2019 Datsun GO: Safety and equipment improvements add appeal

It’s been four years since the Datsun GO landed in South Africa, to a collective multitude of gasps from the motoring fraternity. Let’s be charitable and say that, while the re-launched Datsun brand hit our market with very enticing pricetags, their initial offerings were rather lacking in key areas. They were quite sparsely equipped, for instance, and they weren’t exactly good to drive or very well-made either.

The main bugbear revolved around the safety specification, however. Not only did the first GO not offer any form of active safety equipment (such as ABS or stability control), but its passive safety was also sorely lacking: there was not a single airbag in sight, and in NCAP crash testing, its body structure was shown to be as flimsy as a piece of wet, single-ply loo paper. In fact, it performed so poorly that Max Mosley (Chairman of Global NCAP) directed a letter at Carlos Ghosn (CEO of Renault-Nissan), imploring them to withdraw the car from global markets on safety grounds.

To their credit, Datsun responded by adding a driver’s airbag to the GO’s high-spec variant soon after, with promises of further improvements in the near future. Well, that future has arrived, and with it comes a substantially upgraded GO (and a GO+ 7-seater with similar upgrades). And, while they were busy making it better, they changed the cabin and appointments as well, significantly improving the build quality, and generally making the GO a nicer car all round.

Safety

It’s unclear whether the freshly updated GO has a stronger bodyshell to go with its refreshed looks, but the basic safety specification is a lot better than what went before. ABS makes its long-awaited appearance in both entry-level “Mid” and top-spec “Lux” variants, along with two airbags as standard equipment across the range. This brings the GO in line with similar-priced offerings from the likes of Suzuki and Mahindra, and applies to the GO+ MPV and Panel Van as well.

Interestingly, Datsun also announced that the GO will receive stability control in mid-2019, actually putting it ahead of most of its competitors in this regard. We applaud this new commitment to ensuring that their customers enjoy at least adequate protection on our hazardous roads.

Sharper styling

Much fuss is made of the new front grille and revised bumpers at both ends, and it does make for some improvement of the GO’s appearance. This is undoubtedly helped along by larger wheels, which lends a more attractive stance, as well a range of bright and cheerful new colours to make for a welcome change from the old car’s predominantly pastel shades.

As usual, you can also specify a range of accessories, such as stickers, spoilers and 15-inch wheels. But, behind all these details, it’s still a slightly frumpy small hatchback. Those proportions give it decent cabin- and boot space, after all…

It’s new inside as well

The good news continues inside the cabin, where an updated dashboard with a new design is much easier on the eye, as well as much better-made. The bench seat is finally banished, giving room for a centre console with (mock) carbon fiber inlays, two cup holders, and a floor-mounted handbrake. Nestled in the middle of the dashboard, you’ll find a new colour touch-screen infotainment system complete with a USB port, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto across the range. Quite a nice change from the weird phone docking-thing on offer as standard in the old GO, then.

It’s not stingy elsewhere either, with air-con, electric power steering, four electric windows, electric mirror adjustment, remote central locking, and even rear parking sensors included in the standard specification. Lux variants add a rear wiper, body colour door handles, LED Daytime Running Lights (DRLs), a tachometer, and some silver trim pieces on the dashboard.

Mechanically largely unchanged

Except for the addition of ABS, and the wheel size growing from 13- to 14-inches, the mechanical bits carry over from the previous model. This means that there’s a 1.2-litre 3-cylinder engine under the bonnet, sending power to the front wheels through a 5-speed manual gearbox.

The engine is not too bad, as far as naturally-aspirated triples go, but it’s hardly a paragon of refinement either. The thrumming soundtrack adds a welcome dose of character to the driving experience, but the traditional “triple tremble” at idle serves as a reminder that this is after all still a budget offering.

Performance is adequate for this kind of car, thanks to a low kerb weight of 835 kg and outputs of 50 kW and 104 Nm. One needs to stir the rather vague dash-mounted gear lever to access meaningful acceleration, but even then, it’s unlikely to punish hard driving at the service station. Claimed average fuel consumption is 5.2 litres/100 km, and real-world figures shouldn’t be much higher, either.

Handling is safe, but uninspiring. At least the bigger wheels bring some extra stability and more mechanical grip, but the softly-sprung suspension makes for quite epic body lean through corners and plenty of understeer under duress. However, that long-travel suspension makes short work of our potholed, speed-humped roads, and settles down to an acceptably smooth ride at freeway speeds.

Pricing

Of course, with all this new standard stuff, it was inevitable that the prices will increase. The actual price hikes seem like very good value, in relation to the all-round increases in the GO’s appeal – it costs a little more, but it’s a lot nicer. The entry-level GO Mid carries a sticker of R144 500 (R5600 more than the old Flash special edition), but that’s really a very reasonable premium for the new model’s added safety equipment and elevated standard specification.

The high-trim GO Lux goes up against some more-serious competition at R165 500. You can have a very nicely-trimmed 1.0-litre Picanto or an entry-level Suzuki Swift GA for similar money, and its own cousin, the Nissan Micra Active, is only about R10 000 more expensive. The smart money will likely go to the Mid trim level, because the Lux’s add-ons probably don’t really justify its price premium. However, if your budget can stretch that far, the Lux still offers a lot of car for the money.

Verdict

Rather than making being cheap its only virtue, the latest GO adds some real value to Datsun’s recipe for affordable motoring. More airbags are always a bonus, and ABS should really be mandatory on all new vehicles, and to see these features offered as standard is a step in the right direction. Add to that the newly-expanded equipment list and improved build quality, and a previous no-go becomes a surprisingly appealing option in its latest version. Good GOing, Datsun…. Now how about a new SSS?

 

Source reference: https://www.autotrader.co.za

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