Driven: Datsun redi-GO 1.0 AMT

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Launched in 2016 with a0.8L petrol engine, the redi-GO got a 1.0L engine a while back and now gets equipped with an AMT(Automated Manual Transmission). Yes. This is the same unit from its sibling Kwid! But does it feel like one? Or is it better?

I got an opportunity to drive the redi-GO AMT at God’s own country in a mix of high density traffic, narrow village roads, roads with potholes in between, potholes with roads in between, some twisties (with potholes), some slopes (with potholes too), and finally some good roads. 3 cheers to Datsun team for selecting such a route to demonstrate what this little hatch is capable of!No pun intended, I swear, coz the way the car handled all these changed my impression on this little toy…naah…car…naah…toy car… naah…car toy…whatever!

How different does it look from outside?
Well, it is absolutely no different from the regular redi-GO. It’s like seeing our own photograph in our Adhaar card & our driving license – ridiculously same-to-same. Absolutely no difference in the looks, to the extent,that it doesn’t even feature an AMT badge anywhere on the car. A narrow tall boy stance with high ground clearance and that unique looks (Liking or hating it is up to you. I personally like the clean looks of the Nano though)! The flared wheel arches, hexagonal grille, the LED DRLs, uniquely designed head& tail lamps add to the character of the car. While colors like the Ruby Red,Lime Green and even the white felt too in the face for my liking, I liked the Grey which looks neat (unlike a Chinese toy)!

How does it look & feel inside?
Being an AMT variant, the first thing I noticed was the gear lever. Yes. A lever. Thankfully the redi-GO, unlike the Kwid, gets a proper stick shift with nice chrome touch with gear position markings. While the Kwid’s rotary unit looks cool, a proper gear lever with manual mode in the redi-GO is more user-friendly.Other changes on the inside include an updated audio system that now gets Bluetooth connectivity (but I had hard time figuring out how to connect my phone:j). That said the audio quality is also below average that I was happy to switch it off& sing myself.

There is some inconsistency in the fit & finish but overall the material quality is okay for the price it is built. The tall boy design allows for a good head room and the large glass area aids good visibility & the cabin feels airy. The blind spots are minimal.Boot space is limited but is good for regular shopping needs (unless you don’t buy a refrigerator or a washing machine, of course)!

How does it perform?
‘Does its job’ is what I would say. The 1.0 litre, 3 cylinder petrol engine produces 67 bhp & 91 Nm of torque. This is decent power for a car that weighs just around 650 Kgs. The engine is good for city rides and the redi-GO keeps up pace in city speeds with other cars. However when we hit an empty road or a highway, the engine feels underpowered. The engine is also slightly noisy at higher speeds. However we should remember the fact that this car is not meant for highway speeds / spirited driving anyways. (Try it at your risk!)

The 5 speed AMT unit is nicely matched to this engine and it packs a lot of convenience!Interesting feature is that this car gets a much needed creep function which the competitors miss out. But threecreepy creep things! One – take your foot off the brakes and the car takes a second or two to start moving forward, Two – the car moves very slowly that you can’t avoid using the throttle even in stop-&-go traffic, and, Three – even with creep function, the car rolls back during steep inclines.

I found something annoying though. For quick overtakes when I floor the throttle, the system downshifts by two gears (after a second’s delay) and then realizes that it has downshifted too much (lost a second here) and then it upshifts once (lost another second here) and in the meantime of all this drama (1+1+1=3 seconds), the intended purpose is lost& I am still driving behind that damn truck! In manual mode, the system doesn’t upshift and holds on to the selected gear which is a nifty feature during overtaking.

Drive it with a light foot and the car is very good to amble around in the city with smooth gear shifts.The Instrument cluster gets a gear position indicator with a smart feature that beeps when you accidentally select a higher gear in manual mode. The system also downshifts to the right gear after the beep – Neat!

How is it to drive?
The carhandles bad roads well only at very lower speeds but anything above that, it becomes a bit bouncy. However ride quality is mature while riding on good roads.The steering is very light and somewhat predictable at city speeds and as speed builds up, feels disconnected. The brakes are decent but the thin tyres loose grip during hard braking and that doesn’t inspire confidence. And if you thought you’d buy a higher variant with ABS – check-mate – it’s not even available as an option in the car.

Well then, is it safe?
Safety features are given a miss except for a driver side airbag to keep population in check…oops…to keep costs in check :p There are seat belts in the front & the rear but the rear ones aren’t retractable which again is a population control measure!

So, what’s the final say?
Summing up all, the redi-GO, at higher speeds, is not a great handler, ride is bouncy over bad roads, steering feels disconnected, not safe, brakes doesn’t inspire confidence, tyres lack grip, engine is noisy, the gearbox is not fast to respond, not very spacious,blah… blah… blah… The list can go on and on. Yes. Many things could have been better.

But think about this. The redi-GO is designed with city commuters in mind, to be driven inside the city, at narrow roads, bad roads, even no roads, with heavy traffic, etc. Now, all the factors like the compact dimensions, lighter controls, good visibility, cross-over like ground clearance (185mm) all suddenly start making sense. And the icing on the cake, the 5 speed AMT unit with some smart features like manual mode, audio indications, etc,.

My verdict? It’s like the climax of many modern day movies. I leave the choice to you to decide!

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