The Datsun brand is back, the first model of which is South Africa’s cheapest car – the GO. GAVIN MYERS has a GO in one.
What can you buy today for a mere R89 500? You certainly couldn’t, until October 2014, buy a new car … That’s when Nissan reintroduced the Datsun brand and its GO hatchback. Older readers might reminisce about the days when models like the Datsun 120Y and SSS were the bee’s knees, but for now the brand is aiming at first-time buyers – making the new-car experience accessible to a much wider segment of the population.
The question is, though, is Datsun’s version cheap and nasty or cheerful?
What can I expect from the GO?
Given its budget orientation, the GO – especially the Lux model we had on test, priced at R99 500 – presents a mixed bag of what you would and wouldn’t expect. Its cutesy looks are inoffensive and should appeal to buyers young and old, female and (probably to a lesser extent) male.
What is offensive, though, are the inconsistently fitted body panels and massive panel gaps – something that should be rectified even in this price bracket. The exterior of the Lux model is enhanced with the fitment of wheel covers and body-coloured door handles, while our test vehicle was also fitted with a pointlessly oversized hatch spoiler and optional side decals.
The interior is plastic everywhere, of course, but most of the touch points don’t look or feel poor quality. There are one or two sharp edges, though, on the steering wheel boss and around the storage trays (there is no traditional cubby).
Is it loaded with lots of safety features and other nice toys?
Tricky … To begin with, the GO is missing some safety items that should not be missing from any new vehicle on the market today – let alone one that is essentially a Nissan. These are airbags (at the very least for the driver only) and Anti-lock Braking (ABS). The rear seatbelts, while of the three-point variety, are not inertia reel and just simple belts with length adjustment.
While I can understand the cost associated with airbags and, to a lesser extent, ABS, surely fitting two extra inertia-reel seatbelts wouldn’t push costs out of proportion?
Especially so when you consider the standard equipment, some of which could perhaps be sacrificed for their fitment … air-conditioning, a full on-board computer and follow-me-home headlights are fitted across the range, while Lux spec adds front electric windows, electric power steering, central locking and a mobile docking station (interestingly, our test car was fitted with an aftermarket Sony radio).
What’s it like from behind the wheel?
Mostly unpleasant, if I’m honest. I found the front seats incredibly uncomfortable, the gearbox is heavy and clunky, the unprogressive clutch travel sometimes results in lurchy gearshifts and the fairground-type rear-view mirror can give you vertigo.
More importantly, though is that the handling leaves a lot to be desired. During an emergency braking situation the rear end goes light and steps out of line. Added to locked front wheels, I imagine the situation will be heart-stopping for the intended first-time buyer.
Although rough at idle, the little 1,2-litre three-cylinder engine does a good job of making the GO go. It produces all of 50 kW and 104 Nm, but the GO’s featherweight 788 kg tare mass allows for sprightly performance. Fuel consumption is also good, at a claimed 5,2 l/100 km. The tank is a pint-sized 35 l, though.
Will it be kind to my pocket?
Well, this is the GO’s reson de entre. Datsun backs the GO with a three-year/100 000 km warranty, while service and maintenance plans are optional – fully understandable at the price. And, given Nissan’s reputation for building solid, reliable cars, nothing on the GO should really go wrong.
Should I buy one, or look around?
The price is tempting and, if you don’t care much for safety features, the GO comes with everything one would expect at the price. Nonetheless, I feel the inclusion of safety features, which the GO is missing, should be a non-negotiable in a modern day vehicle. It’s also uncomfortable and noisy and, by the end of my week with the GO, I remained unconvinced.
Yes, the drive and overall feeling of solidity is better than most of the GO’s Chinese and Indian rivals – but there is also a plethora of one or two-year-old Chevrolet Sparks on the market at the same price …
The Spark is a nicer vehicle to be in and, critically, comes with those missing safety features. It really is what I would go for if I were in the market for a small car under R100 000. New or not.
Cyberstoep Rating: 3.5/10
I’m Cyberstoep’s resident (self-appointed) motoring fanatic. My life has always revolved around anything with wheels and an engine. It doesn’t matter if its an old banger, the latest hot-hatch or a fancy 4×4 – any excuse is a good excuse to take it for a cruise … Read more