Nissan Magnite review, road test
Rating 9 9

Nissan Magnite review, road test

19th Feb 2021 11:29 am

Nissan’s fresh take on the compact SUV segment is loaded with features and wears a killer price tag.

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  • Make : Nissan
  • Model : Magnite
We Like
Fantastic value
Feature rich
Strong engine
Responsive CVT
We Don't Like
Refinement
Firm ride
Built to a price

After a long absence, Nissan is back in the limelight, and the focus is on the snazzy Magnite, which, even after less than a month of being on sale, already seems to be turning the tide for the Japanese company in India. It’s garnered over 32,000 bookings at the time of this writing, and waiting periods are climbing steadily. Wearing a fresh design and packing in tonnes of equipment, the Magnite is already an inviting proposition. But then you factor in the knockout pricing Nissan has managed, and things only get better. Ranging between Rs 5.49 lakh and Rs 9.88 lakh, it undercuts every other compact SUV on sale by a huge margin, and this sounds like great value when you look at the features it offers. So just how have they managed to do it, and could this really be all the compact SUV you need? This road test will give you the answers.

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A four-star score in ASEAN NCAP’s crash test is a testimony to its structural integrity.

The CMF-A+ platform that underpins the Nissan Magnite (and the Renault Triber) is a derivative of the Renault Kwid’s CMF-A, but this one is larger in size, has been further strengthened, and it shares very few parts with the entry-level platform, making it practically an all-new structure. What’s more, ASEAN NCAP awarded the Indonesian-market (but made in India) Magnite a respectable four stars in its recent crash tests, which is a reassuring testimony to its structural integrity; and that’s despite it being the lightest in class, at 939-1,039 kilograms.

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Full-LED headlamps, DRLs and fog lamps add to its bling factor.

Conceptualised from scratch to measure less than four metres in length, it comes across as a well-proportioned SUV. Its length and wheelbase are on par with other compact SUVs, but it is the narrowest and lowest in the segment. With its slim, sharply styled LED headlamps, and L-shaped DRLs flanking the oversized hexagonal grille, its front end might remind you of the Datsun Redigo, and that’s because the Magnite was originally conceived to be a Datsun offering. However, in 2019, Nissan decided it would phase out the underperforming Datsun brand by 2022, and hence launched this as a Nissan. The striking character lines, bold stance, snazzy wheels, dual-tone colour scheme, and handsome rear design certainly make this a head turner. The impressive 205mm of ground clearance also helps solidify its SUV image, but on the flip side, the big wheel arches also highlight the relatively weedy 195/60 R16 tyres. On closer inspection, you will also notice some inconsistent shut lines, particularly on the bonnet and boot, which point to the Magnite being built to a cost.

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Tiny discs behind funky wheels don’t compromise class-best braking.

 

The first impression is good. You’ll find keyless entry access buttons on both front doors, unlike some rivals which have skipped the passenger side to save costs. Swing the door open after the sun’s gone down and you’ll be ushered in by a ‘welcome’ logo projected on the ground, and you’ll step inside a neat and modern-looking interior. The 7.0-inch full-digital coloured instrument panel is likely to get your attention first, with its funky, cartoon-like animations and different screen options that throw up ample information legibly.

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A neat design, clever use of textured plastics and new-age features give it a lot of appeal.

Adorning the dashboard are Lamborghini-esque hexagonal AC vents, a floating 8.0-inch touchscreen unit, well-finished toggle switches and rotary AC controls with monochrome LCD displays housed within them, showing you temperature and fan speed – a very premium touch.

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The exposed steering rack in the footwell is quite an eyesore.

While the steering doesn’t adjust for reach, the pedal box that’s placed quite close to the driver helps you find an agreeable driving position easily. The front seats are deep, with nice cushioning and ample lateral support, although those with larger frames might find them a tad narrow. Shorter drivers might find the dash set a bit too high, and will need to crank the seat up.

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Seats nicely contoured and well cushioned, but not ideal for large people.

