Off late, much has been talked about the Datsun brand. Not only in India, but also on a global scale. Reason – the Global NCAP crash tests. But we will leave that aside for now and not steal the thunder from what the brand has to offer the Indian customer next. With the Nissan range of cars falling in the slightly premium, B1 segment and beyond, the company couldn’t tap the entry level hatchback space which accounts for huge volumes month-on-month. To counter this, rather than launching a low cost car by themselves, Nissan revived the Datsun brand to offer entry level products not only in India, but globally. Datsun is a known name in the automotive world, for the history it has in the industry, but is not a familiar term in the Indian market. Datsun first launched the Go hatchback in India earlier this year in the A segment to fight against the cars such as Hyundai Eon, Maruti Alto, Hyundai Santro, Chevrolet Spark. However, with the brand being next to unknown, the car although offering good value for money in terms of space and engine performance, is still a slow selling product in the market. Coupled by the very rare dealer presence across the country, Datsun cars are yet to be explored by the first time buyers, to whom the car is actually targeted at.
With the Go moving around at a slow pace in the market, Datsun wanted to capitalise on another segment which has been fast growing in the Indian market – the MPVs. If you spoke about buying a multi-purpose, people mover a couple of years back, these cars were looked down upon due to their overall quirky exterior profile and the handling package. But in today’s date, the customer wants more bang for his buck, and needs the ability to carry more when on the go. This is where the Go+ comes in. Based on the Go, the Go+ as the name suggests is basically a Go hatchback, with a ‘PLUS’ in the space department. Once you look at the car, it is a legitimate argument if some call the car as a station-wagon while some call it an MPV due to the 7-seating option. If you ask us, it is difficult to categorise. The size and proportions of the Go+ are definitely compact, and the car isn’t too tall giving it a station-wagon / estate like look, but the common term to suit the market in today’s date going by the seating capacity would be an MPV. Slotting in under sub-4 metres, Datsun plans to pitch the Go+ to the customers as a compact-MPV. So does the Go+ have enough ‘PLUS’ factors to sell well? Does it justify the name and will the customers find it appealing enough? We took the car around the streets of Dehradun to find out, and this is what we have to say…
An old brand resurrected to develop low-cost, entry level cars for the emerging markets, Datsun is nothing apart from this. The cars are nothing fancy, or something you would buy just based on the looks. And when the name says Go+, it looks identical to the Go, with the ‘PLUS’ being revealed towards the rear end with additional seating / storage space.
One glance at the Datsun Go+ from the front, and one can mistake it for the Go hatchback. Both models are that similar to each other. Much like the Swift and the Dzire, the Grand i10 and the Xcent. The Go+ measures 3,995mm in length, 1,635mm in width, 1,490mm in height and has a wheelbase of 2,450mm. This makes the Go+ longer by 210mm and taller by 5mm compared to the Go hatchback. Wheelbase remains identical on both the models. Even the ground clearance is a healthy 170mm for the Go & Go+. Where the 5mm extra height almost goes unnoticed, the extra length lends the Go+ the MPV characteristics.
Nothing has changed at the front. The Go+ carries the same hexagonal front grille with honeycomb mesh inside and a chunky chrome surround. The grille is imposing and the only striking design element on the car. Even the power bulge on the bonnet remains the same which merges with the front grille. Front bumpers get conventional air dams below the grille, but are a part of the bumper and not an extra, removable plastic section. Headlamps are again identical with the single illumination pot and smoked out effect. They are slightly swept back to make things look that little bit aesthetic. Fog lamps are not provided and that particular section on the bumper has a black, mesh-like plastic. The windscreen gets a single wiper, for keeping the costs low.
Side profile justifies the ‘+’ badge. The car is longer, although it doesn’t come out as a very tall MPV by segment standards such as the Ertiga or Mobilio. Its a completely copy-paste job when it comes to the exterior design of the Go+ compared to the Go. The crease lines are identical. Even the rear bulge above the rear wheel remains the same and runs all the way to the tail lamp. Even on the top end variant, Datsun still does not offer body coloured ORVMs. Although some might dislike this, it actually breaks the monotony well. Not to forget that you don’t have to worry about paint being scratched over here. B and C pillars are blacked out and the third row quarter glass is designed to gel well with the overall design. Doesn’t look quirky at all. Front and rear doors also have identical design, just like the Go hatchback. Dimensions however would differ a bit due to the additional 5mm height. The Go+ gets flap-type old-school looking door handles, but it will justify the price tag. What looks rather odd is the small, puny looking 13″ rims on the Go+. They do not fill the wheel wells completely and are clearly undersized for a car in this category. Overall, from the side, the Go+ looks proportionate and the station-wagon / estate like exterior profile is more easier on the eyes compared to the taller, typical MPV like looks.
