DRIVEN: Here's why Datsun's new GO CVT is everything you wouldn't expect it to be

<i>Image: Wheels24/Robin Classen</i>
<i>Image: Wheels24/Robin Classen</i>
Robin Classen

With modern automation now well and truly moving towards a 'clutchless' future, the technology has made its way to South African's popular A-segment in the form of the Datsun GO CVT (Continuous Variable Transmission).

Datsun said adios to the South African market about 20 years ago, only to make its return in 2014. This time though there was no whiff of a modern example of the iconic Y and U-shaped chassis, instead, all roads lead to saving fuel and not hurting consumers' pockets - enter the Datsun GO compact city car.

Its not an automatic

Besides the NP200 and NP300 raking in the numbers every month, the GO is flying the flag high. Between September and October, it achieved a cumulative sales figure of 1 361.

READ | Datsun now has an automatic GO model in its local line-up

Getting right into the thick of things, the CVT transmission does take some getting used to at first, especially if you're experiencing it for the first time.

Just like a wife or girlfriend in a bad mood, in the GO, you have to nurse and feed the throttle instead of mashing your foot down all at once. It is a bit sluggish from the pull away but once everything clicks and you eventually get going and the revs start to climb, then parity is restored.

There are numerous advantages to be had from CVT's though such as lower emissions, better fuel economy, less noise, and also being considerably lighter in weight. The GO is one of the lightest cars on the market and the added weight of a conventional auto would have added unnecessary kilos to a car that can do without it.

For those wanting to know if a CVT and automatic transmission is the same thing - it's not.

Compared to the manual, it comes out trumps in terms of power (although not by much) and fuel efficiency. Torque remains unchanged from the standard model at 104Nm while engine power is up by 7kW, with a total output of 57kW. Perhaps the most eye-catching is the fact that the CVT uses 0.5-litres less fuel than the manual, 5.0-litres per 100km to be exact.

Doing the business

One feature that certainly took everyone by surprise was the rather hidden 'sport' button on the gear console. Those who did find it noticed a minuscule change in responsiveness but that was it. Lets be fair, no one getting into a Datsun GO, no matter the spec, expects it to have any sort of 'go faster' option.

The Japanese brand can certainly ruffle some feathers with a punchier performance derivative, maybe something along the lines of the Pulsar GTI-R. Yes, this is a clear hint, Datsun.

datsun go CVT

                                                                       Image: Wheels24/Robin Classen

Measuring in at 3 788mm, it is bigger than its direct rival, the recently-launched facelifted Renault Kwid, while also boasting an impressive boot space of 265-litres. Everything is pretty much the same on the inside, bar the auto gear lever of course, but nifty new additions across the range include dual airbags, and a 7-inch infotainment screen with Android Auto and Apple Car Play connectivity. Bluetooth, USB, and Aux points are there to make use of as well.

The luxury of choice

"Our new CVT versions of the Datsun GO and GO+ represent a completely new experience for progressive, self-driven young drivers who’re looking for best-in-class technology," says Hide Kuwayama ,the newly appointed head of Datsun for South Africa.

The GO is a pretty agile customer too. The awesome folk at Datsun set up a mock gymkhana course where its speed sensitive electric power-steering and 4.6-metre turning radius was put to the test. Safe to say, it tackled everything with ease.

All launch models on the day carried the Vivid Blue colour scheme but customers can choose between Red, Silver, White, Orange and Grey. The GO+ features the same choices except for Orange which is replaced with Brown. Its visage is further enhanced with funky 14-inch alloys, standard daytime running lights and 'Follow Me' headlights.

datsun go CVT

                                                                       Image: Wheels24/Robin Classen

Safety is a big priority here and as it should be. Besides the dual airbags, its key safety features also include ABS with EBD & VDC and rear parking sensors. Datsun took into account South Africa's high accident rate and acted accordingly with a well-packed package.

The GO and GO+ is priced at R184 200 and R194 800 respectively and comes with a 6-year/150 000km warranty.

Datsun GO CVT

                                                                        Image: Wheels24/Robin Classen

It is the ideal A to B, has the features you need and looks the part as well. Everyone might not take an instant liking to CVT transmissions but simplicity, especially when sitting in daily traffic, might be a defining factor over the manual counterpart.

The GO has my respect because, just like the guy that had to squeeze a cow's teets to discover milk, no car in its segment has attempted the transition from something (CVT) other than manual or automatic transmissions in their cars. If it works, it works. If it doesn't then back to drawing board and go again.

In terms of the market, expect the Kwid and GO to keep duking it out because they are a big part of the leading A-segment pack constantly trying to improve their already popular options.

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