Nissan launched the new Datsun Go to the media near the OR Tambo Airport yesterday, and spent a huge portion of the six-hour launch programme out-lining its marketing strategy, while the obligatory test drive was restricted to urban confines, not a single stretch of highway to be found on the route schedule.
That was a pity, as I would have liked to see how the Datsun Go’s tiny 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine, rated at just 50 kW, handled itself out there in the cut-and-thrust of the N12, trading lanes with real live big trucks and delivery vans seemingly on a mission from some uncompromising dictator.
Nevertheless, it was one of the most interesting launches of the year, with the Datsun nameplate making its first new-car presence felt since the early 1980s, when the entire company decided to change its name to Nissan.
Datsun Go Price in South AfricaWe were all suitably impressed that the newly formed (for the year 2014) Datsun division here had managed to keep the launch price of the base model, known as the Mid, right down to R89 500. This is indeed an achievement, given that two years ago when it decreed that Datsun would be back, and that the new car would cost under R100 000, the rand was some 30 per cent stronger on the international money markets.
The huge media throng was less than impressed upon hearing that both the base model and the up-spec Lux model (which we drove, and costs R99 500) is not equipped with either ABS or airbags. Apparently, these items are coming early in the new year, but expect the prices to rise accordingly.
Design and looksThe new Go, in the metal, looks quite cute and funky with a bold trapezoidal styling at the front, diagonal lines on the sides, with a rounded rear end. What makes it look rather odd is that the ride height is extremely high, and that the standard-spec 13-inch steel wheels, running mere 155/70 rubber, don’t come anywhere near filling the wheel arches, particularly the rear ones.
In fact the car has a slight down-at-the-front, up-at-the-rear stance, but it is worth pointing out, as Datsun’s marketing people did, that this high ride-height is useful when negotiating the potholes and speed bumps of Gauteng roads.
CabinThe interior has a pleasant funky look about the dashboard, which should appeal to the young market of first-time buyers that Datsun is targeting. The dash is finished in a kind of light-sand colour, and the seats are in a contrasting dark-brown, using a fabric that doesn’t look all-that durable, but is pleasant on the eye.
The front seat is unusual in that it is a sort of semi-bench, so if you and your buds are young and very thin, you could almost squeeze three people up front. Or, your front passenger could move in tight to be right next to you while you work that gear stick. And you will be working that gear stick a lot thanks to the small engine.
How Does It Drive?The engine is red-lined at just over 5 000 rpm and just as you are really beginning to groove on that lovely three-cylinder soul-wail (the best part of the car for me is the sound of the engine) it’s time to change up. On an urban route such as our launch drive, you’ll probably find yourself using third gear most of all at suburban speed limits. It will be interesting to see if the Datsun Go matches the consumption claim of 5.2L/100 km.
We tried using fourth and fifth (the gearbox is a five-speeder) on occasion through the ‘burbs and it was possible for short spells on the flat, but if any acceleration was needed you were soon back to third or even second gear. Max torque is rated at a modest 104 Nm. The ride is not bad over the bumpy stuff. The driving position for me at 1.83m meant my left knee was too close to the umbrella handbrake, and the steering column is non-adjustable.
Standard FeaturesBut air-con is standard on both the very cheap and the cheap model, as are electric window lifts for the front. And there is a special smart-phone docking system on the dash enabling owners to easily pair their phones with the car’s sound system.
Space at the rear is fine for even passengers of 1,82 metres and taller, so the skinny young upwardly-mobile first-time buyers Datsun is targeting should be happy with the basics. The boot at 265 Litres is actually near the top of the class for this kind of car.
AccessoriesThere is a whole range of accessory gear available for the Datsun Go from the get-go at the 45 dealers country-wide where the Datsun brand is available right now. The car is on sale with an optional service plan, and you can add go-faster stripes (reminiscent of the old Dazzle stickers fitted to the Y-series cars in the ‘70s, when Datsun was the market leader here for a brief spell), a roof rack, roof spoiler, and alloy wheels. We saw a car in an East Rand dealership with bigger wheels and tyres fitted and it looked a lot better than with the skinny wheels, but these 14-inch alloys plus bigger tyres would add about R8 000 to the cost.
All in all, a pleasant little car, and well priced, but once ABS and airbags are added around March 2015, as well as those few extras, you are looking at a price well over the magical R100 000 mark.