At the back, things are again reminiscent of the Go hatchback. The Go+ gets the same set of tail lamps, with a clear lens. The Datsun logo is placed on the bootlid with a small bulge at the spot. Tail lamps also leave out a small crease line flowing on the bootlid. Number plate however has been relocated from the rear bumper to the bootlid. The number plate garnish is body coloured and is a thin unit. Rear bumper is redesigned, & looks a bit bulky. There is no cut-out to reveal the exhaust pipe on the Go+. The rear end is a little raised, and is clearly visible when you look at the car from the back. This is to aid changing of a flat tyre. The spare wheel is placed under the car, behind the rear bumper. This will surely make changing to a spare wheel a messy affair. Rear windscreen does not get the wash & wipe function, which would be missed while driving in the monsoon. There’s no antenna on the car, that’s because you don’t get a full blown stereo in the Go+.
Paint quality is decent by budget segment standards. Build quality doesn’t not feel as solid as a budget Hyundai or Maruti would, but not too many would really complaint about it. Panel gaps are inconsistent all around, and rather large in certain areas.
To sum up the exteriors, the price point at which the Go+ will be offered, the design will surely offend none. The car looks proportionate, and less quirky than say the Chevrolet Enjoy. Slightly bare bones, but the car is meant to offer more space at lesser price and hence, drops creature comforts and aesthetic add-ons.
Things on the inside are a similar story, just like the exteriors. The Go+ is also built to the cost, and looks just that. With the width being identical on the Go and GO+, the dashboard of the car is a complete copy-paste. Dashboard is seen in dual tone, grey and beige colour combination. Steering wheel gets the Datsun logo and a couple of crease lines, on the 3-spoke unit. Made up of soft touch plastic, the steering feels as good or as bad as any other sub-5 lakh rupee steering wheel feels. It however gets contours to rest your thumb while driving. Steering wheel height adjustment is missing. Instrument cluster is also similar and gets a speedometer in the centre with a small digital screen at the RHS bottom. This digital screen with amber backlit displays the tachometer, DTE, real time fuel efficiency, average fuel efficiency, trip meter and odometer. Although the car doesn’t have a gearshift indicator, it has markings on the speedometer indicating the optimum speed at which you should slot in a particular gear.
Centre console is seen in a black plastic section housing round AC vents with a silver surround on the inner circle. Just like the Go hatchback, the Go+ also features a MDS (mobile docking station). This feature actually beats our thinking why Datsun couldn’t spend a thousand rupees to offer a proper head unit, at least on the top end variant. This MDS is actually a pseudo-stereo to which you need to connect your cellphone. Cellphone can be connected via Aux-in only. Although you can find a USB port on this MDS unit, it is meant only to charge your phone and does not support USB music playback. Datsun does provide a mount to hold your cellphone in place when connected to this MDS. Only two front speakers are available, and if you want rear passengers to enjoy the ride, you will have to spend some extra bucks. Below the MDS you have the manual AC controls in silver rotary knobs. While we did not get to test the AC performance in the chilled weather of Dehradun, we think that on a hot sunny day, the third row passengers would surely feel the heat since there is no rear AC or even a blower provided. Gear control is placed under the AC vents and is a part of the dashboard, similar to what you might have seen on the old Hyundai i10. Placement is convenient and the gear stalk is easy to reach.
Front seats of the Datsun Go & Go+ are unique to the segment. The driver and passenger seat is connected with the passenger seat extending to the right. Although people would account this as a 3-seater at the front based on the looks, it actually isn’t. There is no seatbelt provided and the dashboard mounted gear lever will make things difficult to accommodate a person over here. This can be used best to store some luggage which you wouldn’t want to place on the floor. Seats get integrated headrests. Seat fabric is average quality and the seat compound is also of the medium compound.
Open the rear door and it opens at a decent angle to aid ingress. Second row seats are accommodating for two with ease, but three would be tight squeeze. Seat bench however is flat and so is the backrest, hence occasionally carrying three over here won’t be too much of a problem, only long distances would make things a bit uncomfortable. Floor hump is also not too intrusive and hence will release a decent amount of foot room for the 2nd row occupants. Seats do not have fore-and-aft adjustment. There are no storage spots or bottle holders available for the 2nd row passengers, no front seatback pockets either. Datsun does not provide rear power window either, for obvious cost cutting reasons.
Tricky part begins with the 3rd row seats. These could easily be dubbed as jump seats and would even justify that name. To get in, you have to fold the 2nd row seats. The 2nd row however does not completely tumble down, only the backrest falls flat on the seat bench. So one has to climb into the 3rd row seats and this isn’t an easy affair for adults or the elderly. Once in place, and you push the 2nd row seat back in place, you notice that the 3rd row is best suited for kids. This place is not comfortable for adults even for a short drive. If you’re anything over 5’5”, you will have a hard time adjusting in here. The 3rd row lacks headroom as well as legroom. The quarter glass allows light inside and the passengers back here won’t feel claustrophobic. Beige and grey interiors also make the cabin bright and airy at all times.
