Affordability, reliability and a hassle-free ownership experience are crucial factors for a car to achieve success in the entry-level hatchback segment. Want proof? Look at the Maruti Alto 800. A car that has been dominating the market, carrying forward the legacy of its predecessors, the mighty 800 and Alto. With the success of the Kwid, Renault proved that Indian car buyers are receptive to small cars outside the Maruti stable, as long as the product is seriously attractive. Its SUV-inspired styling, equipment list, space and competitive pricing have done wonders for the French manufacturer and have made others sit up and take notice.
Now, Nissan’s budget brand Datsun is also keen to make an impression on the volume-driven, entry-level hatchback segment, and hopes that its third offering, the Redigo, will set its cash registers ringing. It’s a snazzy little hatchback that breaks away from the conservative design language of its stablemates – the Go and Go+ – and promises to drive volumes for the Japanese manufacturer. In this price-sensitive segment, the company ensured that the Redigo’s launch price of Rs 2.39 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) was below that of the Alto 800, which turned the spotlights onto it. The frugal costs aren’t limited to the sticker price alone, as Datsun claims to offer the lowest cost of ownership compared to its rivals. It has also expanded its sales and service network to 274 outlets, with the number expected to nudge 300 in the coming months. So has Datsun’s efforts been good enough, and does this entry-level hatchback have what it takes to grab a significant share of the Alto 800’s sales pie? Let’s find out.
The Redigo is based on the same CMF-A platform as the Renault Kwid, but is 250mm shorter in length and has a 74mm shorter wheelbase. While the little Renault’s design is clearly SUV-inspired, Datsun calls the Redigo an ‘urban cross’ due to its tall stance and its 185mm ground clearance, but that just seems like an attempt to associate it with the SUV fad that has caught the fancy of buyers lately. In truth, its short length, puny 13-inch wheels and ‘tall-boy’ profile reaffirm that this is no more than a city-friendly hatchback.
Looks are subjective, yes, and it has a hate-it-or-love-it design which might appeal to those who are looking for something stylish and modern rather than those who prefer a safe, no-nonsense look. The Redigo looks futuristic with multiple cuts and creases thrown across the exterior. In fact, this production version is nearly identical to the Redigo concept which was unveiled at the 2014 Auto Expo. The chrome-lined hexagonal grille is now a Datsun signature, the optional LED running lights bring some freshness to its face, and its tall side profile is cleverly designed with prominent lines and black B-pillars that add character. At first glance, the rear end could even be mistaken for an updated version of the Tata Nano, thanks to its vertical tail-lamps and small rear windscreen. Our test car was equipped with a chrome muffler tip and a chrome insert on the boot which gave it an upmarket look.
Interestingly, the build of the car actually feels a little better than the Go twins, but that doesn’t really say much as they feel flimsy to begin with. The doors require a firm push to shut properly and don’t sound tinny when slammed either. The panel gaps do stand out, and cost-cutting elements like the exposed tow hooks, single wiper, manual outside rear-view mirrors and door handles with exposed hinges, scream ‘cheap’. What’s unacceptable though is that even in top spec, the car doesn’t get a remote key nor does it get central locking. So each time you want to access the passenger-side door or even the boot from the outside, you’d have to walk up to the driver’s side and unlock these from inside the car.
First things first, thanks to its tall boy design even elderly folk will find it easy to get in the Redigo as it doesn’t require them to crouch. Once inside, the cabin feels bright and airy thanks to the expansive glass area and the use of light-coloured materials. The high roofline also gives it a feeling of roominess.
Datsun uses the term ‘Gereige’ to describe the colour theme, which quite simply is a combination of light grey and beige. The dashboard is actually smartly designed and looks quite pleasing. The designers have once again worked their magic with cuts and creases while the accountants have kept a check on the quality of materials and equipment used. The small steering wheel feels, with soft plastic material and thumb contours, great to hold, although pressing the smart-looking central boss will elicit a rather flat ‘peep’ from the single horn. Even the gear stick has a nice rubberised feel to it. What’s interesting is the fixed central air-con vent which is designed to channelise airflow towards the rear passengers.
The front seats with integrated headrests are comfortable enough to accommodate people of larger frames and there is some side bolstering too. Taller drivers will like the long, flat front seat base which provides some under-thigh support. The seat cushioning is soft and comfortable for short journeys but this same softness can lead to a backache on longer journeys.
Drivers will enjoy a good view of the road ahead since the seats are placed higher than the competition. Still, we felt that the seats could have been placed higher still, especially because of the sheer amount of headroom available. Visibility from the tiny interior mirror is limited due to the short rear windscreen and new drivers could take some time getting used to this while reversing.
Ergonomics for taller drivers could have been better though. The power window switches feel like an afterthought as they are positioned near the gear lever and require the driver to stretch to access them. In my driving position, the MID was partially blocked from my field of vision. Speaking of which, this car gets a digital fuel gauge, trip meter, average and real-time fuel efficiency, odometer, gearshift indicator, and is the only car in its segment to get a tachometer.
However, the Redigo’s equipment list is quite scanty and even the much cheaper Tata Nano trumps it with features like fog lamps, intermittent wipers, wipe function after using the windscreen washers, central locking and Bluetooth connectivity. What it gets instead is a CD player with aux, USB and two front speakers (one of which was faulty during our test) with a remote control, front power windows, power steering and a driver airbag. What’s notable is that the air-con did a very competent job of keeping the cabin cool at all times.
