In order to test the Nissan Magnite’s capabilities, we head to one of the most hostile places in the country!
These days, manufacturers raise the ride height of pretty much any car and slap an SUV moniker onto it. From high-riding hatchbacks to the recent phenomenon of ‘micro SUVs’, they now come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. However, compact SUVs are still the most popular kind of SUV in the Indian market. But do they really deserve the SUV moniker? Well, that’s the question, isn’t it? So, to find the answer, we took the Nissan Magnite, one of the most popular C-SUVs around, to Arunachal Pradesh – a state that’s as well known for its stunning beauty and great roads as it is for its harsh terrain and hostile climate.
Our journey began in Dibrugarh, Assam. We went straight to the Far East Nissan dealership from the airport to get the keys to the Magnite, which was going to be our companion for the next couple of days. After quickly refuelling our bellies and the Magnite, we found ourselves on the road to the town of Miao in Arunachal. Our chosen route wasn’t a big highway – it was a small dual carriageway throughout, with some tasty corners in between. And the enthusiastic combination of the 1.0-litre turbo-petrol engine and the 5-speed manual gearbox had us smiling behind the wheel all the while.
Slippery when Wet!
Our true destination was actually a bit further from Miao – a heavenly place called the Namdapha National Park, which is full of rocky trails and slush pools. In short, a perfect proving ground for the Magnite. But fate had something else in store for us. Owing to heavy rains, the park was closed to the general public. So, instead, we decide to meet our friend Roshan Upadhyaya, better known as the ‘Butterfly Man of Arunachal Pradesh’, who told us a bit about what makes Arunachal such a challenge for vehicles.
‘Arunachal’s climate is very wet, and the terrain is hilly. So, the roads here are almost always broken, which is why you see so many SUVs and 4x4s here. Cars that are meant for cities don’t perform well in our conditions,’ said Roshan.
Thanks to Roshan, who had a good rapport with the authorities, we managed to get access to the Namdapha National Park. And while I was eager to thrash the Magnite over some rough sections, Roshan was excited to find some rare butterflies.
‘Namdapha is like heaven for butterflies. The climate here allows for a lot of vegetation to grow, and butterflies can live here in peace without much disturbance. I come here very often not just to click pictures but also to help with conservation; and in my free time, I try to motivate children to love and care for mother nature,’ said Roshan.
To help Roshan catch some butterflies, we had to go off even the unbeaten path. First, we went up a steep incline, with a big empty void on the right and a massive rock in the centre for good measure. We weren’t quite sure if the Magnite will make it, which is why we had to pick our jaws from the slush below when it clambered up like a mountain goat. We, then, crossed a tiny river to get to the other side of the park, which the Magnite handled really well. The 1.0-litre turbo-petrol doesn’t get bogged down, and you don’t even need to balance the clutch – it has enough low-end grunt to wade through with ease.
‘The Magnite impressed me a lot. I needed to take lots of slow shutter shots, and as I sat in the Magnite clicking pictures, I felt that it had enough stability to ensure my pictures were sharp. I usually explore Namdapha on foot, but the Magnite has been a great companion for our adventures today. I want to see just how far it can go,’ said Roshan right after he’d snapped some breathtaking images of butterflies.
So, after crossing the river, we drove through a set of gravel trails where we could really have fun. While the off-road bits had us sweating earlier, the Magnite’s robust ride quality and great suspension allowed us to carry a lot of speed on broken sections – we treated it like a rally car.
'The Magnite’s robust ride quality & great suspension setup allowed us to carry a lot of speed on broken sections of road'
Of course, things never pan out the way you plan or expect them to be, and that day wasn’t an exception. A sound of thunder soon made my smile disappear, and before we knew what to expect, we were already in the middle of a downpour. And what a downpour it was! Visibility was almost reduced to zero, and gravel patches now looked like a hippos’ natural habitat. And as if things were not difficult enough, trees started falling down at an alarming rate! We had to get out of there. Fast.
We asked Roshan to pack up his camera, strap in, and hold tight. We were now driving over the broken patches that we crawled through earlier at full pelt. The rain had also increased the level of water in the river, which meant that the tiny river wasn’t so tiny anymore. With the water level up to the Magnite’s bonnet and strong, treacherous currents threatening to sweep us away, I put the pedal to the metal and prayed for the best. And let’s just say that we managed to escape the worst.
After rushing out of Namdapha, we found a shelter to catch our breath and sip some tea. And as we sat there talking about the journey, we realised that this is exactly what you want from a modern SUV. It should be able to take on treacherous conditions on the off chance that you may encounter it, but for the most part, you want it to be comfortable enough to get around town, and that’s where the Magnite excels. It’s a proper allrounder, with a never-say-die attitude. Roshan simply nodded in agreement.