2019 Datsun Go-Lux

It’s 2014 and Datsun GO, a new entry-level car, arrives amid hullabaloo and vociferous complaint into motoring’s developing markets of India, Indonesia and SA.

Journalists, of all persuasions, kick and scream. There is even the automotive equivalent of a Diplomatic Note of Protest. Max Mosley, chairman of Global NCAP, sends (it is said) a tersely worded memo to Carlos Ghosn, (then) chairman of Nissan, demanding that the new car be withdrawn from all markets forthwith.

The Datsun GO had failed all safety tests. Spectacularly. The metal used to build its body was too flimsy. There was no sign of ABS brakes, airbags or ISO Fix mountings for kiddie chairs. “It’s a deathtrap,” people said.

But cash-strapped buyers, unable to afford anything fancier, bought them anyway. Sales in South Africa quickly shot up to 500-plus per month.

The Interior of the GO-Lux. A 7” touch-screen offers the usual “basics’ with phone connectivity, music controls, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Nissan immediately set about addressing the concerns and by early 2015 the body metal’s tensile strength (resistance to being stretched to breaking point) was increased from 320 Megapascals to 520MPa. That’s 62.5 percent. They added an airbag and strengthened the side pillars. ABS brakes followed. It’s now 41kg heavier.

Switch operated

Our test car and its more affordable sibling, GO Mid, offer a pair of airbags, ABS brakes, EBA and EBD, rear parking sensors, child-safety locks, an immobiliser and switch-operated central locking.

Other standard kit includes air conditioning, electrically-assisted steering, powered windows and mirrors, on board computer, speed-sensitive intermittent wipers, ergonomically designed seats and follow-me lights.

A 7” touch-screen offers the usual “basics’ with phone connectivity, music controls, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

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There is just one engine, an 1198cc, naturally aspirated, three-cylinder device developing 50 kilowatt and 104 Newton-metres. The only gearbox is five-speed manual. Brakes are ventilated discs in front and drums at the back. Front suspension consists of McPherson struts on a dual-jointed lower arm while an H-shaped torsion beam minds the rear.

What you will not find in either model is rake or reach adjustment for the steering wheel, mirrors behind the sun visors or height regulation for the driver’s chair. Our 1.85m test pilot still found more than a fist’s-width of air above his head, so he didn’t mind at all.

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While dealing with what you don’t get, GO Lux offers three things that GO Mid does not; daytime running lights, a washer and wiper for the rear screen and alloy wheels. These add R21 000 to the list price so crafty buyers might choose to do without.

The engine is not turbocharged so the car doesn’t run like a racehorse. It’s flexible, however, and goes about its mainly city-bound tasks quite comfortably at 2000 to 2500rpm, needing only occasional downshifts to negotiate speed humps.

A rear view of this popular addition to the local automotive market, which still sells around 500 units a month.

Open-road driving sees it cantering along at about 3500rpm in top gear at 120km/h. Still shy of its maximum torque point at that stage, quick overtaking requires a downshift. Rapid acceleration needs at least 3800 to 4000rpm. That’s when the camshaft profiles kick in, its gentle buzz turns to a rasp and the car becomes a right little GO-er. And wins fans.

Getting down to practicalities, the boot lip is slightly higher than usual at 77cm and the well is 23cm deep. The space is neatly rectangular and there’s a full-sized spare. Both lift-up knobs enabling release of the one-piece seatback are easily reached from behind. It folds nearly flat, with a slight step.

Snug but comfortable

Rear accommodations are remarkably spacious for a small car with our tall backseat driver declaring himself “snug but comfortable”.

Facilities include a pair of built in head restraints and two-and-a-half seatbelts, but no pockets or door bins.

The main cabin makes up for this oversight with a decently large cubby and space for seven drinks – or seven cans of something else – when your co-householder sends you out to stock up on specials.

That 2014 GO with its iffy credentials has been dispatched to history. And new ones are still flying off SA showroom floors at 500 a month…

● Test unit from Nissan SA press fleet

The Numbers
Prices: GO Mid R144 500, GO Lux R165 500
Engine: 1198 cc, DOHC, 12-valve, three-cylinder
Power: 50 kW at 5000 rpm
Torque: 104 Nm at 4000 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 13.3 seconds
Maximum speed: 161km/h
Real life fuel consumption: About 6.2l/100 km
Tank: 35 litres
Luggage: 265 litres
Ground clearance: 170 mm
Warranty: 3 years / 100 000 km
Service and maintenance plans optional
Service intervals: 15 000 km