LET'S GO! The Datsun Go serves as a great city-slicker, but think twice if safety features is must for you. Image: Wheels24 / Sergio Davids
Say Datsun in South Africa and anybody born pre-1990s will think of the legendary SSS or the 510 Wagon before thinking of the new little Go which has brought back the famous brand from yesteryear.
I’m sure waves of excitement hit everybody who was a fan of the red-and-blue badge but the comeback offering was a far cry from the sporty glories we once knew. Rather our hearts were set on something such as the Pulsar. But the Go is turning out to be hit.
I had more people stop me to ask about the Go than I have when driving a fancy sports car. ‘I want to buy one, what do you think?’ and ‘How does it drive?’.
I said: “Go for it!” Pun very much intended, but I’ll tell you more about that later.
The Go is a car for first-time buyers or anybody wanting a little city-slicker that’s super cheap and easy to drive – yes, the car is still less than R100 000. But with small prices comes big sacrifices, such as the lack of crash bags and anti-lock brakes.
Does it matter? At first motoring journo types were livid… ‘How can a carmaker launch a new car in this day and age without imperative safety features?’ Then again, most of SA still drives older cars because heck, people just can’t afford a new one.
So, when the idea of a ‘new car’ comes with an appealing price tag, sure it’s going to be a winner even with those safety features.
Not to mention as the Go arrived in our car park for testing I was pregnant and my colleague thought it a bad idea that I drove it. My argument was that my old Corolla doesn’t have any crash bags either - though it does have ABS and aircon.
At the time when the car was launched here, News24 ran a home-page poll which drew 18 728 votes after asking readers whether vehicle safety features and crash-test ratings influenced their car-buying decision.
VIDEO: Datsun Go crash-test
Most (9658) said vehicle safety was a primary concern and selected "Yes, I want the best protection." Most tellingly, 7545 respondents said "it all comes down to price". Does this mean that thousands of car- buyers would forgo safety systems in favour of a cheaper alternative?
Only 1535 respondents said they were not bothered about vehicle safety in a previous Wheels24 article about the Go's crash-test results and safety ratings.
One reader, Nick van den Berg, said: "80% of cars on our roads don't have crash bags or anti-lock brakes. My Bantam and Corsa don't have either. We survived 60 years without these money-making schemes and we can for a further 160 years."
Jan Nel said: "Ja, but it's cheap. I'm going to get one. Just don't crash."
The Datsun Go hatch is available in SA in two versions - an entry-level unit priced at 91 300 and a R102 500 variant. I drove the latter, with the bright blue paint colour, funky stickers on the side and an optional roof spoiler. These cost R721 excluding fitment and R1900 including fitment respectively. The car also had leather seat covers which will set you back an additional R2110. I’d rather save the money and opt for some airbags – if there were any available.
My first reaction to the overdone exterior was not good, I thought it was distasteful. My husband on the other hand loved it and thought it was “cool”. Eventually it started to grow on me, even the optional stainless steel scuff plates in the door sills.
HOW DOES IT DRIVE
The Go is powered by a 1.2-litre petrol engine pushing out 50kW/104Nm. Yes those figures sound measly but when you’re driving in traffic and around town, it’s more than enough. Even on the longer roads to the Swartland wasn’t a challenge. Obviously trying to achieve top speeds is a bit over zealous.
I think the most surprising part about the Go was its interior capacity which packs a large load when you think creatively about its small space. With that said, now that I’m a mom and discovered just how much space one really needs for a tiny tot and all their things, I have a very different opinion about that now. I wouldn’t even be able to fit a pram in the boot without having to remove the backboard and letting it stand upright, never mind all her bags and things.
Don't bother putting tall friends in the back either, it wont be a comfortable drive.
SHOULD YOU BUY ONE?
I remember one woman came and asked me if I thought it was a good idea for her to trade in her Tata Indica for a Go. I said ‘ Why not?’. She had just paid off her car and wanted something new that was still in her price range. Her total travelling distance per day is only 8km and she’s a retired entrepreneur. It’s the type of car that ticks all the right boxes for her and her little dog.
Another man had asked about fuel consumption and what it’s like on the longer road? He would need to travel 100km per day. I said wear and tear would affect him more, and road noise would become an issue compared to someone who was driving around in the city. When I told him fuel consumption was claimed at 5.2-litres/100km and that I managed about 600km from one tank, he was sold. He didn’t care that there were no safety features or that road and tyre noises would be an issue especially since he would constantly be driving the car hard on a highway at a daily occurrence.
I quite liked the front bench instead of two seats and the cream trim so you can sit close to your partner, just like yesteryear cars. Although, it might be a bit awkward when driving someone else as space is a limited in the front of the car. Not only is it old-school, but the retro handbrake positioned from the centre console and manual external mirrors are probably the only thing reminiscent of an old Datsun.
I didn't feel unsafe driving it at the time, but since my mindset is different with a little one, I wouldn't want my child driving in such a rigid car as the doors feel thin and flimsy and I can't imagine much protection should there be even a small fender-bender.
Would I still tell people to buy a Go? Yes I would if it suits their budgets and needs, but I definitely would not get one for myself.
Service plan periods are offered from one year or 30 000km (R3 507) to five-year or 150 000km (R18 352).