rubber band effect. There is no corresponding increment in power though you see the engine revs climbing. City driveability is a no worries affair and you will not feel shortchanged at all. Maintaining highway speeds (100kmph) though will be a bit of a task as the engine became a bit noisy to our liking. Fuel efficiency wise, Datsun claims that the Go CVT will give you 20.07kmpl while the manual version with a lower power output gives 19.72kmpl. The Go+ returns a slightly lower mileage at 19.41 in the CVT version while the manual will give 19.72kmpl.
Ride and handling
The ride quality of the Go seemed a bit stiff. It is exactly the way we remember it always was. You do feel bumps in the cabin, at low speeds. The good part though is the handling is decent. The Go+ though has a bit of body roll to it, a tad more than the Go. First time buyers will appreciate the light steering wheel while the seasoned ones will want a bit more feedback. A new or seasoned driver will also appreciate the disc-drum brakes combination that is available with the Go. They are predictable and sharp. This being said, the brake pads could be subjected to higher wear, given that one has to depend on them entirely to stop the vehicle as there is very less engine braking available on offer.
As for the stability, the Go could do with a bit more. We felt confidence a bit lacking with respect to high speed stability. However, the new cars were a bit better than the manuals we experienced last year as there is a weight increase of around 40kg. This is due to the added amount of steel for side impact as well as pedestrian protection bumpers; the norms that will be standard for every new car from October 2019. Speaking of which, dual airbags with ABS, EBD as well as switchable traction control are standard on the Go and Go+ CVT trims. As it is, except for traction control, Datsun offers all the other safety features along with rear parking sensors as standard even for manual versions. The Datsun Go and Go+ specifications look neat on paper. A rear parking camera is missing though and would have added to the convenience factor even more. Taller drivers might also want a broader IRVM.
Looks and interior
The Go and Go+ were given a significant facelift last year. They still look fresh. The rear spoiler that you see on the Go here is an optional extra. The chrome exhaust tip is from the Micra and doesn't vibrate as much as we have seen with the regular pipe in the Go. While design is a subjective affair, we will pick the Go over the plain Jane Hyundai Santro.
The cabin receives a revision with respect to the new 7.0-inch touchscreen unit. The earlier Blaupunkt unit has been ditched. This one has lesser menus, in fact only four on the home screen and much better touch response. It supports Android Auto, Apple Carplay as well as google navigation. Moreover, it is visible under broad daylight too. We though wish Datsun would have added a bigger unit and perhaps steering mounted controls too. The audio quality with respect to the volume is nice, however it still sounds tinny when you up the ante. The other change you notice is the display for drive modes such as reverse, neutral etc on the MID.
There is decent space for even a taller driver, however with no seat height or steering adjustment, more often than not the driving tolerance will be much lower. One litre water bottles can be stored both in the front as well as rear door pockets while the seats don't split 60:40 and the vehicle owner has to make do with the available boot space.
We are pleasantly surprised with Datsun's thoughts. They thought of getting a CVT when everyone else is looking at AMTs. This might have cost implications but then the Datsuns were always known to be very affordable. We believe the expected cost increase will be around Rs 50,000-55,000. So, the Go (T) CVT should be priced around Rs 5.40 lakh while the Go+ (T) will be for Rs 6.25 lakh, ex-showroom. At this price point, you will not get any other CVT-equipped vehicle. Bookings begin on September 27 while the launch will be in the first week of October.
Should you buy one? If spending Rs 20,000 (approximately) more than an AMT-equipped competitor isn't a bother, the Datsuns make sense. Moreover, the Go+ is the only 7-seater in the budget segment that comes with an automatic transmission, at the moment.
Images by Sandipan Borah