Nissan revives Datsun, but not in U.S.

Today Nissan unveiled the Datsun Go, the first of a new line of cars intended for emerging markets.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
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If you are old enough to have seen the Sex Pistols live, then Datsun cars will be familiar. From the classic Fairlady roadster to the original Z cars, Datsun made a name for itself as a maker of inexpensive and sporty cars. But the badge disappeared from automotive grilles in 1981, as parent brand Nissan asserted its identity.

Now Datsun is back, the brand relaunched by Nissan.

Datsun Go heralds brand revival (pictures)

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However, forget the Fairlady or Zs, or even the B210. The newest car to wear the Datsun badge is called the Go, and it is a tiny little economical hatchback. The front-wheel-drive Go gets a 1.2-liter engine, which probably can't make more than 100 horsepower. Nissan fits it with a five-speed manual transmission, rather than the continuously variable automatics it favors in Nissan-branded models in the U.S.

And it won't be sold in the U.S.

Nissan designed the car for emerging markets, where rising incomes are making for many first-time car buyers. The Go will launch in India, and Nissan eventually plans to bring it, and several other Datsun-branded models, to Russia, South Africa, and Indonesia.

Nissan expects the price to come in around 400,000 Indian rupee, which converts to under $7,000 U.S. That puts the Datsun Go at substantially above the price of the $2,500 Tata Nano, which made headlines in 2009 as the least expensive new car in the world.

In a nod to robust mobile phone adoption in emerging markets, the Datsun Go will feature an integrated smartphone holder, with ports for USB and auxiliary audio, so drivers can use their phones for navigation, music, and making hands-free calls.

In a press release, Nissan said it will build the Datsun Go model in India, and will have more details available later this year.