Nissan, Japan’s second-largest carmaker, is finally flexing some muscle in the much-coveted sub-4m SUV segment. Up against formidable rivals, the latest entrant has the tough job of making sure it can move some goalposts and make a dent into rivals’ established businesses. Going by the trend, new models do find a lot more takers than existing ones and the focus of the Magnite will be to impress right away. So, does it?
At first glance, the Magnite looks pretty impressive. Designed in Japan, Nissan claims the designers were encouraged to be inspired by all things Indian. And they haven’t disappointed. Magnite is well-proportioned, has a striking face, uses chrome judiciously, gets nice diamond-cut alloys… it all looks shiny and will attract an average Indian. The sleek headlights and daytime running lights (DRL) cut unconventionally into the bumper give it an unmistakably distinct look. While many on this segment have tried to look different, Magnite tries to look conventional yet modern.
Conventional it is also when it comes to powertrain options. On offer are two petrol engines and two gearbox options. The base petrol is the same as in its distant French cousin – the Triber – a three-pot, one litre unit which churns out 72bhp and 96 Newton-metre. This is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox. But on a more fun side, the Magnite gets a 1.0 turbo petrol that makes substantially more power and torque – 100ps/160Nm – and can be mated to either a five-speed manual or an automatic (CVT) gearbox. With the latter, peak torque however drops by 8Nm. While the number of powertrain options pales in comparison to its Korean rivals, Nissan has still managed to scoop out as many as 20 variants of the Magnite to choose from!
We’ve tested the fun engine here and we are calling it that because we can’t seem to agree on a more appropriate term. Coincidentally codenamed HRA0, this sprightly unit has the bragging rights of being the most powerful petrol engine in the sub-4m SUV segment. It doesn’t sound too great and possibly isn’t the most refined of the lot but what you instantly like is the lack of turbo lag. The Magnite tips the scales at just 1039kg at its heaviest trim version and with this engine feels amazingly nimble getting up to speed. The manual gearbox has short-enough throws and would have been doubly nice if it could slot into the gates with a click. As expected, marginally also due to the dip in torque, the CVT feels less energetic in comparison but definitely has an upper hand in finesse with the overall driving feel and refinement.
Speaking of which, apart from the fact that the Magnite (at least this turbo petrol one) is no slouch on the highway, it doesn’t shy away from being steered enthusiastically too. Of course, hard into a corner, it will understeer but then that has to be pretty hard. For normal driving, the steering is light for aiding parking, and the suspension soft enough to soak in road imperfections. On the downside, cabin insulation could have been better both for wind and mechanical noise at speed. But if you are coasting or driving at city speeds, especially the automatic, it can be a serene place to be in.
The cabin has been well thought out by Nissan. The Magnite possibly has one of the best we have ever seen from the Japanese company in India so far. Despite its humble beginnings, the Magnite has been elegantly wrapped around the CMF-A platform that is used by other Renault-Nissan cars as well. Sure corners have been cut with some plastics but still, the cabin looks well-appointed. The seats are reasonably sized and the contours and cushioning make them comfortable to sit even over longer durations. The instrument cluster is all digital and comes with a gimmicky option of interchangeable displays. The dashboard’s centre is adorned by a multimedia touchscreen system that not only comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto but also supports wireless operation of both. There is a wireless induction phone charger too which is pretty handy although it could have been a bit deeper given the condition of Indian roads.
With prices starting at a jaw-dropping Rs 4.99 lakh (for now, prices are set to rise by Rs 50k from next month), Nissan has stirred quite some interest around its latest model. The top petrol manual retails at Rs 8.45 lakh while the CVT is another lakh more. And they have managed to pack a lot of goodies in for a wholesome SUV ownership experience. From offering dual airbags and tech like hill start assist to more exotic options like in-car air purifiers, Magnite makes for an interesting proposition. A spacious cabin with enough room for passengers and their luggage and pampering occupants with new-tech features, Magnite is Nissan’s best foot forward as a made-for-India car. With better ground clearance than a regular hatchback, it also adds a bit more practicality to the mix. For someone looking at a value-for-money yet feature-packed small car, Nissan Magnite is a worthwhile option.
ALSO LOOK AT: Ford Ecosport/ Hyundai Venue/ Kia Sonet/ Maruti Vitara Brezza/ Tata Nexon
UPCOMING RIVAL: Renault Triber (March 2021)
Ground Clearance: 205
Turning radius: 5.0m
Boot space: 336
Fuel tank: 40 litres
Engine: 999cc, 3-cyl, petrol
Fuel efficiency: 17.7-20kpl
Power: 72ps/100ps (Turbo)
Torque: 96Nm, 160Nm (MT), 152 (CVT)
Gearbox: 5MT, CVT
Tyre: 195/60 R16
Kerb weight: 939-1039kg
Price: Rs 4.99 lakh – 9.35 lakh (introductory, ex-showroom)