FIRST DRIVE | Pick the 2019 Datsun Go at your own risk
As a loyal reader, you know by now that we have been outspoken in our criticism of the Renault Kwid and its Datsun Go relative. We recently published our impressions of the former, enhanced for 2019, with an overall sentiment that was hardly positive, but entirely fair.
Last week, Datsun launched the two-pedal, automatic version of its Go hatchback. One felt that attendance would be prudent, before writing the car off. No pun intended.
That the model employs a continuously variable transmission (CVT) is perhaps already a gripe. Chances are you have heard or read the words bemoaning the nature of this set-up. A CVT does not have conventional gears. It uses pulleys and a belt to provide a varying spread of ratios.
Consider this in-a-nutshell explanation from the people at Nissan: “The CVT simultaneously adjusts the diameter of the ‘drive pulley’ that transmits torque from the engine and the ‘driven pulley’ that transfers torque to the wheels.” It is paired with the existing 1198cc, three-cylinder petrol, though in this guise power has been bumped up a smidgen. You get 7kW more (now 57kW), while torque remains the same at 104Nm. A well-concealed black button on the sizeable shifter handle illuminates the word “sport” on the instrument cluster.
Admittedly, despite the characteristic strained, droning soundtrack, the Go CVT seemed to perform adequately around the Cradle of Humankind roads. It was far more agreeable in the conditions of Johannesburg city, of course.
Ignition GT producer Shaun Korsten and I remarked that it felt surprisingly not nervous at freeway speeds. Granted, they were well below 120km/h. We both have memories etched on our minds of how unsettled the Go became after a simple lane-change manoeuvre at mild speeds, conducted earlier this year.
That said, this version is the only one in the range to benefit from electronic stability assistance, dubbed Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) in Nissan parlance. In addition, anti-lock brakes and electronic brake-force distribution are part of the mix. Which brings us to the obvious bone of contention: safety.
The new head of Datsun, Hide Kuwayama, reiterated at the launch that structural improvements were part of “running changes” made to the line-up. Remember that the “improved” Datsun Go was launched in February this year. Kuwayama explained that high-tensile steel reinforcements had been made to the front, with tougher crossbar rigidity.
He noted: “The overall bodyshell’s steel was converted to high-tensile steel, the structure of the doors and the roof were also improved and the seats were also strengthened. This is a never-ending activity, but we are continuously investing in our models to satisfy the evolving expectation of the customers.”
The Go in its current iteration has not yet been subjected to testing by GlobalNCAP. No reminder needed about how it fared previously. On the automaker's local website, under the tab marked Safety, a headline states: “Prevention is better than cure.”
We agree — and for that reason, we would point you elsewhere if you are in the market for a small automatic under R200,000. And while the niche is small, there are other options. Like the Hyundai Grand i10 1.0 Motion AT (R193,300); Suzuki Swift 1.2 GL AMT (R195,900) or Kia Picanto 1.0 Style AT (R193,995).
DATSUN GO CVT: R184,200
DATSUN GO+ CVT: R194,800