By Khulekani Dumisa
South Africa is a country of two worlds. There super rich people and really poor people. Since ‘94, the mandate of the government has been to bridge the gap between the rich and poor. Government has often done through various social welfare projects. The criticism of these projects has been that as much as they are admirable, some have come with negative or unintended consequences. That was my thoughts when I got to test the Datsun Go recently. The idea of a brand new car for under R2,000 is seriously impressive but the limited safety features are concerning.
The return of Datsun and the Go
After many decades of absence in South Africa, Datsun announced their return to our market with a budget car, the Go, in 2014. The car was much needed with the usual entry cars having moved up a segment and gotten quite pricey. Even the spiritual successors of yesteryears’ entry level cars, the likes of Polo Vivo and Nissan Micra Active have also attracted a bit of a premium. With these movements in the market, the Go and its alliance cousin, the Renault Kwid, were an instant success. Their attractive pricing meant that many new car buyers could afford a brand new car for under R2,000 a month.
Inside, the Go is unassuming and doesn’t pretend to be what it’s not. It’s compact but has decent space for both front and back passengers. The Go has hard plastics on the dash but these look like they are built to last. The Go Flash I had on test improves on the driver conveniences and adds a JVC stereo with USB and Bluetooth. The odometer has a trip computer that shows fuel range and fuel consumption. The front windows are also electric. The hand-break and air conditioner dials appear retro making the Go give you some nostalgic charm. The front also has a retro unitary bench that both the driver and front passenger can adjust individually.
Exterior and practicality
Outside the Go Flash is anything but boring. It’s a modern city car with a bit of a raised body. The Go Flash spices things up by adding decals to the body, bonnet and roof. There’s also a silver exhaust finisher and mud-flaps. Honestly, these minor cosmetic changes in the car made me look at the car twice every time I approached it. I think many young and trendy buyers out there will also get the same feeling.
Adding to the appeal of the Go is boot space and the fuel consumption. At 265 litres, this means a family can throw a few bags in there for a trip over the weekend. The consumption is at an impressive claimed 5,2 litres/100 km. I struggled to beat this number no matter how much I pushed the Go Flash.
Power and safety
Like the rest of the range, the Go Flash uses the frugal 1.2 petrol engine with 50 kW of power and 104 Nm of torque found in the Go range. The engine provides the light Go with adequate power. The power delivery is great at take-off, within the city and on the highway. Like anything with this much power, the odd shift downs are required when approaching certain inclines. This is more so at low speeds than on the highway. In fact it’s not something that will bother a new buyer too much. Although not entirely quiet on the inside, the Go does ride along comfortably on the uneven Johannesburg roads.
The Go, as an affordable means to a new car, actually delivers. A new buyer will be liberated from unpredictable and often unsafe public transport. However, the one airbag and less than impressive results of structural tests associated with the Go, must be a thing of the past in future models. Like government’s welfare projects, Datsun has gifted the consumer something good, and this noble ideal should not be undermined by questions around safety.
That Datsun Go range is priced from R137,200.
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