Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) gearboxes have gained immense popularity in India in recent years, and its use in affordable entry-level cars is more prevalent than before. AMTs make sense given the growing traffic congestion in cities. The fuel efficiency offered by an AMT is also more than what is offered by a manual gearbox and are also fairly inexpensive to maintain as compared to advanced automatic gearbox technologies. With the new redi-GO AMT, Datsun India intends to ensure customers avail these advantages and offer a value proposition in a market, where this technology is being fast lapped up.
AMTs are essentially a pseudo automatic transmission and offer the convenience of a conventional automatic gearbox. Automatic transmission until a few years ago was a luxury mostly offered with high-end cars in India and there were very few models in the affordable cars space that would come equipped with one. With the new introduction, the redi-GO AMT joins the league Maruti Suzuki Alto K10, Renault Kwid AMT and the Tata GenX Nano AMT in the small hatchback segment with AMTs.
At the heart of the AMT transmission is a manual gearbox. It is a two pedal technology just like all other automatic transmissions, and uses actuators for clutch and gearshift operations. Actuators are either electro-mechanical or electro-hydraulic type. The mechanism includes a clutch, but no clutch pedal. Clutch and shifts are operated by actuators, and all this is precisely controlled by the transmission control unit (TCU).
The Datsun redi-GO is based on the same CMF-A platform as the Renault Kwid and under the skin, both the cars remain the same. The initial perceptions were similar to the Kwid AMT, but the new redi-GO does exhibit minor differences from its sibling.
Datsun has named its AMT unit Smart Drive Auto, unlike the Kwid AMT which gets Renault’s Easy-R system, but the differences go beyond the nomenclature. The biggest difference is that the redi-GO gets a conventional shifter. So, there’s a lever instead of the rotary dial. Another key difference is the manual model, which will particularly come in handy when the driver wants to overtake someone, or is trying to go uphill. This feature isn’t available in the Kwid.
Unlike the Kwid AMT, the redi-GO’s AMT unit gets the ‘creep’ function, which enables the car to cruise at low speeds of 5-6 km/h without the need for the driver to depress the accelerator – a smart feature to have in bumper-to-bumper traffic, in our opinion. Datsun calls this feature ‘Rush Hour Mode’, in accordance with its ability to manoeuvre the car through congested roads.
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION
The Datsun redi-GO AMT gets the same 999 cc, three-cylinder, petrol unit with Datsun’s i-SAT or the Intelligent Spark Automated Technology. The power and torque figures also remain unchanged at 67 hp and 91 Nm respectively. According to experts at Datsun, this is due to the favourable responses received for this technology as over 30 % of the redi-GO sales come from the 1.0 l model. It carries forward the same 5-speed AMT unit from the Kwid, the hardware for which is provided by Bosch and the software to run it from FEV.
KEY HIGHLIGHTS & DRIVING EXPERIENCE
The highpoint of the new redi-GO is the AMT gearbox. Amidst the initial high expectations, gearshifts were not seamless and lacked feedback. We would have appreciated a bit more refinement on the unit. Once the engine revs past 3000 rpm, the engine rumble manifests itself prominently and NVH levels shoot up. The low-end torque was also missing, which coupled with the modest power and torque figures, did little to propel the vehicle during quick jaunts in traffic. However, once the driver goes past the 2nd gear and crosses the 4,000 rpm mark, the power and torque gradually come into play and that’s when the redi-GO AMT becomes more driver-friendly.
The AMT ensures a comfortable driving experience, eliminating the fatigue experienced with the clutch pedal in heavy traffic conditions. However, the shifting has a lag in automatic mode and the driver cannot help but feel the need to change the gears manually at times, especially during overtake.
If the driver tries to floor the accelerator in a hurry, the AMT takes some time to respond and there is a noticeable lag. This is where the manual mode comes in handy. Shifting the lever to the left ensures that the driver can toggle it up and down to downshift and upshift. The Dual Driving Mode provides the benefits of a manual transmission, if ever the need is felt. The car feels a little more responsive in manual mode and allows the car to be manoeuvred faster.
This is ideal for spirited drivers, who wish to be in control and enjoy the performance offered by the relatively peppy 1.0 l, 3-cylinder engine. What can be annoying though is that if you have not pushed the right gear, there is a continuous beeping sound with an indication on the instrument cluster.
Pitted against established rivals, the ride and handling of the car hasn’t changed as compared to the redi-GO 1.0 l manual version, which was a selling point for the latter. The suspension is still a bit on the stiffer side; so the driver does feel the undulation on the road and the small thuds can be heard inside the cabin. The steering is light and helps in city traffic conditions but does not inspire a lot of confidence when you do high speeds on the occasional highway trips.
The shorter turning radius is a big help when it comes to taking tight turns within the city and around traffic and just helps squeeze out of the small alleys. The driver also sits higher inside the car, which offers a good view while driving and the brakes are pretty good offering enough bite and stopping power.
Priced at Rs 3.8 lakh, the new Datsun redi-GO does have its share of quality niggles. However, given the ease of driving offered by an AMT gearbox and the compact dimensions of the car, it should strike a chord with commuters using city roads for their day-to-day needs. The addition of a Bluetooth Audio System, with hands-free calling and audio streaming across the range, makes the redi-GO AMT an attractive proposition for customers.
TEXT: Anwesh Koley
PHOTO: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay