Nissan enters the already very tight and super competitive sub-4m compact-SUV segment with the all-new Magnite. Too little too late? Or does the Magnite have something special up its sleeve? We find out...
If there’s one segment that’s not going to go out of favour anytime soon, it's the sub-4m compact-SUV segment. It’s a segment that’s hardly a decade old, but at the moment, it packs all the action. The Ford EcoSport is still soldiering on after all these years, and the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza, Tata Nexon, and Mahindra XUV300 are doing pretty well for a while. And then you have the segment-leading Korean duo of the Hyundai Venue and Kia Sonet.
All in all, the sub-4m compact-SUV segment is a pretty tight space (pun intended), and everybody wants to have a share of this pie. Now, given how all the aforementioned products are thriving in our market, Nissan has decided to enter the segment with the all-new Magnite – the company’s first-ever made-for-India sub-4m compact-SUV. Is it too little too late, or can this funky new compact-SUV give its established rivals sleepless nights? Let’s find out.
If there’s one thing that Nissan has got absolutely spot-on with the Magnite, it's the styling. As a compact SUV, the Magnite has all the right elements – it’s sharp, butch, and has great proportions. The bi-projector LED headlamps, LED indicators, L-shaped DRLs and LED foglamps, flowery looking 16-inch alloy wheels, and dual-tone paint scheme give it a very modern and aggressive stance. The grille does look like it’s been picked from Datsun’s parts bin, but then it does make the car look more muscular. In the sub-4m space, I feel that the Magnite is probably one of the most masculine looking SUVs, and this will attract a lot of buyers, for sure.
While the exterior is quite impressive, the interior doesn’t bowl you over in the same manner. The doors feel feather-light, and the overall plastic quality isn’t the best. There are a lot of hard plastics all around, and the panel gaps are inconsistent. The dashboard’s design is well executed though, and it doesn’t look cluttered. There are a few bits that remind you of the Triber’s cabin – the 8.0-inch touchscreen, rotary controllers for aircon, start-stop button, and other bits are pretty identical to the Triber’s. However, it does get a lot more features – there’s a 360-degree camera, cruise control, and a tyre pressure monitoring system, as well as optional wireless Apple Car Play and Android Auto and wireless phone charger. The touchscreen is crisp and quite intuitive. Plus, the wireless Android Auto/Car Play makes life even easier. The 7-inch all-digital instrument cluster is colourful and quite funky, but its graphics will remind of you gaming consoles from a decade ago. The standard safety kit in the Magnite includes dual-airbags and ABS with EBD, while the Turbo versions also get traction control system.
The front seats are supportive, and all the controls are within your easy reach. The space at the back is even better, and the headroom is quite impressive. Plus, with a non-existent transmission hump on the floor, three people can sit comfortably. The Magnite scores high in terms of practicality and storage space, too – there are a lot of storage areas in the cabin, and at 336 litres, the boot space is quite decent.
The Magnite is offered in two petrol engine options – both are 1.0-litre three-cylinder units. But one is naturally aspirated, which is the same as the Triber’s unit, and the other is turbocharged, which is all new. We drove the Turbo version, which is available with a 5-speed manual and a CVT transmission.
At idle, you can feel the vibrations through the steering wheel and doors, quite typical of three-cylinder engines. Once you get going, the engine starts spinning smoothly, while the power delivery is linear. There’s no sudden ‘turbo kick’, especially in the CVT version, and you gain momentum in a progressive manner. In normal city driving, the engine and CVT combo is buttery smooth and effortless to drive. But if you rush things up, the engine gets noisier and the transmission struggles to keep up. In ‘L’ or Low mode, the powertrain starts whining quite ferociously. Plus, the cabin insulation isn’t the best in the business – you get all kinds of noises in the cabin all the time. The engine has a lot of grunt, but it runs out of steam past 5,000rpm – and it also feels laborious if you keep pushing harder. If you want to have fun, the manual transmission is the better bet – not only do you feel more in control but also there’s less NVH to deal with. All said, the turbo engine and CVT transmission make for an effortless drive, and it’s quite likeable – I’ll take it over the jerky AMTs of the XUV300 or Nexon any day.
In the ride-and-handling department, the Magnite has typical Nissan/Renault traits. The ride quality is stellar, thanks to its taut and absorbent suspension setup. The ride is supple at low-speeds, but sharp bumps are felt at high speeds. Around corners, it doesn’t wallow – in fact, it drives more like a hatchback. The wider 195-section width tyres, coupled with 16-inch wheels, give the Magnite a surefooted feel around corners. The steering doesn’t offer much in terms of feedback and feels vague. It doesn’t self-centre naturally, especially after taking a sharp U-turn. The brakes are sharp, but the pedal could do with a more progressive feel – it rather feels spongy. Overall, though, the Magnite is a neutral handler, but not an outright exciting SUV.
As a product or a compact-SUV, the Magnite covers all the bases rather sincerely. It’s a great looker. The engine & transmission options make it an effortless drive. It’s packed to the brim with features, and it’s decent to drive. Sure, the build quality has room for improvement, and the general fit-and-finish is nowhere near the Koreans, or even our homegrown products. But then, Nissan is going to make up for this by launching it at an aggressive price – we’ve been told that it’s going to be priced between Rs 5.5 lakh and Rs 9.5 lakh (ex-showroom). Now, that changes everything because that’s a lot of a car for very little money. And it will definitely make the Magnite an irresistible proposition not only for the compact-SUV buyers but also for customers looking for premium hatchbacks.
- Nissan Magnite
Engine: 999cc / 3-Cylinder / Turbocharged
Transmission: 5-Speed Manual / CVT; Front-Wheel Drive
Power: 99bhp @ 5,000rpm
Torque: 160Nm @ 2,800 – 3,600rpm (Manual); 152Nm @ 2,200 – 4,400rpm (CVT)
X-Factor: Practical, spacious, & fun-to-drive. Plus, it’s a looker, & it’ll be priced aggressively.
• Effortless & punchy powertrain
• Space, ride-quality, practicality