The mass market is a funny place. It can be good to cars that you wouldn't otherwise have thought twice about, like the Maruti Celerio which had a gem in its AMT unit. A rather ordinary car suddenly became the talk (and walk) of the town because of a new gearbox.
Datsun must be hoping for something similar with their latest, the GO+. Because an ordinary hatchback in the GO has been transformed into a segment-first, a mini-MPV. While hatchbacks have turned into sedans in the past, like the Maruti Swift and the Swift Dzire, and even estates internationally, like the Volkswagen Golf and the Golf Estate, it's certainly not that frequent to see a hatchback turn into an MPV.
Yes, the Brio became the Mobilio (the first half section of it anyway), but it couldn't really make a dent on the mass market. So is the Datsun GO+ what's required in this lower segment? Could this new body style finally be the precious sales stone Datsun is desperately looking for? We break down the new car for you in detail, so do read on.
The review continues on the next slide.
Model tested: Datsun GO+ ‘T' (top variant)
Fuel type: Petrol
Road test locations: Dehradun, Rishikesh
Datsun claim to have given the GO+ ‘estate car styling', but we feel it looks far more like an MPV. We found out that the designing of the car was carried out entirely in Japan, while India took care of R & D work. The face of Datsun's latest is identical to the GO, retaining the prominent D-shape grille with its large honeycomb design. A strong V-shaped crease leads upwards from the grille up to the windscreen, which gives the sharply angled . Two faux air intakes sit below the large headlamps, and above good-looking spoiler lips on the fender edges that actually give the GO+ a fairly sporty looking front end.
One of the traits of the GO+ is that it actually looks a lot bigger in pictures than it actually is. And while Datsun claim that the GO+ has ‘estate car styling', it actually looks more like a compact MPV according to us. That's because of the fairly tall 1490mm height, the steeply angled bonnet line and upright D-pillar. It's decently attractive, and your kids should be quite happy to boast about the GO+ at school. All the creases and character lines are in good unison, and combined with the rear haunch line, give the sub-four metre compact MPV quite an interesting profile. The 13-inch wheels don't fill out the arches enough though.
Keep it simple, and you'll do just fine. The clean styling continues in the rear section of the GO+, with the prominent squared-off tail lights and tailgate-mounted licence plate being the centre of attention. We really like the way the rear lamps extend into the haunches of the new Datsun and the D-pillar tapering into the smallish rear windscreen. Unfortunately, this comes at the cost of third row space, but then again, you can't have everything. Lower down, the large, one-piece bumper is nicely detailed but doesn't feature a separate lower section like many cars do nowadays, to keep costs down. Also, a couple of reflectors would have given the rear fender a little more personality.
The interior of the Datsun GO+ can be best described as ‘pleasant', with a large glasshouse, for the first and second rows at least, that lends the car a bright and airy interior. Space is similar to the GO+ hatch up front, enough for most occupant builds. The two-tone dashboard gets a combination of decent-looking beige and grey, but hard plastic abounds everywhere. Datsun claim to have given the grain of the dash an ahem, ‘leather feel', but we don't think that's going to impress anybody. While the steering wheel is a bit hard, it's nicely sized and decently shaped. The GO+ features a dash-mounted gear lever that is positioned well and easy to use. The ergonomics are generally okay, but you will always be reminded that the car is built to a cost.
Second row passengers also get similar room to the GO hatchback, and a six-footer seated behind the driver is a bit of a tight fit. In addition, if you want to fit three in the second row, make sure they er, know each other very well. One has to remember that the 2450mm wheelbase of the GO is carried over to the GO+, and secondly, Datsun had to accommodate a third row as well, so it was unlikely they could have provided more space here.
The third row is best saved for emergencies, because a full grown adult will need to be first of all be extremely short, and second have a high tolerance for knee pain. That's because the seat is mounted on the floor and there's absolutely no headroom as well, because of the tapering roofline. We're not sure your two kids would fight to sit there too, because it is pretty claustrophobic with no aircon vents and very small windows.
The Datsun GO+ features a flexible seating arrangement so a number of potential boot storage capacities are possible. Both second and third row seats can be folded to provide an almost flat luggage bay and you should be able to move a serious load of stuff which could come in very handy if you're moving homes, for example.
With all three rows of seats upright, the GO+ provides a limited 48 litres of storage. That's almost nothing actually, so trips with your two kids and the in-laws in tow will have to be of the shorter variety.
With the third row folded, boot capacity rises to 347 litres. That's enough to store picnic baskets or lunch dabbas and a decent amount of luggage. But one in-law might have to wait this one out...
Audio System/Mobile Docking Station
The GO+ features a basic 2-speaker audio system that works through a phone, and a phone only. There is no provision given to play music through a thumb drive, since the USB port supports phone charging only. So you will need to connect your phone to the system every time if you want to listen to music, use your phone's GPS, and so on. However, just remember that you will probably not be able to safely read the GPS display because of the placement of the slot. The audio system is quite rudimentary, however, and the sound quality will certainly not impress anyone with even half an ear for music.
The protagonist of this review gets an ‘intelligent' wiper system that is speed sensitive-it varies the wiping intervals of the wiper according to the vehicle's speed in its intermittent setting. Also, after the wipers are turned off, Datsun has engineered one extra wipe to clear the screen of the last remaining droplets.
