Nissan VS. Datsun: 7 Important Differences (Before Buying)

Nissan and Datsun are Japanese brands under the same company, Nissan.

However, they have features that set them apart, and these qualities often inform a buyer’s decision about which brand they should select.

Whether you are thinking of buying one of these brands or want to learn more about them, this short piece will dispel your confusion.

What is the real difference between Nissan and Datsun?

The major difference between Nissan and Datsun is that they target different markets. This leads to a huge disparity in build quality, price, and reliability. Furthermore, each brand has a unique design that appeals to different demographics.

Here are some differences between the two brands:


Although Nissan and Datsun are now under the same company, it was not always so.

Nissan was established in 1928 under the name Nihon Sangyo, which was later shortened to Nissan. Datsun was founded in 1911 under then Kaishinsha Motor Car Works, which later became Datson and then Datsun when it was acquired by Nissan.

Nissan was not originally an automobile producer. Instead, it started as a car parts dealership and only began building cars after it acquired Datsun in 1933. Datsun has always been an automobile manufacturer.

But they started with trucks, not cars. 

Target Markets

After Nissan acquired Datsun, they divided their international market into two.

Datsun cars were exported to countries like India, Indonesia, and Russia, and only a few to the West. Nissan got a larger share of the market, and its models were sent abroad to countries like the United States and the United Kingdom. 

In 1984, the Datsun name was scrapped to strengthen Nissan’s international brand. It was later revived in 2013 to cater to low-income customers. Nissan continues to produce vehicles that targeted wealthier customers to this day.

Which of the Two Is the More Reliable Car Brand?

In 2019, Nissan received the J.D. Power Award for the most dependable car brand, because it had the fewest complaints from vehicle owners.

In the Reliability Index, Nissan has ranked the ninth most reliable car out of 32, with an index score of 88.

Also, several Nissan models like the Micra, X-Trail, and Qashqai have once made the top 100 list of most reliable car models.

The Micra is the most reliable, with an index score of 34 out of 100.

The Nissan Micra is among the list of popular cars that go electric these years.

Datsun cars are also reliable, just not as much as Nissan vehicles. That it has never received a J.D. Power Award, while Nissan has done so a few times, goes to show that Nissan vehicles are more dependable.

Also, reviews say because most Datsun cars are old, they often encounter electrical problems. Someone with basic engineering knowledge can easily solve these problems, but most average customers cannot.

Are Nissan Cheaper than Datsun?

Datsun cars are cheaper. In fact, the reason the Datsun brand was revived in 2013 was to cater to aspiring vehicle owners on tight budgets.

The least expensive Datsun car is the Redi-Go at $3,000, and the most expensive is the GO+, which costs $ 10,000. Nissan car prices are the cheapest at $12, 460, the cost of the Nissan Versa. The most expensive Nissan is the GTR, which costs about $99,000.

That Datsun is cheap does not mean it was built with low-quality materials. Its low price is reconciled by the absence of erstwhile important features in other car brands.

For example, the most expensive Datsun model, the Go+, lacks airbags. Clearly, Datsun vehicles are for those who can’t spend extra cash on luxury features.

Does Nissan or Datsun Sell More Cars?

Nissan sells more cars. Datsun is disadvantaged in this area because it has a smaller market.  

Nissan exports cars to the United States, the United Kingdom, and other wealthy countries, so they make more sales. The Datsun brand has few customers in most countries except India, Indonesia, and Russia.

Even in the aforementioned countries, some people avoid the brand’s models for certain reasons which include:

  • Lack of Ostentatiousness: The low cost of the Datsun models is not very flashy, so it is not used as a statement piece for wealthy buyers.
  • Absence of Essential Features: Many Datsun cars lack important features like modern infotainment systems and sophisticated safety features.

Even though some would rather not buy Datsuns, the brand still generates more sales than Nissan in India.

