Johannesburg - Datsun has been brought back to life after being swallowed up by Nissan in the early 1980s and the first car from the Japanese manufacturer, which operates as Nissan’s budget brand, went on sale in South Africa this week.
Aimed primarily at young, first-time car buyers, the GO five-door hatchback is being launched in two derivatives imported from India that both sell for under R100 000.
The low R89 500 price tag of the entry-level GO is an attention-grabber, and being part of the well-established Nissan family gives the car a shot of credibility in the cheapie hatch market.
For the price, you get a 1.2-litre petrol engine, a five-speed manual gearbox, and comfort knick-knacks including air conditioning and an onboard computer.
Spending R99 500 on the higher model gets you additional features like electronic power steering, manual central locking, front electric windows, full wheel caps, and an audio system comprising two speakers and a mobile docking station for a cellphone with an Aux-in function and a USB port for charging.
A three-year/100 000km warranty applies to both models, while there are optional service or maintenance plans available.
Unfortunately, neither car comes with basic safety like ABS brakes or airbags, which might exclude it from the shortlists of many parents looking to buy a car for their newly-licensed 18-year-olds. These safety features may become available in the GO at a later date however.
I drove the GO at Datsun’s media launch earlier this week, and it’s clear the car is aimed at the bottom end of the market where price is everything. The thin and wrinkly cloth covering the seats looks cheap, and I suspect many GO buyers will make a bee-line to Midas for some protective seat covers soon after buying the car.
Also, the top of the dashboard feels flimsy and actually sags when you drive over a speedhump.
Possibly, these are issues which may be overlooked by the “riser” generation of young buyers that Datsun has identified as its target customer.
For the rest, the GO seems reasonably well put together and for a compact hatch it’s quite spacious, with enough seating space for four adults in reasonable comfort. The front passenger seat cushion is widened so that there’s no space for a storage bin between the two front seats, but there are door pockets and an open cubby providing oddments space.
The 265-litre boot is claimed to be the largest in its class and contains a full-sized spare.
The GO’s styling is quite funky with its large headlamps and chrome-surrounded trapezoidal grille, although the small 13-inch wheels leave unsightly wheel arch gaps.
We shall have to wait for another day to try the GO on a freeway, but on the urban driving route of the media launch, the three-cylinder engine gave a decent account of itself. Though the outputs of 50kW and 104Nm are modest, the car’s weight of just under 800kg gives it a nippy power-to-weight ratio and it dashed about the urban jungle without feeling underpowered.
A higher-than-average 170mm ground clearance together with high-profile tyres, give the GO good pothole-soaking ability, though the short wheelbase makes for a somewhat choppy ride.