Datsun GO (2014) Review

Datsun GO Side

The recent launch of the budget A-segment Datsun GO marked the return of the Datsun brand to South Africa, which is all very exciting, but the GO has also raised many eyebrows. Much of the controversy stems from the fact that the GO has no modern safety systems fitted and that it recently scored a zero star Bharat NCAP safety rating, but is there more to the GO?

The answer depends on the value you place on safety and how much you can afford to spend on a new car. The Datsun GO is all about perspective. To relate, I drove a VW Golf Chico across South Africa multiple times for 12 years, all in a car that's devoid of any safety features, no ABS, no airbags, no nothing and yet it remains a popular used car. The GO's maiden sales figures speak volumes with 583 units sold in its first month, which is mightily impressive, if not surprising.

I put the Datsun GO Lux model through its paces to see if it offers value for money, but more importantly to gauge whether it will serve the needs of countless cash-strapped car buyers in South Africa.

Awkward Styling

Let's be honest, the Datsun GO is no stunner, but it has a certain, awkward, charm about it. Apart from its prominent honeycomb grille with chrome surrounds and relatively bold, compact styling, our test unit came fitted with various aftermarket styling appointments such as wind visors, coloured body stickers, a rear roof spoiler and illuminated 'GO' scuff plates, giving it some flair and attitude that cars in this segment lack. The 13-inch wheels look rather small in the arches though.

The styling of the GO attracted some attention with one motorist shouting 'Hey, lekker Datsun boet'. I couldn't tell if he was genuine.

Blast from the past interior

The GO's interior is something of a time warp and rather unique. The front seat is a bench, literally, with no gap between the seats and bolstering is just about nonexistent. By modern standards, the bench seat looks a bit odd, yet it's still functional and can split-fold if necessary. This test model also came fitted with racy leather seat covers with embossed 'GO' lettering for an extra dose of Datsun attitude.

Due to the bench seat up front, the gear lever and handbrake lever are mounted in the centre console, which takes a bit of getting used to. The interior is kitted out in hard-wearing beige grey plastic with switchgear of the same order. Four bulging air vents take care of the air-conditioning and storage is limited to an exposed under-dash compartment and in-door pockets, or on the bench seat next to you.

Boot space is reasonable for a car of this size, offering 265-litres and the rear bench has space for three people, the smaller the better though. We also managed to squeeze three surfboards into the Datsun GO, which was rather impressive.

Our test model came fitted with an aftermarket radio, but the standard GO comes with a Mobile Docking Station (MDS) which allows you to connect your mobile device to two speakers using an auxiliary cable and a USB port is also offered. The tachometer is incorporated into the Drive Computer and front electric windows were a nice luxury.  Like whisky, the interior of the Datsun GO is an acquired taste and won't appeal to everyone, but it does the job.

Rough Rider

The Datsun GO is powered by a 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine that offers up 50 kW of power and 104 Nm of torque through a five-speed manual transmission. On urban roads, these figures are sufficient to scoot you about your business. However, I found the Datsun GO to be less fit for highway driving. Severe body-roll is evident while cornering and road and engine noise becomes overbearing as speed increases. At 120 kph, I felt a bit vulnerable in the GO and the car didn't inspire confidence on congested highways which disturbed me somewhat. For this reason, the Datsun GO is not an ideal long-distance hauler but will serve its owner well in the suburbs.

The engine is tough and durable but has a raw, throaty sound to it. With the revs limited to 5 000 rpm, you tend to change gears often to find the power but at least gear changes using the joystick gear lever are relatively smooth. In terms of fuel consumption, the Datsun GO under performed on its claimed 5.2-litres / 100km. My best efforts returned 7.3-litres / 100km, which was a bit disappointing, but still reasonable.

Datsun GO - Verdict

As a basic runabout, the Datsun GO is an attractive and accessible option for lower income earners looking for an affordable and durable vehicle. The engine is solid and the overall styling is more exciting than other cars in this segment of the market. If you're looking for safety, look elsewhere. But, if you are looking for no fuss, carefree mobility, the Datsun GO may very well suit your needs and that seems to be the case for many South Africans looking to buy their first new car. The Datsun GO is definitely worth considering if you're shopping in this corner of the market and we advise that you compare the Datsun GO with its competitors.

Second Opinion

The Datsun GO has had a choppy re-introduction to SA as its overall safety has come under fire. Whilst most of us adults grew up in cars even less safe we've come to expect more from our modern day budget wheels. As a city car where speeds are lower the GO probably suits just fine but if you're going to be doing a lot of mileage on freeways or higher speed roads then it may be best to look elsewhere. - Ashley Oldfield   

Datsun GO Price in South Africa

The base model Datsun GO Mid is priced at R89 500 while the Lux version is priced at R99 500. A 3-year / 100 000 km warranty is standard while service and maintenance plans are optional. Service intervals are at 15 000 km.

We like: . Unconventional styling . Tough, durable engine . Accessible price point

We Don't Like: . Lack of safety features . Excessive body roll . Wind and road noise

Also Consider:

Chery QQ3 Geely LC FAW V2 Tata Indica

Datsun GO Quick Specs

Engine 1.2-litre, 3-cylinder
Power 50 kW @ 5 000 rpm
Torque 104 Nm @ 4 000 rpm
Transmission 5-speed manual
Wheels Steel rims with wheel covers
0-100 km/h 13.3 seconds (claimed)
Top Speed 161 kph
Fuel economy 5.2-litres/100km
Fuel Tank 35 L