Can Go+ woo big families on a small budget and give Datsun the required headway in the Indian car market?
Do you remember the Tata Indigo Marina, Maruti Baleno Altura or Opel Corsa Swing? All these were station-wagons and all couldn’t do well in India, despite their apparent space advantages. But why am I writing about station-wagons in a review of an MPV—the Datsun Go+? The reason is that the Go+, the extended body version (5+2 seats) of the Go hatchback, is less of an MPV and more of a station-wagon—as someone said during our drive in Rishikesh last week, a hatch with an extra thatch. The Go+ was first showcased in India at the Auto Expo earlier this year and will be launched in India early next year.
But before we talk about the Go+, a few words on Datsun and its first offering in India, the Go. Is Datsun a new company? Not quite. Datsun, whose original production run began in 1931, is a brand owned by Nissan. Until 1986, only vehicles exported outside Japan by Nissan were identified as Datsun. In 1986, Nissan phased out the brand. In 2013, Nissan revived it. Because Datsun is targeted at the aspirational middle classes of developing nations, India was chosen as the launchpad, the first car being the Go, which couldn’t sell as much as expected. Now, can the Go+ do what the Go couldn’t, and give Datsun the much-required headway in the Indian car market?
From the front the Go+ looks exactly like the Go. Large hexagonal grille and the angular headlamps raking back across the V-shaped bonnet look good. The windscreen gets a single wiper blade, similar to the one in the Go. Design lines from the front bumper extend into the doors and continue towards the rear section of the car. It is from here on that the differentiation begins, as the rear goes on and on. The result is that the Go+ leaves a nicer impression compared to the Go with a slightly balanced profile. In fact, it is from the sides and the rear three-quarters that the Go+ looks the best. While the tail-lights remain the same as the Go, the licence plate is on the tailgate.
However, look at the car from the sides and you will notice that the skinny 155/70 R13 tyres appear too small in proportion to the body. Also, the spare wheel is not fitted inside the boot but is attached under the body—you need to open a screw in the boot to remove the spare wheel. The rear hatch door cannot be opened from outside using the key, it has to be opened using a lever located near the driver’s seat—a cost-cutting measure. A good thing is that Datsun has managed to keep the length of the Go+ under the 4-metre mark, thus qualifying it for tax benefits.
Step inside and you will find there is ample space. The instrument panel is a single dial speedometer and in the top variant we drove there is a digital tachometer. Datsun has chosen not to give the car an audio system but only door-mounted speakers. How does that work? There is a mobile phone mount with USB and aux. Connect your phone and play either the music stored in your phone or the radio via your phone.
And then there are some ‘strange’ bits.
For instance, the twist-and-pull handbrake that is mounted on the dashboard looks antique. And because there is a small bench and backrest that connects the front two seats, the whole seating area looks like one large bench—last seen in the now-discontinued Hindustan Ambassador. Datsun says that because one can easily slide from one seat to another, the large bench is useful in tight parking conditions—one can choose to exit from, say, the left door of the car in case the right door cannot be opened or vice-versa. But such an arrangement has two flaws. One, the connecting backrest stops smooth airflow to the rear seating area.
Two, some families might be tempted to put a child on that ‘connecting bench’, and because it is barely inches from the gearlever, that can be a very dangerous place for anyone to sit in—sudden braking means the person can hit the gearlever with disastrous consequences. There are also a lot of cost-cutting measures inside the cabin. One, even in the top variant the driver cannot operate all power windows. Two, there is no internal adjustment for the ORVMs. And three, the rear seatbelts don’t use an inertia reel but are fixed ones and have to be adjusted by every user.
The third row, which gets two extra seats, is best used as a luggage compartment. In fact, we strongly suggest the prospective buyers to use it as a luggage compartment. Why? One, because the seats are too cramped for even an average sized adult to fit in. Two, they come with a two-point lap seatbelt, not a very safe feature.
In a small car, space is the ultimate value. There is loads of it in the Go+. The cabin is fairly large and even the boot space is class-leading. There are also plenty of cubbyholes all around. Mention must be made here of the seats. Datsun says that the seats have individual support points for the pelvis and the chest, thereby cancelling the stress causing by bending moments.
The Go+ is powered by the same 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine which powers the Go hatchback. It generates a maximum power of 67 bhp and a maximum torque of 104 Nm. The company-claimed fuel-efficiency figure is 20.6 kmpl. We found the engine to be responsive and it didn’t feel under-powered even while driving uphill near Rishikesh where we went to review this car. On straights, the engine has enough grunt to effortlessly take the Go+ to speeds in excess of 130 kmph. However, at higher speeds, the engine gets louder and a lot of that noise seeps into the cabin. On the positive side, the gear-shift, clutch operation and steering is light, resulting in tireless long-distance driving.
Passive safety features such as introducing airbags, ABS and a collapsible steering column can make cars safer. The Go+, unfortunately, gets none of these, not even in the top variant, not even as an option. However, Datsun officials say the Go+ gets a lot of active safety features, which can help avoid accidents in the first place. These are headlights providing better illumination in width and depth at night compared to many other cars; better braking thus reducing braking distance; better visibility all around that can help prevent accidents, among others.
The Go+ is more of a station-wagon than an MPV because the third row seats cannot really take two adults—consider it as a five seater with a large boot. The Go+ doesn’t get many passive safety features. Cost-cutting is apparent everywhere in the Go+. Datsun still doesn’t have many touch-points in India to market the Go+ effectively. In such a scenario, Datsun will have to play the price card well. We believe a starting price of Rs 3.99 lakh (the Go starts at Rs 3.12 lakh) makes sense for the extra space you get in the form of a large boot. What the company can also do is pitch the Go+ as a budget family station-wagon, which can be used as a seven-seater if needed, and create a new segment.