Nissan Magnite Review, First Drive

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Nissan’s innings in India haven’t been the best and globally too, the company has been struggling to find a foothold. However, all that’s in the past now. The brand has a new global revitalisation plan in place that promises better growth backed by new and improved products in the times to come. Its India operations too are optimistic about an all-new offering that might be the key to its revival. It is the Nissan Magnite and it is the brand’s first-ever subcompact SUV. This is a make or break model for the automaker and as an India-centric product, there’s so much to look forward to on the all-new offering. Does the Magnite have the magnetism to pull customers to dealerships? Here’s what we found out.

Design

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Bold, assertive and urban! The new Nissan Magnite’s design is a mix of those words and it is a dynamic-looking SUV. We first saw the design language on the Datsun redi-GO facelift but it truly stands out with the Magnite. After all, this subcompact SUV was originally designed to be a Datsun. But with that brand being phased out, it now wears the new Nissan logo. The massive grille is bold and surrounded with chrome on either side that can easily be used as mirrors. The headlights look sharp and come equipped with projector-lens LEDs while the L-shaped LED DRLs are a nice touch. The latter is standard on the top trims, while the lower trims get chrome inserts.

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The muscular elements are also brought by the hooves on the bonnet, but the strong beltline and flared wheel arches add heft to the appearance. The 3D tail lamps are particularly nice and offer a premium look to the SUV. In fact, that’s the theme on the Magnite that makes it look like a larger and a more expensive offering than it actually is. And that’s something a lot of its customers will like. It does come with a fair bit of plastic all over including the bumper and side cladding, roof rails, and even the Magnite badge on the front fender that looks great but falls a bit short on the touch and feel aspect. Another highlight are the 16-inch alloy wheels finished in dual-tone that look stunning. As far as perceived premium-ness goes, the Magnite does well and mixes style with substance.

Interior

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It’s a similar story in the cabin. The Nissan Magnite gets a fairly simple attire with dark finished interiors that add a more durable look to the interior. It’s clutter-free with just the big 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system followed by the toggle switches and dials for climate control. There’s wireless charging right below. The dashboard also has a textured pattern in the design but is plain when you touch. Like we said, perceived premiumness here too but the cabin does not feel plush by any length. The dark cabin does highlight the colourful bits, like the ambient lighting feature and the digital instrument cluster.

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The full colour display has been used very well and is also customisable with different layouts, while also offering a lot of information right from welcome animation, fuel history, power surge and even a digital rpm counter. The 7-inch unit also gets TPMS and that’s a nice addition to see here. The car also comes with Nissan Connect, so yes, this is a connected car and you do get geo fencing, smartwatch connectivity, service bookings, roadside assistance and lots more. However, you won’t get remote cabin pre-cool or engine start that some of the more expensive options in this segment offer. Is it a deal-breaker? Absolutely not, considering those variants will be a good Rs. 3-4 lakh more expensive in comparison.

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The 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system is equally information-rich but does fall short on the quality of the screen. It could’ve been a little crisper and the colours a tad bit more vibrant. The touch itself isn’t as intuitive as we would’ve liked and that does leave us wanting for more. But that should not stop you from exploring its features, the unit is loaded with pretty much everything including segment first wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, vehicle telematics, and access to audio controls. The JBL sound system is just about decent but could’ve offered slightly better output.

The highlight is the segment-first 360-degree camera that works right and is a nice feature to have. The Magnite just might force other carmakers to add this feature on their respective offerings, while making it a boon for several new car drivers. That’s also the targeted buyer for the new Magnite and it will do a good job as your first vehicle.

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Despite its compact proportions, the Magnite is surprisingly spacious on the inside. Nissan has maximised the wheelbase at 2500 mm, and the short overhangs help with the butch styling of the SUV. The tall cabin makes ingress and egress easy as you step into the vehicle and the seats are fairly nice with good under thigh support for the front and rear occupants. Both rows have decent space and the rear bench is decent enough to fit three people. It’s best reserved for two people to sit comfortably. Tall people will find the back seat surprisingly comfortable with ample knee-room and shoulder room.

