Let’s accept it — it hasn't been the dream comeback for Datsun. The entry hatchback segment is the largest fraction in the passenger car business and while not greatly rewarding on margins, it has the scale to bring in big financial figures to a company. Datsun’s first products, the GO hatchbck, had some good attributes (space, for one) but overall, it was only a basic functional car and lacked the appeal of its rivals. The GO+ was a (very) compact 7-seater and while it offered slightly more practicality, there were still not many takers.
On the surface, things look tidy. We’d been driving the redi-GO through the popular sides of Kolkata and wherever we stopped to either take pictures, ask for directions, or just admire the charming city life, we had people asking questions about this tiny red runabout. Most people seemed to like the overall shape of the redi-GO.
The redi-GO shares its platform (CMF-A) with the Renault Kwid and gets the same engine and gearbox. The suspension is largely the same, save for revised springs. Datsun wanted to give its product a distinct identity and has made some crucial alterations. Compared to the Kwid, the redi-GO is narrower, shorter and taller. There were mentions of ‘tall boy design’ in the product presentation. The front three-quarter is a good angle for this car — it looks prominent and large shaped elements like the headlamps and grille give it presence. The rear is unique owing to the oddly shaped hatch, but at least it manages to hold its own. Unlike the Renault Kwid, however, it’s not an instantly attention-grabbing design.
There’s grey in the cabin — lots of it. In my personal view, an all-black interior with varying trim finish would’ve looked nicer as the faux aluminium treatment on the steering wheel and encasing the power window switches, coupled with the grey seat covers, would’ve contrasted better. Its current colour pattern makes the cabin look dull, monochrome and monotonous.
I found a few fundamental issues with the overall interior packaging. I sit fairly upright. So, with the driving seat adjusted to my height of nearly 6-feet, and the seat-back quite straight, I found exiting from the rear seat a bit of an exercise. The B-pillar fouls with the knee when trying to exit and I had to pull my knee inwards and then draw my leg out once I’d cleared the reaches of the door mountings. There’s an issue even when you’re sitting in the driver’s seat — the left knee touches the centre console along its curve and that can be a tad discomforting, even irritating, sitting behind the wheel over a couple of hours.
What I am going to point out now may come across as a peculiar, even absurd, issue, but it’s an important product design element that can be sorted — maybe with the facelift when it is due? The Datsun redi-Go has a single wiper mechanism and it swings across from co-passenger’s side and completes the wiping motion at the driver’s side (goes left to right). This creates a near vertical finishing point pretty much in the line-of-sight of the driver and from that point on, to the edge of the windscreen on the right towards the A-pillar, it creates a very blurry image of the road. Imagine if you were going around a right-handed bend and there was dirt accumulated on the far side — you’d be unable to see much of the road conditions. Worse, imagines if it rains heavily — it’ll be as good as being blind in that quarter of the windscreen.
Another area where Datsun could’ve executed better is the placement of the power window switches. It is in front of the gear shift lever and prevents the driver from shifting gears if the co-passenger is trying to operate the window by his own — which does happen. Placing it behind the gear-lever might have been better, or a door mounted unit would’ve been the best solution.
The seats, all round, are good on support and promise comfort for even tallish passengers with enough knee room at the rear and thigh support is appreciable. Because the redi-GO is on the narrower side, going with three passengers at the back might be a squeeze. The front seats are sculpted, but going silly around corners will see you sliding a bit laterally.
Datsun has worked hard on the suspension and it shows. The ride on smooth, straight roads is great when going at moderate city speeds, and even when going at speed, it doesn't have any wayward movement and absorbs even large bumps quite well. The only complain I have is on typically undulating Indian town roads. The ride seems absorbent enough, but unsettled nonetheless. There’s a feeling that it’s always too busy — that it’s fidgety.
Dynamically, the redi-GO is fine despite its high riding clearance of 185mm and tall body design — which surely would’ve raised the centre of mass, too. The steering is mostly numb and over-sensitive which is a great thing for city driving, but on the highway, going at higher speeds (whatever this tiny thing can manage, that is!) it might not be very encouraging — but then, we need to test it out properly to make big claim on that. There’s a bit of body-roll, but it’s never so pronounced that it’ll be a scary companion to you. Plus, this car isn't for attacking corners, but rather to go sedately around them. It’s a very manoeuvrable car though — great turning radius, must say. The braking is acceptable (Datsun claims it is best-in-class) and the bite is fine, but the pedal feel is extremely artificial and there’s no ABS. The redi-GO does get an airbag for the driver, but that's an optional extra.
The redi-GO is built to a price, and feels every bit so. The 53bhp, 799cc, 3-cylinder engine makes 72Nm of twist force. The appropriate ‘tuning’ and weight saving (~25Kg) over the Kwid will help the redi-GO get better fuel consumption figures, says Datsun. The engine does sound a bit rough as you go northwards on the rev counter and some vibrations can be felt through the pedals and steering wheel. Don’t expect great performance from this motor, because it isn't capable. It’s an obedient unit for city driving but you’ll be best advised not to short-shift because there’ll just not be enough pull when the needle drops below 1,000. We encountered a slight incline when approaching the hotel and the engine literally gave up climbing in second.
The Datsun redi-GO is a car that’ll extend the segment, not disrupt it. It’s got its strong points, and its lows. The cabin is practical in parts, but the usability is flattened by the lack of bottle holders and the boot which has a high loading lip. The exposed metal bits on the doors and pillars give a sense of ‘budget’ and the overall cabin experience doesn't feel cohesive enough with the stylised exterior which has an element of maturity to it. The redi-GO isn't packing enough features compared to its rivals either, chiefly, the Kwid. So, it all boils down to its pricing — which needs to be, then, sufficiently towards the lower end of the spectrum.
Datsun redi-GO specifications:
Engine: 799cc, 3-cylinder, Petrol
Power / Torque: 53bhp / 72Nm
Claimed fuel efficiency: 25.17Km/l
Expected price (ex-showroom): Rs. 2.5 lakh to 3.5 Lakh