Datsun India has finally upped the ante of the GO badge in the country. This is a much-needed overhaul to the hatchback and its mini-MPV ever since they were introduced in India more than four years ago. At that time, these cars received a lacklustre response from Indian car buyers and were easily overlooked, largely due to a scant number of features. Fast forward to today and the GO and GO Plus have turned out to be far more desirable than their earlier versions. Now the pair packs in a decent feature list with sufficient standard equipment. And although under the skin, there isn’t any substantial change, the subtle styling updates have made the GO duo a significant alternative in the high volume entry-level segment.
The first thing that will catch your attention is the redesigned bumper which now also houses vertical LED daytime running strips – offered for the first time and only offered in top-spec trim – integrated into the blacked-out inserts. The new bumper design is aggressive and modern, which uplifts the GO’s demeanour to a large extent. Although the grille remains more or less unchanged, the redesigned mesh and its contrasting surrounds make it a lot more appealing than before. The most important update is the addition of the 14-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels – another first – in the top-spec trim. Previously, Datsun offered only steel rims and even this was for the T (O) guise.
At the rear, the changes are limited to the restyled bumper. Then there is the new body colour option – Amber Orange for the GO and Sunstone Brown for GO Plus – which also adds to the appeal. On the downside, you can still find uneven panel gaps all around the car. Overall, the quirky design of the GO (and the GO Plus) has been further enhanced with the updates and they get a proper JDM styling, making both the cars a considerable alternative
So we come to the point which I have been waiting to talk about. All the features in the cabin of the GO duo are now conventionally placed. The grey-beige combination has been changed to all black with a piano finish and silver trims in the GO. The GO Plus, on the other hand, gets a white treatment across the dashboard, which actually looks good and makes the cabin feel airy. The most important update you’ll notice once you settle down in the driver seat is the large seven-inch touchscreen display. Offered on the T and T (O) trims, the new Blaupunkt infotainment system comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Out goes the old-school pull-and-twist handbrake and in comes the conventional handbrake lever which sits in its usual place – between the two front seats. Also, the open glovebox of the old car now gets a conventional treatment while the unchanged steering wheel gets contrasting aluminium-like inserts, thus making it more premium than before. The USB port and AUX point are hidden below the gear lever mount.
The front seats also replace the bench-type ones of the older car, but the attached headrest lacks proper support. The seats are an improvement over the older car, yet there isn’t any lateral support and you don’t get any driver-adjust settings either. However, the driving position works well for most drivers, regardless of their height. Also, the large windows provide decent visibility, which is a boon while driving in the city.
The back bench is a bit of a squeeze for three adults. And although the GO Plus is the cheapest seven-seater you can buy today, the third row is best suited for children. But you can use it as an extended storage compartment with seats folded down. In the matters of storage compartments, there are two on front doors with cup holders in the centre console, but the rear seat passengers have to make do with seat pockets. And there is no parcel shelf available either. The GO offers a boot space at 256 litres, while the GO Plus boasts of 347 litres albeit with the third-row folded.
There are carbon-fibre designed inserts seen all around the cabin – atop the glovebox, around the power window switch, surrounding the gear-lever and inside the instrument cluster. Meanwhile, the redesigned instrument cluster gets a newly-added digital screen which displays two trip meters, fuel efficiency and odometer.
The newfound equipment list now includes dual front airbag system, ABS (Antilock Braking System) with EBD (Electronic brake-force distribution) and brake assist apart from rear parking assist sensors as a standard fitment across the range. Apart from that, there are new features like keyless entry, all four power windows, and electrically adjustable ORVMs.
Although the overall quality has improved drastically over the old car, you can still see cheap materials used in various places to keep the cost down.
Under the hood of the GO and GO Plus is the same 1,198cc three-cylinder petrol motor as the older models. We know the older car was peppy in nature, and with the same Micra-sourced engine, this characteristic should have been retained. But to our surprise, this isn’t the case. Off the line, the Datsun is smooth but once on the move, there is no low-end grunt whatsoever. Under 2,000 rpm, there is no torque from the engine and it has to be revved higher to gain any kind of moment. The motor feels best in the mid-range (past 2,500rpm) which was decent for both city and highway commute. In higher gears, the revs take their own sweet time to climb, and the speed gathered isn’t as much as you’d expect. Moreover, keeping the revs high in a city vehicle seems a bit ridiculous, because the engine noise at the higher rpm is anything but pleasant.
But the biggest issue is its notchy gearbox. There’s a rubbery feel to it, and shifting gears is cumbersome, especially in traffic. It takes unnecessary effort sometimes to slot in the gear, and this gearbox is not meant for quick shifting.
The ride quality of the Datsun GO and GO Plus is supple. Drive these cars in an easy-going manner and both of them feel well planted along with decent road manners. However, you can feel the sharp bumps in the entire cabin as the suspension tends to crash at high speeds. The dampers do a good job of keeping the car settled even on uneven road surfaces. But at highway speeds, it sometimes takes time to settle down while going over the undulating surfaces.
After the initial steering play – which is a lot – the response is decent and supportive both in high-speed lane changing or manoeuvring in a congested city driving. There is an apparent body roll (more so in the GO Plus) and Datsun eliminating the antiroll bar doesn’t help the cause either. So it is uninspiring to do enthusiastic cornering in both these cars.
A high ground clearance of 180mm (same as the Kwid) helps going over anything the Indian roads (or the absence of them) have to throw at the Datsun pair. The brakes provide a good stopping power but a little more bite from them would have helped. The standard ABS with EBD boosts the confidence as well.
Both the GO and GO Plus are slightly more expensive than the older cars. But now there are a host of new features and equipment which makes both the Datsuns more relevant than before. The duo also has standard airbags, ABS and EBD and added structural rigidity which makes them safer as well. However, the GO doesn’t feel as premium as its competition like the Tata Tiago, Maruti Suzuki Celerio or the Hyundai Eon. On the flip side, the engine and gearbox feels under par compared to any modern day cars that you can buy these days. Both the GO or GO Plus is a decent buy if you want a car that is well equipped, is spacious as well as practical at this price point in the Indian market.
Pictures - Kaustubh Gandhi