Johannesburg - In November last year, Datsun launched the rejuvenated Go hatchback in South Africa with the aim of mobilising even more people... people that still have no choice but to use public transport, the brand says. That's always been the goal of the Go, though, since its original introduction about five years ago now.
The thing is, the compact car segment has been a flurry of activity, with fresh faces attached to a number of the competitors in segment that the Go plays in, making it a tougher sell. Prices have moved on too, as it has with most new cars, but where the Go's big USP was its cheapness, the latest high spec version we had on test proved that throwing trinkets at something that isn't really good to begin with doesn't make it better.
So what makes the Go a special car? Well, not much really, as much as we love compact Japanese hatchbacks.
The new Datsun Go features revised exterior and interior styling upgrades that give the vehicle a sporty appearance, but it's still dated-looking compared to competitors such as the Kia Picanto.
You'll get a redesigned front grille and bumpers and 14” wheels, while the car's 1.2-litre petrol engine still produces 50kW at 5000rpm and 104Nm at 4000rpm.
Datsun's marketing material will tell you that this engine is mated to a 'smooth' five-speed transmission, but the test car proved otherwise. Gear changes felt notchy, unprecise and old-fashioned. The combined buzzing of the engine as well as the unrefined transmission made it feel like a car from the 1990s; and this is what puzzled me becuase Nissan made excellent cars in the '90s in the form of the Sentra and Sabre... they know how to build these cars, yet the Go feels unfinished.
As standard fare in the new Go, depending on the derivative you go for, you'll get colour-coded electric side mirrors, reverse parking sensors, intermittent wipers, central locking, an immobiliser, ABS, driver and passenger airbags, and retractable seatbelts while the Lux version receives daytime running lights, a rear windscreen wiper with washer and body-colour door handles.
Our car came with Apple Car Play connectivity, Bluetooth and USB, a glove box lid, front and rear power windows, electric power steering, electrically adjustable mirrors, redesigned individual seats for the driver and front passenger. Lux versions also boast an 'independent tachometer' and a silver finish on the aircon dial, vent and door handles. Snazzy.
Ok, so Datsun says that the Go has a class-leading turning circle of just 4.6 metres, which is perfect for city driving, but it also lacks refinement on the road.
Not only is the engine buzzy, as mentioned earlier, there's a heck of a lot of road noise and wind noise too. Now, we're not expecting GT-R levels of attention to detail here, but come on, this company knows how to build solid cars...(Remember the Sentra and the Sabre from the '90s. Great cars.)
Sure, so Datsun is not Nissan, and we understand that, but the link is there and it's tough not to see the 'cheapness' in the car.
It doesn't feel as sure-footed on the road, the steering system feels over assisted. I found that I had to not only rev the car out to keep pace with Jo'burg traffic, I had to really keep it on the boil if I ventured onto the highway which made it a tiring drive. Most cars in this segment require a bit of gearbox stirring and revs, but there's this unrefined feeling in the Go when you're on the move that detracts from the joy of driving.
In terms of fuel consumption, Datsun claims 5.2l/100km, which can probably be achieved if you're a relaxed type of driver. We averaged closer to 8l/100km (not bad, but not that impressive for a 1.2-litre motor).
As a new car, the Go doesn't make sense to me. It feels old to drive, it's build quality isn't the best (just look at the hinges for the doors and the tailgate when you go out to test drive one.) At least you get a standard three-year/100 000km warranty and an optional service plan.