There are useful storage bins across the cabin to stow away knick-knacks. There’s space below the steering wheel and dashboard centre fascia, above the glovebox, a cupholder and a large bottleholder besides it. The glovebox is tiny though and can barely fit a notebook or two. What’s nice is the flat area beneath the handbrake that can be used to store small items like a wallet or keys. Speaking of the handbrake, the Redigo gets a conventional lever rather than the ‘pull-type’ lever present in the Go twins. The door bins are really slim though and can’t hold anything more than a couple of magazines.
Stepping into the back seat, the sense of space continues. The rear bench is flat and offers adequate under-thigh support, but tall passengers are going to find the fixed neck restraints protruding into their nape. Two average-sized persons can sit one behind the other in the Redigo, but if either of them is a six-footer, the rear-seat occupant is going to find the front seatback jutting into his knee. The non-retractable rear seat belts made their debut on the Kwid and now find their way into this car. Our opinion doesn’t change; this is probably something they should not have skimped on. That brings me to the other negative. While the exposed body panels don’t really bother you that much in the front, the absence of panel cladding at the rear is glaringly evident. It feels bare and keeps reminding you that this car is built to a cost.
There’s no storage space for rear passengers and the parcel tray is an optional extra that is screwed in place and cannot be removed easily when the need arises. The boot’s loading lip is unusually high and with the parcel tray in place, the mouth becomes even smaller, which makes it difficult to slide in larger luggage items. At 222 litres, the Redigo’s boot is larger than the Alto 800’s but much smaller than the Kwid’s. For additional luggage space, the rear seats can be folded and the backrest can be removed as well, to get a completely flat floor.
The Redigo uses the same 799cc, three-cylinder petrol engine as the Kwid with identical power and torque ratings of 54hp and 72Nm respectively. However, the engine has been tuned differently in the Redigo and feels peppier off the line when compared to the Kwid. At mid-revs, however, power delivery seems to flatten and taper off as you near the redline, thus resulting in a 0-100kph time two seconds slower than the Kwid’s. Stay just above idle and this car will reward you with its competent responsiveness. Part-throttle inputs are enough to keep up with city traffic and it doesn’t give you a reason to rev the engine hard at any time. The motor packs enough punch to pull itself up inclines effortlessly and for most scenarios, it doesn’t require a downshift.
If you do end up driving hard, upshifts will be warranted at around 3,500rpm as the engine gets extremely vocal and sounds strained beyond that.
You can feel the engine’s jerky nature, more so at low speeds, every time you lift off the throttle. It requires additional effort and careful pedal modulation to drive smoothly. Even the gear lever seems to rock forward and back each time you press the throttle and lift off. The five-speed gearbox isn’t smooth and shows some resistance to slot through its gates. What’s nice is that the gear throws are short and the clutch is adequately light.
At idle, a lot of vibrations filter into the cabin, especially through the wheel, but these eventually settle down as the revs increase.
The Redigo’s electrically powered steering (EPS) is light, but feels lifeless. There’s little feedback on offer and even at higher speeds, the EPS remains inconsistent and vague. On the flip side, its 4.7m turning radius makes this car extremely easy to manoeuvre in the city and makes tight parking a breeze.
What stands out though is the Redigo’s ride quality. The suspension tune is spot on and it does a great job of absorbing road imperfections and smaller bumps. Even the larger bumps are discarded in a very mature manner. Pitching and bobbing at high speeds are well controlled too. This little Datsun has a slightly stiff suspension setup to counter the car’s higher body roll, yet on sweeping curves its tall stance does lead to the inevitable top heaviness although it isn’t excessive. Show the car a set of corners or fast curves and it feels outside its comfort zone.
Its feather-light weight shows its weakness on the highway where the car feels flighty at speeds beyond 80kph. High-speed stability isn’t really confidence-inspiring and crosswinds only add to its nervousness.
The car is best suited for city commuting. Thanks to its 185mm ground clearance, shorter wheelbase and slightly stiffened suspension, it should clear tall speed breakers and deep potholes with ease.
Datsun’s ARAI figures at 25.17kpl are identical to those of the Renault Kwid, yet its real-world figures are slightly lower in comparison at 17.88kpl versus the Kwid’s 18.40kpl. In our city and highway test cycles, the Redigo returned 15.79kpl and 19.97kpl respectively, which is still very light on the pocket.
The Redigo’s audio system is equipped with CD, USB and aux-in connectivity. Sadly, Datsun has skipped Bluetooth. Sound quality from the two tiny, door-mounted front speakers is very poor and the left speaker was distorting on our test car. Fonts on the display are barely visible in the day, given the black background and dim orange text.
A touchscreen head unit like on the Renault Kwid would have been a nice addition, and is expected later on.
The Datsun Redigo's tiny footprint along with its light controls and high seating make it a breeze to drive around town. In addition, its petrol engine packs adequate pep and returns good fuel economy too. And to top it off, it looks rather distinctive. Still, glaringly evident cost-cutting measures adversely affect its appeal. In isolation, the Redigo is a sorted budget car that has a lot going for it. However, with the can't-go-wrong Alto 800 on one side and the hugely appealing Renault Kwid on the other, this Datsun doesn't feel like it has a card strong enough to trump either of them in any way. It is a unique and interesting proposition but it just isn't the best one out there.
What it costs
||Rs 3.34 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)
||2 years/unlimited km
||3 cyls, 799cc
||4 valves per cyl, DOHC
||54hp at 5678rpm
||72Nm at 4386rpm
|Power to weight
||80.59hp per tonne
|Torque to weight
||107.46Nm per tonne
Chassis & Body
||Independent, MacPherson struts, coil springs
||Non-independent, torsion beam, coil springs
||Rack and pinion
|Type of power assist
||Rack and pinion
Acceleration in gear
|20-80kph in 3rd gear
|40-100kph in 4th gear
Range at a glance - Engines
Max speeds in gear