Nissan's Datsun puts India on the GO
Nissan brings its Datsun brand back from the dead to take on the low-cost car market in India and other developing countries
By setting up a massive production plant in Chennai to produce mass market cars such as the Micra and Sunny, Nissan had made their seriousness about the Indian market sufficiently clear a few years ago. But the initial response of the market wasn’t as good as they expected. After having spent a few years here and armed with a better understanding of the Indian customer’s needs and choices, the company has resurrected its Datsun brand to produce low-cost cars for India.
The Datsun brand, which existed between 1931 and 1986, was popular and was taken down in order to strengthen the Nissan brand. Datsun has now been brought back to life to cater to upcoming markets like India, Indonesia, South Africa and Russia. The first car from the brand, the GO hatchback, was unveiled recently.
So how is the GO different from any other small car in the Indian market? Well, the GO has cost-effectiveness, style and robustness defined clearly as its key areas of focus. It’s a car which is made with the designers’ and engineers’ singular focus on delivering more value to the aspiring, upcoming first -time car buyers in markets like India. It’s meant to be frugal yet sporty, small from the outside yet capacious from the inside, small on cost, yet big on value. In that sense, the GO is a product which should give Maruti Suzuki WagonR, Hyundai i10 and Tata Indica a run for their money.
The Datsun GO is a very well proportioned and tastefully designed car. There is a nice balance to the GO’s dimensions and even with its low-cost focus the car has a sporty, dynamic character to it. The strong haunches, the pronounced lines in profile, the bold hexagonal grille and the sharply styled headlamps lend the GO a lively personality.
Well-built and attractive
There are strong, chiselled lines all across the new car’s body. The bonnet has a pair of creases mingling with the grille. The bumper looks aggressive with its belligerent looking side air vents. In profile, while the roofline doesn’t drop in a coupe like fashion, the boot extends out to add some character and dynamism to the car’s silhouette. The wheel arches are angular with a fair bit of meatiness to them. There is a set of four creases on the side surface, adding oodles of character to the profile.
The car looks good at the rear too, with a mild pedestal holding the Datsun logo, surrounded by prominent creases. The big rear bumper, and the simple, yet chunky tail-lamps lend the GO some more substance at the rear. However, even with all its design flair, some cost cutting elements are evident. There is only a single wiper on the front windscreen. The ORVMs on the prototype are black coloured, though they may be offered in body colour for the production version. A lack of fog lamps and alloys on the prototype also hints at the low-cost focus for the car model, though these features may eventually make an appearance for the higher-spec variants of the car.
On the inside, the focus was to maximise the feeling of space and airiness. So the designers at Datsun made the front seats of the GO an integrated unit with no gap in the middle. The move, apparently, will make the car look more spacious to the front row occupants. This opens an opportunity to seat a third person in the front, but Datsun doesn’t endorse that and wouldn’t be providing a seat belt for the third occupant.
While the car is still a prototype and the final product may be different from the show model, we still observed a few key things about the cabin. The interiors aren’t exactly a treat, with the materials and features making clear that the impetus is on keeping the cost low. The simplistic instrument cluster features a white and blue backlit speedo and doesn’t have a tachometer. There are a few tell tale lights and a small display which in our opinion will show the odo, trip and some other readings.
The gear shifter stick juts out from the center console. The glove compartment is uncovered. There is a small recess on the dashboard on the front passenger’s side to make space for odds and ends. Music system is single DIN and A/C is traditional and manual. The three-spoke steering looks nicely designed for the segment. There are big recesses in the door panels to accommodate full size water bottles and documents. The front seats have integrated headrests, Honda Amaze and Hyundai i10 style.
At the back the space is decent. The under thigh support for the seats looks good, and the back bench of the GO seems comfortable. The boot space appears to be surprisingly good. Part of the credit goes to the haunches which extend rearwards, liberating additional space for the luggage.
The five-door, front-wheel drive hatchback will come with a 1.2 litre engine paired with a five-speed manual transmission tuned towards ease of use and agility in congested traffic.
Value for Money
Intended to be priced under the R 4,00,000 mark, the Datsun GO is touted to be a ‘category up’ in its segment by its promoters. Sharing Nissan’s extremely strong brand and design values, and with its laser-like focus on cost effectiveness, the Datsun range of cars may be the next big thing in the Indian market.
Amit Chhangani is the founder /editor of Motoroids.com