The Magnite will be able to gobble two large suitcases easily with 336 litres of space, while the 60:40 split rear seats can be folded to further improve boot capacity to 690 litres. That’s more than enough for an airport run or even a week’s road trip. That is a great balance of legroom and boot space in a long time!

Performance

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We drove the all-new 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine on the Magnite and this unit was paired with the CVT automatic unit in its top-spec variant. There’s also the 1.0-litre naturally-aspirated mill on lower trims, and a 5-speed manual gearbox mated to both engines. The new 999cc three-cylinder turbo petrol mill produces 100PS and 152Nm of peak torque. Now, the torque output is lower on the CVT compared to the manual version that develops 160Nm. To begin with, the engine is actually quite impressive and very tractable for city use. Speeds build up quickly but the power delivery is linear through the rev range. That’s what surprised us the most that despite being a turbocharged unit, the motor has been tuned to function as a naturally aspirated unit, especially early in the rev range. There’s negligible lag below 2000RPM and torque kicks in at 2200RPM providing a strong surge right up to 5000RPM.

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The Nissan Magnite is quick and will offer effortlessly cruising between 100-110kmph without breaking a sweat. That’s also where the sweet spot of the motor is as power begins to taper once you cross 140kmph. The engine has been optimised for in-city duties and that means that a healthy chunk of it is concentrated to make the drive between home, office and the weekend getaway more exciting. The CVT is well-calibrated and the rubber-band effect that’s usually associated with these gearboxes has been minimised. Of course, you will feel the stretch when you upshift but the lag is substantially less. Slot the gearbox into Sport mode at the touch of a button and it holds the engine at higher revs, and that should take care of things when overtaking.

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We also liked the feedback from the steering wheel that’s responsive to inputs and weighs up nicely at high speeds. It also reminds us of the niceness that the Micra once offered over a decade ago without being overly sporty. The Magnite offers a subtle reminder to the same. It is light enough for city duties and taking u-turns is effortless.

Handling & Ride Quality

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The Magnite also impresses with its ride quality as it is quite mature. It and does a good job in keeping the bumps, thuds and undulations out of the cabin most of the time. The suspension comprising Mac Pherson struts at the front and twin-tube telescopic shocks have long travel making for highest ground clearance in its class and end up providing a comfy and cushy ride quality most of the time. It feels the best in mid to high speeds where it absorbs everything provides good high- speed stability. Low sped ride can feel a bit stiffer than most of its rivals as a result of the aforementioned. The 205 mm ground clearance will also result in you forgetting about slowing down for bad roads in the first five minutes after you start driving. For its tall stance, the SUV does have bodyroll and that is expected, but Nissan says the impact has been reduced with the addition of an anti-roll bar on the SUV.

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The Magnite also gets a fairly decent braking set-up but the good thing is the inclusion of ABS and EBD right from the base variant as standard features that gives you a reassuring safety net. The pedal bite could have been snappier as the travel can feel a bit too long when doing an emergency braking. Not just that, even dual front airbags and three-point seatbelts with pre-tensioners for front passengers are part of the standard kit. Additionally, the turbo version gets Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), brake assist, and traction control as standard, bringing good value and safety to the car. A big thumbs up for that Nissan!

Price and verdict

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Nissan will announce prices for the Magnite on 2nd December and they are likely to begin from Rs. 4.9 lakh (ex-showroom, India) onwards. Do remember, this will be for the base naturally-aspirated 1.0-litre version, while the turbo mills are likely to start from nearly Rs. 6.0 lakh onwards. We expect the XV Premium that we have driven to be priced around Rs. 9 lakh, which will still make it substantially cheaper than its rivals. At that price point, the Magnite will offer tremendous value as a well-packaged offering and has all the makings of a hot seller. The Magnite might just be the knight rescuing Nissan from low volumes in India.

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