The little Datsun coupé, with its 1,171-c.c. push-rod, five-bearing 69 (SAE) b.h.p. four-cylinder engine and distinctly “fast-back” body-styling which makes it less of a 2+2 and more of a two-seater with very ample dog or luggage accommodation, is rather a nice little car. From the moment you drive it the light controls impress you as an outstanding aspect of this cheeky Japanese invader—very light clutch, an exceedingly good and light gear-change, and almost too-light steering. One remembers the British Imp and couples the Datsun with it as a car the ladies will like—not so much because they are the weaker-sex whom heavy controls tire but because women are often suspicious of heavy machinery and happier with finger-tip controls. This coupé demists itself quite well without a heated back window but the screen pillars restrict vision.
If I am right about this, the smart Datsun 1200 coupé will appeal to girls of all ages. It is a two-door car, nicely finished in Amino Alkyd enamel, and the open-topped boot plus back seat provides separate compartments, if required, for canine occupants. Or the seat back can be folded flat to give a very large floor area. In town driving I rated this Datsun a real winner but taking it further afield revealed that the Oriental technicians still lag behind Europe in several important respects. The engine, although able to revolve safely to 6,200 r.p.m., is impossibly noisy beyond about 4,000 r.p.m., so that around 60 m.p.h. is the best cruising pace. The ride is much too lively, from leaf-spring rear suspension. The brakes were powerful but needed firm application, so tended to be unconvincing for casual retardation. There are also minor irritations, such as the boot-key being reluctant to withdraw and rain entering the boot.
But this Datsun has many compensating aspects. The heater is excellent, supplemented by a scuttle vent, the Kanto Seiki instruments are properly visible, with tachometer and speedometer before the driver and a huge, loud-ticking clock on the console, with seconds hand. The horn is sounded from raised buttons at the extremities of the wide steering-wheel cross-bar, there is an under-facia shelf plus a big, unlockable, lidded cubby-hole and small open console-well, and detail work, such as door handles, sill-locks, reclining front-seat squabs, front quarter-windows, etc., is good. The lamps’ arrangement is unusual, a r.h. facia knob below the pull-and-twist two-speed wipers/electric washers knob switching on the lamps, which then give side or dipped Jashiba headlamps according to the positioning of the r.h. control stalk (which also operates the turn-indicators), the facia knob having to be used again to get full-beams, while beam flashing is done with a tiny button on the end of this stalk.
Acceleration is quite good if the very excellent, silken gear-change is freely used, and if the engine roar can be tolerated the Datsun 1200 coupé is fast enough for ordinary main-road motoring, cornering in pleasantly neutral fashion, well restrained by Japanese-made Dunlop SP3 radial-ply tyres; at night a better headlamp beam would be appreciated. This is an economical little car, too, giving 39.1 m.p.g. of four-star fuel (its fuel gauge reading scarcely means a thing, however), while in 900 miles none of the recommended Gulf oil had been consumed. The bonnet has to be propped up, when one notes the very accessible dip-stick, plugs, coil, Kyosan Denki fuel pump and Yuasa N50 battery. A Banrope fan belt and Nihon radiator are used. A Deco Kangaroo detachable flexible bag holds the screen-washer fluid.
It is likely to become popular, especially as the price is a modest £929.—W. B.