The Datsun Go is a budget car like many others, but its decent ride and nippy performance impress

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The Datsun Go marks the return of the Datsun marque after a 30-year absence. Like Dacia, Datsun is conceived to be the budget alternative to its established parent brand.

But unlike Dacia, Datsun is targeted at emerging markets such as India, where it is just about to go on sale.

The Go’s styling is inoffensive, and the diamond-shaped grille, the angular, peeled-back headlamps and its attractive lines have a certain appeal. It's clear that the designers have tried hard to keep it from looking too basic, even if the skinny 13in wheels look woefully small in those big arches.

Under the bonnet is a 67bhp 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol motor that's similar to that found in the Nissan Micra. It makes slightly less power than in the Nissan, but then again, the Datsun Go isn't that heavy

The Go measures 3785mm long and 1635mm wide and has a wheelbase of 2450mm. Compare that to the Suzuki Alto which is 3580mm long, 1680mm wide and has a 2,360mm wheelbase and you can see how much more car is offered for the money.

The Datsun Go won't come with ABS and there aren't any airbags either. In fact, even basic safety equipment is missing – the rear windshield doesn't get a demister and there's no wiper, either.

It's the car's light kerb weight that makes it such a peppy performer.

It responds to light taps on the throttle eagerly and is happy pulling away from low engine speeds in high gear. The mid-range is strong and it's only when you get to around 4000rpm that it gets thrummy. The responsive nature of the engine makes it really easy to drive around the city – you can stick it in third gear and potter around town all day. The five-speed manual is also light and the clutch is progressive enough.

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Push the engine hard and it will easily propel the Datsun Go to triple-digit speeds. Our testing equipment shows that it will get from rest to 62mph in 15sec and you can easily cruise at those speeds with minimum fuss.

The downsides? Well, there’s a bit of vibration from the three-cylinder engine at idle, but that's it. It smoothens out when you rev it, and also quietens down when you are cruising. 

Around town, the ride is quite supple but there is an underlying firmness. Bigger bumps thump through but it has a big-car feel in the way it tackles bad roads. Less impressive is the way the suspension and road noise filters into the cabin, especially on coarse surfaces. Evidence of being built to a price is apparent by the lack of sound proofing in the wheel wells.

The Go is an easy car to drive though – the power steering is light, and it feels very manageable with great visibility. It doesn't like to be pushed hard – around corners, the suspension's generous travel allows for plenty of body roll and even though grip is adequate, the car moves about on its tall tyres. But there's decent stability at speed and the steering weights up enough to give a precise feel. 

Inside, the driver is presented with a simple, three-spoke steering wheel and even simpler dials – there's a speedometer and a digital display that includes a rev counter, trip computer (that's small and hard to read on the move) and a fuel gauge. 

The centre console is similarly spartan and does without radio or CD player. Even though the Go gets front power windows, the driver has a switch only on their side. And the rear windows are manual. Then there's the bare metal adjuster for the seat's fore and aft movement and rear seatbelts that don't automatically retract. 

The driving position is comfortable, with good visibility, though some might find the dash-mounted gear lever set quite high and even a bit too far back, especially for those with long arms. 

There is, however, plenty of space. Clever management of space – the dash-mounted gearlever and the slim seats – makes it quite an airy cabin. There’s a decent amount of rear legroom, but the rear seats are unsupportive.

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You can't buy  the Go in the UK. But where sold, it should prove to be quite a cheap, easy-to-own car. Datsun will also offer a two-year/unlimited mileage comprehensive warranty when the Go goes on sale later this month.

The manufacturer claims a fuel efficiency figure of 58.2mpg. The Go will be sold through Nissan dealerships and in markets where it'll be sold where there are no Nissan dealerships, Datsun plans to set up its own. 

For now though, the Go has a peppy engine, spacious interior and is easy to drive. And when you think about how much money it costs, it seems like a lot of car for the money.