Engine And Performance
As expected, the GO+ features the same 1198cc, three-cylinder DOHC engine as the GO hatchback. This mill produces 68 bhp at 5000 rpm with a peak torque output of 104 Nm at 4000 rpm, and gives the car a propulsion capability of 14.54 seconds for the 0-100 km/h dash. The 1.2-litre engine has sufficient power for most occasions, except like when we were in the narrow ghat roads of Rishikesh, when constant gear changing was necessary to keep the motor on the boil. But we should mention here that we had the AC on, and the car was fully loaded with five adults and a full boot as well. Rule of thumb is don't expect too much performance-wise, and you won't be disappointed.
Gear shifting was surprisingly smooth and light, especially for a car in this category, and although the throw of the gear shift was a touch long, gears slot into position without complaint. Just wish the shifter was shaped better, the Mahindra-esque squarish gear knob was a bit uncomfortable to use—a slight concern especially because you will have to change gears frequently in this car.
Ride And Handling
This is by no means an enthusiast's car, so again, don't expect too much in the handling department and you won't be disappointed. During our ghat run, the mini-MPV displayed a tendency to roll quite a bit. However, the ride is fairly impressive, and most smaller bumps are absorbed by the fairly softly tuned suspension with aplomb. However, the small-diameter wheels means the car will hit bigger road undulations fairly hard, so you will need to slow down drastically for potholes and speed breakers.
1. Visibility and driving position
While the front seats of the GO+ don't offer too much in the way of support, they are nicely shaped and provide a good driving position. Also, visibility out of the windscreen and side windows is excellent, which was a boon in the Rishikesh twisties.
The GO+ has a very tight turning radius of 4.6 metres, which, along with its sub-four-metre length, makes it a very maneuverable car which will benefit owners in crowded city conditions.
3. GO+ detailing
The small things always matter. In this case, it's the good looking "GO+" lettering on the floor mats that's a nice detail in this basic car.
4. Decent ingress/egress
Despite essentially being a slightly extended hatchback, the GO+ offers fairly easy access to the first and second row of seats.
5. Full fold and flip second row seats
Although the seats could have been split, we like the fact that it flips forward fully.
6. Multifunction stalk design
We know that Datsun will have to price this car very aggressively, but despite this it was good to see things like chunky multifunction stalks present, which do a lot to improve the outlook of the interior.
7. Door pockets
There is effective storage space for two bottles of sizes up to 1.5 litres, and other odds and ends.
1. Inconsistent panel gaps/fit and finish
There is plenty of evidence of cost cutting in the GO+, and panel gaps and general fit and finish is far from satisfactory.
2. Small wheels
Apart from detracting from the looks of the GO+, the small 13-inch wheels tend to hit bumps quite hard.
3. Air conditioner
The larger cabin area means the aircon has to work harder, and the lack of rear AC vents meant the car took a long time to cool down in the sun. As a result, rear passengers will not be very comfortable, especially during the summer.
4. Third row access
Despite the ability of the second row seat to flip fully forward, access to the third row is difficult because the seat needs to be unlocked from both sides. Meaning, one has to open the right door, pull the unlocking release lever on that side, then walk over to the other side and do the same all over again on that side, and only then does the seat flip forward. Make the brats jump over, we say...
5. Handbrake position
It's all very well to have a unique umbrella-style handbrake, but it's terribly positioned and digs into your knee when you're driving. Another really bad miss.
6. Small tachometer
The rev-counter in the GO+ is impossible to read while you're driving. It's so small it's actually dangerous to see what rpm the engine is spinning at.
7. Small rear windscreen
The Datsun GO+ has quite a small rear windscreen, which is the result of the tapering glasshouse at the rear of the vehicle. We think a lot of buyers will have to spend on reverse parking sensors, if they want to be able to reverse safely, especially if the car is going to often carry five or more passengers.
8. Open glovebox
Things are bound to move around and make a bit of a racket in the open glovebox. Also, since the contents of the glovebox are visible to all, buyers will wonder where to store valuables and important documents.
9. Long clutch travel
Although the clutch is very light, it is positioned at a higher level than the other pedals and has fairly long travel which detracts from easy operation, especially in traffic.
10. Power window switches
Even the top variant that we tested doesn't allow the driver to close the front passenger window, since there is only control for his own. Bit of a pain then, every time you have to lock your car.
11. Boot access
The boot can only be opened from inside the car, which will get a little annoying over time.
12. ‘Connected' front seats
While Datsun says that they have provided ‘connected' front seats so you don't have to keep shopping parcels and the like on the ground, we think its dangerous to have large bags on the seat, especially near the driver. What will happen unfortunately is buyers will be encouraged to make small children or toddlers sit there, and with absolutely no protection (not even a two-point seatbelt), it can be extremely dangerous. We would have preferred conventional bucket seats.
13. Engine noise
The lack of refinement of the noisy 1.2-litre motor will surely turn off a lot of potential customers. Datsun really needs to do something about sound insulation for the cabin.
So there you have it. The Datsun GO+ is a car that's certainly built to a cost, but it will all come down to exactly that-cost. We don't see buyers willing to pay more than INR 5 lakh for the top variant, because at the end of the day, this is still a hatchback with slightly longer rear overhangs to create a touch more room at the rear. True, this is the first mini-MPV in the segment, but only time will tell whether this body style will be appreciated by the mass market.
One needs to remember that the starting price for a Hyundai Xcent is around INR 4.7 lakh, and while buyers won't get the emergency extra row, they actually get 407 litres of boot space and Hyundai's impressive service network. It all comes down to your needs and how often you will actually use that third row in the GO+. Also, with Datsun currently suffering from a tarnished image after the Euro NCAP crash test failure of the GO hatchback, we'll reiterate that the price of the GO+ needs to be kept extremely competitive. Looks like it's make-or-break for Datsun.