With the 3rd row up, there is almost unuseable boot space left. You can store a couple of handbags at the max, that too if they’re thin. With the 3rd row folded away, the Go+ gives you a boot space capacity of 347L, which can easily accommodate your holiday luggage.
All in all, the Datsun Go+ is an occasional 5+2 seater rather than a comfortable 7-seater. If you’re looking at something bigger than a budget hatchback with more carrying space, you should surely look at the Go+. Or if you have a family of 6, including two kids, the Go+ would be the best suited option in this price range.
Engine, performance and handling:
The Datsun Go+ is powered by a 1.2L, 3-cylinder, DOHC, 12-valve, transversely mounted petrol motor producing 67 BHP of power @ 5,000 RPM and 104 Nm of torque @ 4,000 RPM. Engine is mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox and power is sent to the front wheels only. Datsun claims a fuel efficiency of 20.62 kmpl, which is good by utility car standards. This is the same engine as seen on the Datsun Go, Nissan Micra Active and in similar state of tune. What is surprising is that the Go+ even with the extra dimensions manages to deliver almost the same fuel efficiency figure, down by only 0.01 kmpl.
Fire up the engine and you can here the typical 3-cylinder thrum. NVH levels are mediocre and the engine is audible inside the cabin at all times. Everything vibrates while idling, even the tail pipe. By MPV segment standards, the engine seems a bit on the smaller side. But with only 20 kilos more to lug around, the Go+ does not feel sluggish at all. Slot the car in first and the availability of torque is decent, just like the Go hatchback. The engine is very peppy and the throttle response is crisp. By sub-5 lakh segment standards, the acceleration and moving off the line is more than acceptable. Availability of torque lower down the revv range is really good and with two on board, the car managed to move over a speed breaker in the 2nd gear without any hesitation. Even while overtaking in city traffic, one can get away with pressing the pedal hard rather than downshifting.
On the highways though, things are not very pleasing. Yes, the Go+ accelerates well to 100 kmph on the speedo, but the engine is not revv happy at all. The engine sounds very harsh at high RPMs and a sedate driving style is what you need to drive around in peace. Pushing the limits makes the engine sound strained, although the exhaust note is a little pleasing. The Go+ is not a good highway performer only because of its poor NVH. If you have a sedate driving style, you won’t complaint much, but if you like to floor the pedal often, you will have to bear the trashy engine sound.
Gearbox of the Go+ is rubbery and notchy. Gear gates are not well defined and while spirited driving, you will find yourself struggling at times to slot in the right gear. Gear throw however is short and makes things a little liveable. Steering wheel is light at city speeds and weighs up well when on the highway. At 100 kmph, it is much better than the EPS of a few Hyundai’s, which make you rather nervous. Turning radius is small at 4.6m and is identical to the hatchback sibling. This makes the Go+ a good family commuter in the city.
Suspension setup is on the average side. Ride quality is complaint and keeps occupants in place when moving over imperfect roads. The suspensions on the flip side does not soak up the bumps well, and gives out some amount of noise every time it encounters a bump. At speeds, the rear end being longer does result in a slight body-roll, but this is well controlled and the car doesn’t loose its rear end even when you corner hard. Not that it is a corner carver, but it is well composed by MPV standards. Another reason for the wafty feeling from the rear is due to the suspension travel, which was already on the longer side on the Go hatchback.
Braking comes from disc brakes at the front and drums at the back. Lack of ABS is evident under panic situations where the wheels might lock up when the situation is less than ideal. Datsun claims best-in-class braking capabilities, but ABS would have been a welcome change. Another reason for average braking performance were the skinny 155/70/R13 tyres. An upgrade is a must and things will become much better with a fatter tyre and better contact patch. Everything on the Go+ screams out for a sedate driving style. Enthusiasts will not be very happy in here, but then, it is not an enthusiasts car anyway.
When asked if there were any changes to the structural integrity of the Go+ after the Global NCAP crash test results of the Go, the answer was a ‘NO’. The Go+ was production ready much before these tests and expect similar results if put through the same tests. Safety features are completely missing and there is no ABS, brake assist, airbags etc. Long term reliability is still an unknown territory since Datsun is a fairly new player in the Indian market.
So if you’re looking at a budget car under 5 lakh rupees and want to accommodate your family of 5 or 6, the Datsun Go+ is the only option available. It could even serve as an estate with the 3rd row seats completely taken off and eat in much more of your luggage. If you care less about refinement and want a peppy engine in the budget segment, the Go+ offers just that. Till the time Maruti Suzuki comes out with the WagonR 7-seater, Datsun can enjoy the first mover advantage and lure customers with the extra space and not so extra cost of purchase.