The recently facelifted Datsun Go remains a budget-friendly proposition priced from R144 500 for the Mid spec to R165 500 for the range-topping Lux derivative driven here in Orange. Of course, at this budget-conscious end of the market, price and standard specification play an essential role, with Datsun South Africa wisely choosing to add some critical standard safety kit alongside subtle aesthetic upgrades.
Then there’s the Datsun Go Flex Edition we caught wind of from JB’s Nissan/Datsun of Malmesbury, of which they’re going to build just 150 units. Instead of basing it off the top-spec Lux vehicle, JB’s have taken a Mid and kitted it out without voiding the warranty; bumping the retail price up to R154 995. Now we can answer the age-old question faced by all first-time buyers: Should you go for the affordable model and tune it up a bit, or are you better off with the factory fresh car at higher cost? Let’s find out.
On the exterior of the Lux derivative, you’ll find vertically positioned LED daytime running lights fitted to the lower reaches of a redesigned front bumper. Around back, the rear now houses parking sensors as standard. New 14-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels have also been added to the mix, however, our test unit was fitted with aftermarket alloys that didn’t exactly up the sophistication quotient, optional roof rails which come with a warning that they’re purely aesthetic and cannot handle any load (#epicfail) and a rear spoiler which actually looks pretty cool, adding some much-needed presence.
The Flex driven here in Silver, based off a Mid-spec Go, foregoes LED DLRs up front or park sensors at the back, but besides that we reckon it has the regular Go beat almost everywhere else. Even down to the same additional roof spoiler, the absence of fake roof rails, aftermarket alloy wheels which are more tastefully executed and the subtle Flex lettering down the flanks. Crucially, however, it’s been lowered by 50 mm – through the simple means of compressing the springs – and looks all the better for it.
Move inside and arguably the most obvious change you’ll notice is the abandonment of bench seating up front and the addition of a high-definition seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system neatly integrated into the fascia. This system applies to both vehicles, it’s compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus it offers Bluetooth connectivity, a neat touch for this segment. The system is intuitive in its operation with only light touches required, while the icons on the screen are chunky enough to use on the move. Also, the inclusion of a conventional handbrake in the facelifted model is a welcome upgrade that makes pulling away on an incline less of a fuss.
The big news that applies to both cars is the inclusion of ABS and two front airbags as standard of course. When a safe opportunity arose, we conducted an emergency braking test from 80 km/h. Interestingly, on initial bite the front tyres locked briefly leaving two short black lines on the asphalt before the ABS system fully engaged. There is no doubt that emergency stopping time and distance have been improved, along with peace of mind when driving in the wet.
Riding on Nissan’s V platform, a chassis shared with the previous-generation, Indian-derived Micra, both cars are powered by an unchanged 1.2-litre naturally aspirated three-cylinder, sending a miniscule 50 kW and 104 Nm to the front wheels. It’s an efficient yet rev-happy engine and in such lightweight shells the performance is more than adequate for first-time buyers. Interestingly, the Go we received for evaluation from Datsun must’ve had an aftermarket exhaust fitted in an attempt to enhance performance and acoustics. Whereas the lightly fettled Flex had the standard exhaust system which was far quieter and didn’t suffer from the inevitable loss of back pressure.
At highway speeds, the road, wind and engine noise can be tiresome in the Go Lux, yet it does deliver a more reassuring highway cruise than the likes of the Renault Kwid, feeling more settled and more stable. Not to mention the added peace of mind that comes with the upgraded standard safety equipment. In light of these new additions, plus a modern infotainment system, and the credible efforts of dealerships like JBs to enhance the Go offering, this entry-level vehicle will undoubtedly grow in popularity. And of the two Gos driven here, you ask? Well, we’ll go for the slammed and stickered one of course.
For more information on the Datsun Go Flex, visit JB’s Nissan/Datsun, visit 54 Bokomo Road, Malmesbury
In a nutshell
Datsun Go 1.2 JB Flex Edition
Well equipped for the segment, better than public transport
Still rough around the edges
Engine: 1 198 cc, 3-cylinder, petrol
Power: 50 kW @ 5 000 rpm, 104 Nm @ 4 000 rpm
0-100 km/h 13.5 sec (claimed)
Top speed 160 km/h
Tyres: 14-inch alloys, 175/55
Economy: 5.0 l/100 km (claimed)
Transmission: Five-speed manual
CO2 emissions: 123 g/km
Price: R154 995