Datsun Go Plus
For many years, the Indian MPV segment has always been dominated by the Japanese. On top, you have the Toyota Innova – a car that no matter how expensive, has proven to be the irreplaceable. Slightly below it, sits the Honda Mobilio and a notch below that, the Maruti Ertiga – two cars that are separated by a couple of lakhs in the their prices and about 200 millimeters in their lengths. Now Nissan thinks there is a space for an MPV that measures another 200mm less than the Ertiga and may be costs say a little over Rs.4lakhs for the base version. Sounds Interesting?
The car in question is called the Datsun Go Plus. We spent two days driving it around the foothills of the Himalayas in freezing cold to tell you more about it. Essentially a stretched Datsun Go with an extra row of seats in the back, it still measures under four metres. That means, coupled with the 1.2litre petrol engine that it comes with, it still qualifies as a small car and gets the tax benefits. The wheelbase is the same as the hatchback, and the extra bit only adds to the rear overhang.
It is clever idea having a sub 4 metre MPV, but how will they fit in three rows of seating and have adequate legroom left for all? Thankfully, the middle row has the same legroom as the Datsun Go hatchback. And in the last row, it is not the legroom that worries you as much as the posture and the headroom. It is strictly for small children, as anyone over five feet tall will have headroom issues and with the seat base so close to the floor, you would have been to sit with your knees up. With this row in place, the effective luggage space is just 48 litres- enough for two back packs, maybe three ! So the best thing to do here then, is to keep this last row folded down or undo the two bolts holding it and take it out altogether. And doing this turns the Go Plus from a silly seven seater to the most practical five seater in that price range. Sure, if you are not going to use the last row, you might as well buy the regular Go with five seats. But with the huge boot space at your disposal, the Go Plus makes for a very versatile car for everyday use. It is efficient, compact enough to park anywhere, has a sizable boot and when the time comes, you have the extra row for ferrying a medium sized family.
The rest of it is very similar to the Datsun Go. The styling remains the same up to the rear door. The shoulder line runs across the doors and joins the thick bulge just on the rear door. The tail lamps are similar to the ones on the hatchback, but the number plate now sits on the boot lid instead of being on the bumper. There is no rear key lock to open the boot lid which has to be opened by the remote opener besides the driver’s seat.
The Go Plus retains the extended seat cushion on the front passenger seat that makes it look like a bench seat, like on old cars. Datsun officials still insist that the front seats are only meant for two passengers and not three and the space in the middle is for keeping small items such as handbags. The dashboard is made of decent quality plastic and feels upmarket in certain areas where it is thicker than the rest. You’ll notice the round air-con vents and the control stalks and door handles are borrowed from the Micra. The instrumentation consists of a single speed dial in the middle and a digital RPM meter with digital fuel indicator in the console. You also get a multi-function display that tells you the mileage, DTE and trip meter in the package. The gear lever is mounted high up on the dashboard and at times you will have your elbow fouling with the middle of the seat, especially if it’s moved forward to make space for a taller rear passenger. In place of a stereo system you get something that Datsun calls as the Docking Station. Basically, a Smartphone dock with AUX input and a USB port to charge your phone, we would not bother with it at all. The Datsun GO also gets a utility vehicle style pull type hand-brake.
The seats have built in headrests and come with slim padding purposely to keep costs down and increase on the in cabin space. The seats upfront offers good support to the back and under thigh while the rear gets adequate knee room and head room. The biggest disappointment with the Go and the Go Plus is the rear seat belts which do not have an inertia reel mechanism that make them retract like normal seat belts. Not only is it a pain to adjust and hang on the top after each use, but a careless passenger could get it caught up in the door sill and dent it. The Datsun Go Plus also comes with speed-sensing wipers and follow-me-home headlamps as segment-first features.
The Datsun Go Plus is powered by a 1.2-litre, 3-cylinder petrol engine, which is derived from the Nissan Micra but is de-tuned and produces 68 PS of power at 5000 RPM with 104 Nm of torque at 4000 RPM as in the Micra Activ variant. The Go Plus weighs just over 20kgs more than the hatchback it is based on and this makes it feel peppy and fairly quick. It can do 0-100 kmph sprint in just 14.6 seconds, which is very quick for a car of its class. This peppy nature of the 3-pot motor makes it easy to shoot the car in gaps precisely and you would find it very easy to drive around town. The engine is best left to work in its midrange as reviewing it anywhere close to its 5200rpm redline makes it sound coarse and trashy. Even with the AC on and three passengers sitting with some luggage in the boot, the Go Plus feels at ease pulling up the inclines enroute to Rishikesh, on our drive. The gearbox feels a bit notchy, though you would get used to it quickly.
The long travel of the suspension and linear damper can take the worst abuse the Indian roads can throw at it. Ride quality is very good and even broken roads were dismissed with ease by the Go Plus. The downside to this slightly soft, long travel suspension is that it creates too much body roll in corners. The small 155/70 R13 wheels not only look small in the big wheel arches, but also limit grip in corners. But thanks to good suspension setup and well served brakes, overall handling and braking are still predictable. The electronic power steering has torque sensing motor and it is speed sensitive, so the feedback is linear and positive.
To wrap it up, the Datsun Go Plus has the potential to be the game changer in the entry level MPV segment offering great space, big car feel and Nissan levels of reliability at a very affordable price. The Go Plus is a practical alternative to the regular hatchbacks in that segment and we think, even better value than the Go, it is based on. Say you are the owner of a small scale business; this is a car you can use to haul your raw materials or merchandise for five days a week and then take your family for outings on the weekends. Datsun will price the Go Plus aggressively to lock horns with entry level small cars and the prospect of three rows of seating will certainly make it stand out. We just wish it had ABS and airbags at least as an option.