JOHANNESBURG, Gauteng – Since the introduction of the Go in 2014, Datsun South Africa has sold more than 32 000 examples of its little budget car. Interestingly, some 8 000 of those cars came from the facelifted range, introduced late in 2018.
With that mid-cycle refresh came many improvements. Aside from visual enhancements, more crucial additions such as dual front airbags and ABS were added as standard. While the little hatchback has received steady styling, technology and safety improvements over its life, the only available gearbox until recently has been the five-speed manual.
With popular rivals such as the Renault Kwid and Kia Picanto offering two-pedal options, Datsun SA has seen fit to launch the Go CVT. I headed to Johannesburg to see whether the new transmission is a good fit for the diminutive hatchback. Handily, I've spent plenty of time behind the wheel of the manual model (having been the joint-custodian of an example in our long-term fleet) so am well placed to compare the two gearboxes.
Apart from a small "CVT" badge affixed to the tailgate, the clutchless Go looks the same as the manual model. I quickly hopped into the newcomer, which was painted in a newly available Vivid Blue hue. Much like the exterior, there haven't been many changes to the interior of the Go, apart from the obvious: a new gear selector. One interesting update, however, is the inclusion of a new Alliance Radio seven-inch infotainment system. Much like the previous touchscreen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay come standard, along with Bluetooth connectivity and a USB port. While the previous system was already rather intuitive, the latest example builds on that, with simplified controls making it even more of a doddle to use.
On the road, the Go CVT comes across as a little more refined than its manual sibling, with the usually vocal 1,2-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine seemingly a bit more hushed. Engine vibrations appear to have been reduced too, with far fewer disturbances felt through the interior, particularly the steering wheel. Still, as with the majority of CVTs, the revs surge under enthusiastic acceleration, spilling unwanted engine noise into the cabin.
Interestingly, the CVT-equipped Go produces 7 kW more than the manual derivative, with 57 kW available at 6000 r/min, while the torque figure is unchanged at 104 N.m. Despite the power increase, Datsun claims the new addition to the range is more frugal, sipping at a claimed 5,0 L/100 km.
On pullaway, the CVT leaves the Go feeling a touch lethargic, particularly when compared with the quicker response of the manual equivalent. However, once up to speed the self-shifting Go keeps up with traffic well, the CVT happily avoiding high revs unless input from the accelerator pedal instructs it to. Operation of the CVT is via a chunky gear selector. While there's no manual override, there is at least a sport button that allows for slightly more spirited driving.
Besides the new transmission, the CVT-equipped Go boasts another significant feature that the manual variant does without: a vehicle stability control (VSC) system and ESC, further improving the vehicle's safety features. Other safety updates see the inclusion of a seatbelt reminder for the front passenger, while further peace of mind comes thanks to a six-year/150 000 km warranty.
On the highway, the Go exhibits surprising refinement for a car in this segment, with the engine spinning at 2 500 r/min at around 120 km/h, which is commendable for a small-capacity, three-cylinder unit.
While the CVT-equipped Go certainly provides more choice to buyers in this segment, with a price of R184 200 it's a not insignificant R14 000 more expensive than the manual Lux model. With a light clutch and easy-to-operate gearbox, the manual is simple to drive around town and feels more responsive, too. If, however, your commute is a traffic-laden one, and the added safety features appeal to you, the CVT could make a compelling alternative if you already had your heart set on a Go.
FAST FACTSModel: Datsun Go 1,2 Lux CVT
Price: R184 200
Engine: 1,2-litre, three-cylinder, naturally aspirated
Power: 57 kW @ 6 000 r/min
Torque: 104 N.m @ 4 400 r/min
0-100 km/h: n/a
Top Speed: 161 km/h
Fuel Consumption: 5,0 L/100 km (claimed)
CO2: 127 g/km
Transmission: five-step CVT
Service Plan: optional
See Full Datsun Go price and specs here