Bucking the AMT trend in the budget segment, Datsun has chosen to imbue its Go budget car with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Is this a good move? We drove the newcomer at its local launch in Johannesburg this week to find out...
With the budget segment showing a noticeable uptick in ease-of-use 2-pedal vehicles, Japanese brand, Datsun, now offers its Go and Go+ with a CVT. It's interesting to note that most of the segment has leaned towards the AMT option. The Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) looks good on paper, but experience with these transmissions suggest that they dull the driving experience and drivers need to adapt their driving style substantially.
The acronym CVT is regarded as a swearword in the vocabulary of petrolheads as the unwarranted droning noise upon full throttle application is a common sore point. However, there's some merit to these types of transmissions. In non-performance cars, they do a good job of reducing fuel consumption and offer a generally smoother ride in gridlock traffic.
The CVT transmission in the Datsun Go makes for a smoother drive around town.
Engine and economy
Interestingly, the CVT-equipped version of the Datsun Go has a touch more power than its manual counterparts. There's 57 kW and 104 Nm from a 1.2-litre naturally-aspirated 3-cylinder motor and power goes to the front wheels. In terms of fuel economy, the CVT Go claims 5.0 L/100 km, which is a 10% improvement in comparison to its manual-equipped sibling.
The Datsun Go CVT comes with front and rear electric windows, power steering, 14-inch alloys, touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, USB port and daytime-running lights. We would have liked to have seen some steering-wheel-mounted controls, however.
Apple Carplay and Android Auto functionality add some hands-free connectivity inside the Datsun Go.
But is the Datsun Go unsafe?
The updated Go which was launched in November 2018 addressed some of the safety shortcomings which has been an issue since it was first launched in 2014. The Datsun Go (and its new CVT option) comes with dual airbags, ABS/EBD/Brake Assist and VDC, which is a form of stability control. There are still question marks surrounding the integrity of the crash structure and whether it would be able to withstand a serious impact, but the aforementioned features will do a lot in reducing your chances of getting into an accident in the first place.
How does it drive?
The Datsun Go CVT comes with 14-inch alloy wheels as standard.
We had a chance to drive the all-new Datsun Go CVT on a 50 km route on an assortment of roads and traffic situations. The driving position is fair and the cabin layout is ergonomically acceptable. That being said, it took us more than a few minutes to locate the USB port to make full use of hands-free Android Auto. Why hide the USB port, Datsun?
As long as you modulate the accelerator pedal and don't depress it fully, the Datsun Go is smooth and offers adequate power for urban driving. With your foot flat, the trademark CVT drone emerges with very little increase in forward momentum. The ride offered by the 14-inch alloy wheels is acceptable, but significant body roll is evident during cornering. The steering is light and tight parking maneuvres (which we put to the test in a parking gymkhana) are effortlessly taken care of.
The Achilles Heel of the Datsun Go CVT is when it comes to overtaking on a national highway at 3-digit speeds. Put your foot flat and the engine revs noisily, but in-gear acceleration is barely noticeable, especially if you're climbing a hill. Should you look into Datsun Go CVT ownership? Well, there's a lot on offer in this segment, ranging from the newly-launched Hyundai Atos to the recently updated Kwid. The Datsun Go's free insurance and generous specification will win it some fans as well as its pleasant urban driving characteristics.
A note of advice, if you do buy a Go then try to avoid driving on highways unless absolutely necessary. If you stick to speeds under 100 kph, you should be satisfied with its fuss-free operation.
Datsun Go Price in South Africa (November 2019)
Datsun Go Mid R159 100
Datsun Go Lux R170 200
Datsun Go CVT R184 200
The Datsun Go is sold with a 6-year/150 000 km warranty and comes with a year's worth of insurance. A service plan is optional.