Let me scare you quick. You know that Datsun Go that was recently introduced into the world market? Yeah, well that was in 2013. I first had one on review in 2014 and while I found it to be ok, there were safety concerns due to no airbags and driver aids, as well as a zero rating with the NCap crash testing people. People were up in arms about having a new car like that on the local market, and soon most were aware of the dismal results thanks to journos not pulling any stops in reviews. You can imagine what that did for sales of the little car used to relaunch the brand? Nothing. It did absolutely nothing. No one cared, in fact, when the car was launched a panel of experts did some of those marketing panel test study things and guess where safety was listed in the list of requirements for a budget car? I have no idea either but it wasn't even in the top three things. We're built tough here. Back then, the car was available at a starting price of just R89 000 making it attractive to many younger new car buyers. Closing in on five years later, the Datsun Go is still a budget beater with the pricing starting off at R144 500 for the Go Mid and R165 500 for the Go Lux. The price is up, but the GO has been tweaked and tucked here and there too, so it's still decent value for your money.
The bland dash is much better now, and the instrument cluster has a lot more to it now with colour and a tacho, and so looks more modern and along the lines of what you find in other budget Japanese cars. The carbon-look finish with splashes of brushed aluminium definitely raises the look and feel of the interior, along with a darker material for the seats and door panels it's actually a not a bad place to be. Of course those used to the luxury cars would hate it, but a 1st time new car buyer or a student will be more than happy with it. Changes inside include power windows all round and a 7-inch touch screen infotainment unit with both Android CarPlay and Android Auto. The sound actually plays pretty well and the Bluetooth streaming along with the hands-free telephony is great quality, well better than you expect. I'd have tried the Android Auto if it worked in SA properly, yes, it is in the Play Store, and it picks up that you're in a car but I couldn't get it to mirror my Galaxy S8 screen no matter what I did. I'm also sure the problem is either the phone or me because it doesn't work in the press car I currently have either - imma have to look into that. Seating arrangements and the boot space remains the same as the previous model. If I got my hands on one of these, I'd chuck a few grand into quality door speakers and a small boot enclosure for a small woofer - it can turn the cabin into a real happy place.
There have been some exterior changes too, the front-end sees sharper lines in the bumper, air dam and spotlight surrounds, which are home to daytime running lights to add to the improved safety. On that note, this Datsun GO features dual front airbags and also has ABS brakes in play, taking the crash rating up by two from what I understand. There are a host of accessories available from the Datsun dealerships and this one has a few things fitted like the roof racks, the rear roof spoiler, the chrome tailpiece, the chrome trim on the lip of the hatch and the 15-inch mags. All of these things do make the GO look rather good, the little hatch does have good lines. The ride height is the same as before, which is just too high. Yeah, there's the shpiel about it being to accommodate our dodgy SA roads, but my Corsa sits low on coilovers and I've never had any clearance issues. In fact, if I got my hands on one of these, I'd get it slammed with dome good aftermarket underpinnings and I'd change the wheels to some more JDM -style wheels with a meatier 195 tyre over the current 175. That teeny exhaust tip would have to go too, in fact, I'd commission a complete performance exhaust system that may not really improve performance but it will have the little 3-cylinder humming along with a decent soundtrack. The more I think about it, this little thing could look really good with a little fettling.
That aforementioned 3-cylinder produces just 50kW and 104Nm but these numbers are more than enough for the small, light car. Once you get used to the weird 3-cylinder wobble that vibrates the car, you'll see it has enough GO for most situations. One thing that's still the same is the 5-speed manual transmission. 1st and 2nd are quite close together and make for a quick pull off, but 3rd has a much longer ratio with a bit of a gap over the end of 2nd. There’s around a 2000rpm drop when you shift to third and if you happen to be on a hill haven’t taken the revs high enough you'll feel the need to drop back a gear. You get used to it though and adapt accordingly. I think a different filter and the exhaust mods I mentioned will completely eliminate the delay.
So yeah, the Datsun GO has improved in the places it counts, and it's an attractive buy with some good specials when buying them new (although pay close attention to balloons). The one I had was the R165 500 Lux trim and that's not too bad. Shopping in the same category, you can find a similarly spec'd and cheaper cars now though, which wasn't the case when it first launched. For similar or less money, you can have a Suzuki Celerio for R156 900 (even the entry Swift is at R160 900), the top spec Renault Kwid at R153 500, the Mahindra K4 at R163 999, the KIA Picanto 1.2 MT Start at R162 295, and also a Chinese offering from BAIC, the D20 1.3 Comfort at R149 990. I can only comment on the Suzuki models as I haven't driven the other brands, and spec for spec and Rand for Rand I'm not sure I could be swayed to buy the Datsun. That said, many have been sold and still continue to be if the number of them you see on the road is anything to go by. Also, for the last few years I've been a judge at one of the bigger SA shows called Germany vs Japan, and I'm yet to see a modified and done up Datsun GO there, which is quite strange considering the price you can get them at. Maybe Datsun should mess around with one and take it to shows like Suzuki does with the Swift, that would be pretty sick. If y'all need help, just shout.
Author: Chris Wall
A slightly tattooed motoring fanatic, photography nut and avid collector of knowledge. Use the search bar to navigate through the archives.