2019 Datsun Go and Go+ CVT first drive review
It's tough being an entry-level hatchback. You need to be small on the outside, but spacious enough for the entire family on the inside. This also can't be at the cost of looking good. There's got to an acceptable set of features but too expensive and you stand to be immediately dismissed. You've also got to be sprightly to drive but not at the expense of frugality. It's a tough gig but the current crop seems to be getting better at it with every new entrant. The Datsun Go and its seven-seater MPV twin the Go+ took once such step for the better last year with the facelift. Furthering that, Datsun has now added a CVT to both line-ups.
This puts these cars in a unique position. Expected to be priced between Rs 6 to 7 lakh, ex-showroom, they're now the most affordable CVT equipped cars you can buy in the country. Competitors like the Hyundai Santro, Tata Tiago and Maruti Suzuki Wagon R all come with AMT gearboxes at similar price points.
The CVT gearbox is a great companion in stop and go city traffic. It lets the twins get off the line without any hiccups and in the measured throttle inputs needed in these conditions, speeds increase linearly. The crawl function is also quite helpful. Problems arise when you find yourself with a gap that needs exploiting or during an overtake. Here the CVT's rubber-band effect becomes apparent. The engine builds revs but there's a noticeable delay in this translating into the car building speeds. But some anticipation usually lets you get past this. We would have liked a stepped manual control function to be in better control in these situations. There is a Sport mode though, which improves the gearbox's reaction times and keeps the engine closer to the business end of the powerband. This tackles the issue somewhat and it also seems to work without much of the low-speed jerkiness that such modes induce. A more prominently displayed button to access this mode would have been nicer though.
Highway driving is also a straight-forward experience as long as you keep a light foot and build speeds progressively, where the cars settle into a steady cruise at low engine speeds, below 2,000 rpm. Sharper inputs at higher speeds seem to exaggerate the CVT's discrepant behaviour and make the unit hold on to higher revs for longer. We also would have liked a bit more precision and heft from the throttle, it would have made building speed in a way the CVT likes easier. There's not much of the transmission drone that can be characteristic of such units, although engine and wind noise are quite apparent. An L mode is also available for heavy load situations that chooses a lower set of ratios.
Datsun has equipped the Go and Go+ CVT with the 1,198cc three-cylinder HR12 DE engine in the same state of tune as the Micra. Consequently, power has increased by 10PS to 77PS at 6,000 rpm and torque remains unchanged at 104 Nm at 4,400 rpm. Both outputs now come in higher in the rev range, 1,000rpm later for power and 400rpm for torque . In practice, this seems to compensate for the 27/29kg weight gain for the Go/Go+ and also the characteristic power losses from the CVT. The gearbox seems to keep the motor in the most optimum region of the powerband and some of the low-end sluggishness of the manual seems to have been done away with, furthering these cars' city-driving credentials. The two cars also continue to come with their city-focused ride and handling set-up. These absorb most low-speed bumps well and are reasonably nimble around town. As is expected, they feel a little nervous at higher speeds, although bumps are still absorbed well, if a bit more vocally.
As for how these cars look, the only change is the addition of a CVT badge on the boot lid. So both the Datsun Go and Go+ continue to be cars that look reasonably up-to-date, helped by the sharp face, bright colour options and details like the LED DRLs and the crisp 14-inch alloys. We were pleased with the new interior layout that came with the facelift and that remains here too. An oversight is the exclusion of a dead pedal. It's a small addition but would have added to the driving experience just that little bit more.
The CVT is available in top T and T(O) trims, unlike some competitors who make you give up on conveniences for the ease of an automatic, a trade-off we don't find too appealing. Hearteningly, safety seems to have taken a step ahead, these top variants now also get a traction control system. But a step back here is the more basic Renault-sourced Media Nav infotainment system which replaces the slick, intuitive Blaupunkt unit from the manual versions.
Unlike the mechanically similar Nissan Micra CVT from 2013, the Datsuns come at a time where AMT-equipped hatchbacks have become popular in this segment. This should bode well for the Go twins but the catch here is that CVTs are traditionally known to be less fuel-efficient in the real-world than the AMTs they compete with. Datsun claims 20.07 kmpl for the Go and 19.41 kmpl for the Go+, which puts it in the same ballpark as its competitors but wait for our road-test to give you a better idea.
The addition of this gearbox is another step forward for the Datsun Go and Go+, picking up on the improvements made with the facelift. The new-found ease of city-driving is a complement to these cars' segment-higher footprint, a good set of features and spacious interiors. But we would have liked it more if Datsun had tuned the transmission to be more adept in a wider range of conditions. This would have helped this gearbox stand out better among the current crop of AMTs which are quickly becoming as smooth and as versatile as any other auto boxes.
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