In September 2018, Nissan Indian Group sold about 3,227 units, in which only 426 units were Nissan models, and the remaining 2,801 were Datsun vehicles.

How Do Prices on Repair and Maintenance Stack up?

Nissan cars are more expensive to maintain than Datsun vehicles.

To keep your Nissan vehicles in shape, you need to take them for servicing every 6-12 months or after a mileage of 10,000 km. Each servicing may be as cheap as $119 to $800, depending on your car model and use habits.

For vehicle owners with basic engineering knowledge, Datsun cars can last as long as 12 months before they are due for servicing. Maintenance for Datsun vehicles cost as low as $60. 

It makes sense that Datsun vehicles cost less to maintain because they don’t have as many features as Nissan cars.

How Is the Performance of the two Brands Compared?

Nissan performs better than Datsun. Compared to their prices, Datsun vehicles are of impressive quality.

However, since the budget of production is limited, there is an extent to which high-quality materials can be used. So, there are a few shortcomings in the cars.

Datsun vehicle owners have complained about the loud vibration the engines make during a drive. The sound is quite disturbing, so you should avoid it if you are the type that needs to read in cars. Nissan cars do not produce loud noises, except they are faulty.

When Datsun vehicles are driven in hilly areas, their speed reduces. This is unlike the Nissan models, including the GTR, with speed so impressive it was once dubbed the fastest car in the world. 

Another shortcoming is the heavy engines that most Datsun models have. The weight of the engines heats up the car, making it uncomfortable. What’s worse is some of them lack air conditioners. Even for those that have climate control systems, the quality can be poor.

The Datsun Go+ is a seven-seater with a backseat too cramped for adults to sit comfortably. If you want a large car because of your family, you are better off stretching your budget to afford a slightly more expensive car.

Which Brand Is More Durable?

Nissan cars are more durable than Datsuns.

The average mileage for Nissan cars is 200,000 miles. The highest mileage recorded so far for Datsun cars is 100,000 miles.

Also, all Datsun cars are prone to rust, especially when you drive them in the snow. So, it is not advisable to have a Datsun vehicle as your sole means of personal transport.

What About Safety?

Nissan cars are safer than Datsun vehicles.

Conversely, Datsun vehicles are unsafe. The Global New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) once proposed that the best Datsun car, the Datsun Go+, be withdrawn from the Indian market. This was because the model could not even get a star rating that year. 

Also, many Datsun vehicles lack passenger airbags, and they have failed several crash tests. It appears that the only kind of safety a Datsun offers is in its seatbelts.

Nissan vehicles, on the other hand, have won safety awards.

In 2016, four Nissan models earned IIHS (International Institute for Highway Safety) awards. The brand’s vehicles also enjoy a safety plan called the Nissan Safety Shield. 

The Nissan Safety Shield keeps drivers and their passengers away from harm during a crash.

The safety plan has three roles:

  • To monitor the driver and other drivers around him.
  • To alert him when his safety and those of his passengers are compromised on the road.
  • To protect the occupants of a car during a crash.

Which Is the Better Used?

Nissan cars are better used than Datsun cars.

Most Datsun cars rust when you drive them in snow, so people rarely use them during winter. In contrast, Nissan vehicles are suitable for every season. So, they enjoy greater usage than Datsun cars.

Most people going on a road trip would prefer using a Nissan vehicle to using Datsun vehicles because of the random electrical problems they are likely to develop. Of course, no one wants to be stranded in the middle of nowhere. 

If you are considering a used version of these brands, Nissan is your best choice in terms of value and reliability.

Other Differences You Should Know of

Apart from their price and reliability, the biggest difference between the two brands is the interior.

Most Datsun cars have a lackluster interior and lack adequate airbags. To cut price, the brand relies heavily on hard plastic for many of the surface finishes in the cabin.

Conversely, Nissan cars have some of the poshest interiors in the car world. But you can’t blame Datsun, considering their affordable price tags.

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