Why would I buy one?
- Attractive styling in compact dimensions
- Spacious cabin with up-to-snuff feature options
- Peppy turbo-petrol motor
Why would I avoid it?
- Clutch is tad heavy
- High speed ride could’ve been better
- Nissan’s aftersales service network
No other segment in India is currently as crowded as the sub-four metre SUV segment. And there are more arriving with each passing year. But to make a mark in this lucrative segment, each player needs to have a trick or two up their sleeves. Amongst the newcomers is this – the Nissan Magnite, which would like to grab your attention with its well-packaged proposition offered in a competitive price bracket. In this package, you’d get a spacious cabin which is decently decked up with features, attractive styling with compact dimension, and an engine which is easy to drive and live with, even in the three-pedal setup.
Engine and Performance
Powering the Magnite we have Nissan’s new 1.0-litre HRA0 turbo-petrol motor. The other engine option is the 1.0-litre naturally-aspirated petrol which also does its duties in the Renault Triber. You can have it either with a CVT automatic or a five-speed manual. This three-cylinder motor produces 98bhp of power at 5000rpm and 160Nm of torque is accessible between 2800-3600rpm. Nissan claims that the HRA0 engine adopts the “mirror bore cylinder coating” technology borrowed from their flagship – the GT-R. This technology reduces resistance inside the engine thus helping with better acceleration and fuel efficiency, says Nissan.
Crank up the motor and it settles into a silent idle, but there are prominent vibrations that are felt filtering inside the cabin. But it’s not a deal-breaker at all. We felt the clutch has a tad heavier action to it than necessary. There’s also a slightly spring-back feel, but you immediately get used to it, owing to the peppy nature of the engine. Off the mark, the motor needs a constant throttle input to keep going and there’s considerable lag below the 1800rpm mark. You’d need to work past it and that’s when you are welcomed by a strong mid-range where the throttle response sharpens up and the engine feels more eager to drive. At city speeds, pottering around at 2000rpm mark should do the trick as the motor feels very usable with little to no dawdling.
A good chunk of power is available in the mid-range so there’s barely any need to rev the engine all the way to its 6000rpm redline. Even the power tends to taper off closer to redline. So for highway speeds, it’s better to ride the strong mid-range torque where it would easily keep up three-digit speeds and not feel like wanting for more. Tipping the scale at 1014kg (kerb) the Magnite is a comparatively light car. And this helps with the driving dynamics too as the motor doesn’t feel like it has a lot of weight to lug around. However, we’d like to see how the engine performs when there are five passengers to chauffeur around along with their luggage. On the upside, Nissan claims that this motor with the manual transmission can run 20kms to a litre. This means real-world fuel efficiency in double figures should be easily achievable.
Ride and Handling
As for the ride quality, the Nissan seems to have tuned the Magnite for urban habitation. At slower speeds, the suspension setup is soft and very pliant. Everything from small irregularities to criminally-large potholes is well-absorbed without unsettling the occupants. Even the sharp-edged bumps are well taken care of. But when you go faster, the ride seems to lose its poise. There are thuds sent on the inside. On the upside, the 205mm of ground clearance is on par with the rivals and won’t bother you even in the trickiest of urban off-roading.
The steering – going almost three turns lock-to-lock – is slightly vague off the centre and there’s not much feedback either. That said, it is quite livable at slow speeds and when the speed increases there’s a good amount of weight added to it as well. However, we’d have loved slightly better high-speed composure. As for the brakes, they do a good job for city usage, but they lack that solid feel at highway speeds. Overall, the Magnite is easy and amiable to drive. But it also makes you hold your horses on some enthusiastic driving.
Interior Space and Quality
Although the Magnite is not very tall, getting in is easy thanks to the right seat height and wide-opening doors. Once inside, there are many things to like here. Firstly, you are welcomed by a funky-looking all-digital instrument cluster which looks straight out of an arcade game with groovy graphics. The dashboard has a honeycomb mesh pattern running across but some black-glossy elements would have elevated the cabin feel to a great extent. And addressing the elephant in the room, the quality of plastic used here is acceptable at best. It won’t set any benchmark, especially in its segment, but what it offers isn’t a lacklustre cabin. Instead, it looks and feels much better in real than it does in the pictures.
We liked the clutter-free, two-tier centre console with large, usable space and a wireless charging tray. There’s a nice tactile feel to the buttons and toggle switches. The eight-inch touchscreen slapped on the dash is easy to read and reach out. And the Urus-styled air-vents also look the part in the clean dashboard layout. There’s more than sufficient shoulder room upfront making the cabin feel airier.
Combine it with a good amount of headroom and the Magnite feels like a bigger car on the inside than it appears from the outside. Good visibility with a commanding driving position is further helped by thin A-pillars and large ORVMs. As for the seats, they offer soft cushioning with good support at all the necessary points, especially on the side bolsters and under the thigh. Even the fabric seat covers with synthetic leather accents used here feel nice to touch. There’s large space all around to shove in stuff including cup holders both fore and aft and a 10 litre glove box.
Move to the back and the bench continues to offer a good amount of space. For my height (I am 5'5), the scooped roof offers ample headroom, and there’s more than ample knee room as well with surprisingly good under-thigh support. As for the shoulder room, three medium-sized individuals can easily sit abreast without feeling uncomfortable. Lastly, the boot space of 336 litres is on par with its rivals. And it’s good enough to fit in a full-size suitcase and two other medium-sized ones, and you can fold down the split-seats to increase the capacity to 690 litres.
Features and Equipment
Nissan has conferred the Magnite with many segment-first features as well. This includes the digital instrument cluster giving out information like two trip computers, average fuel efficiency, TPMS and more. Then there’s the 360-degree camera borrowed from the Kicks which no other car in the segment has on offer. You also get wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and other connectivity features under Nissan Connect.
Opt for the tech Pack and you get goodies like wireless charger, air purifier, six-speaker JBL sound system, LED scuff plates, ambient and puddle lamps. Other features include automatic AC, cruise control, powered mirrors, LED DRLs and headlamps, rear AC vents, push-button start, voice command, gearshift indicator, and auto headlamps. In terms of safety, there are dual-front airbags, ABS with EBD, hill-start assist, traction control, brake assist, speed sensing and impact sensing door locks, and ISOFIX. However, the Magnite does miss out on features like sunroof, leather upholstery, and more airbags.
Word on the street is that the Nissan Magnite will be priced very competitively when it’ll go on sale on 2 December. Its range is expected to start at Rs 5.5 lakh and this top-spec model we have here could be priced around Rs 8.65 lakh (all prices ex-showroom). This strategic pricing should garner the much-needed attention for the Nissan Magnite and also help it fend off some of its well-established rivals. It would also make the Magnite a good value proposition.
One major challenge for the newcomer here would be Nissan’s scanty service network. Otherwise, in the cut-throat segment, the Magnite could attract the buyers who want a compact sub-four metre SUV which is decently decked-up, spacious and practical on the inside, and is easy to drive and live with.
Pictures by Kaustubh Gandhi