You’ll find well-padded door armrests upholstered in a premium-feeling, double-stitched denim-like material, and this is also present on the front-centre elbow rest, but unfortunately, this doesn’t open to reveal any storage space underneath. There’s a clever use of textured plastics across the cabin and even though these are hard, they don’t feel cheap or scratchy, and the all-black colour scheme is saved from being too claustrophobic by a few silver accents in key places.

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Spacious and comfy rear seat has ample support and comfort .

With a 2,500mm wheelbase, cabin packaging is really good, and even tall passengers will find sufficient head, knee and foot room at the rear. The backrests are upright but not uncomfortably so, and thigh support is a bit of a mixed bag, as although the squab is long enough, it tapers off at the edge. More of an issue is the cabin’s relatively narrow width, which means it’s not ideal for housing three adults abreast.

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Wireless charging pad (part of the tech pack) is large enough for most modern smartphones.

There’s a good deal of practicality, with lots of convenient storage spaces around the cabin. The wireless charging pad can hold even plus-size smartphones, and there’s a USB port up front too and a big storage shelf underneath it. The door bins hold a one-litre bottle each, the centre console has two big cupholders and the huge glovebox has nifty dividers to hold smaller items in place. Another thoughtful touch is the phone slot in the rear armrest, just ahead of the cupholders. The boot, at 336 litres, is adequately sized, and the rear seats can be folded in a 60:40 split to accommodate more cargo.

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Adequate boot space. Rear seats fold to accommodate excess cargo.

Look close and you’ll find signs of Nissan’s cost considerations with the Magnite. While they’ve got the touch and feel spot on, bits like the glove box lever, grab handles and the inside rear-view mirror don’t feel well put together. In the driver footwell, you might be able to spot the exposed steering rack, and in the manual car, there’s no place to rest your left foot beside the clutch pedal. So while the cost cutting isn’t as evident as in, say, early Datsun models, Nissan should have masked some of the more glaring bits better.

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Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay a great feature to have, but the system works erratically.

It’s impossible not to be impressed by the equipment the Magnite offers, at this price or otherwise. It’s packed with the likes of LED headlights, fog lights and DRLs, keyless entry and go, a rear washer and wiper (right from the base model), wireless phone charger, power-folding wing mirrors, an 8.0-inch touchscreen and auto climate control. But while you’ll find these in some rivals, features that really stand out for this segment are a 360-degree camera, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a tyre pressure monitor and the all-digital colour instruments screen. On the safety front, you’re well taken care of too, with ESP, hill-start assist, brake assist and traction control and ISOFIX child seats mounts, although there are just two airbags on all variants. Features buyers might miss are auto headlamps and wipers, an auto-dimming inside mirror and a sunroof, but these are all non-essentials.

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Useful 360-degree camera; however, quality in low and bright light could have been better.

There are some quirks though; the wireless smartphone connectivity works erratically, the 360-degree cameras’ display isn’t very clear, and the touchscreen can be a bit slow to react.

The base engine is the same 72hp, 1.0-litre naturally aspirated engine we’ve seen in the Renault Triber, but the one we’re testing here is the new HR10 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol that made its debut with this car. And, before you ask, there’s no diesel, nor will there ever be; the CMF-A+ platform simply cannot accommodate one.

The 100hp, 999cc turbo-petrol engine isn’t direct-injected, but instead sticks to indirect or multiport injection. It’s available with either a 5-speed manual or a CVT, and the torque output varies accordingly – 160Nm at 2,800- 3,600rpm in the manual, and 152Nm at 2,200-4,400rpm in the auto. But don’t be disheartened by the auto’s lower torque output, because it is available at lower revs and is spread across a wider powerband.

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Turbo engine is tuned for responsiveness and efficiency.

Co-developed by Renault and Nissan, this lightweight engine features state-of-the-art tech  such as an electronically controlled wastegate, an exhaust manifold partially integrated into the cylinder head, twin variable-valve timing for the intake, and bore spray coating, all  in the interest of improving thermal efficiency, performance and responsiveness. This helps the engine feel smooth and effortless, even when off-boost.

Unlike with Hyundai and Kia’s 1.0-litre turbo-petrol, there’s very little perceptible turbo lag, and power delivery is seamless and linear. You will feel the boost come on at around 1,700rpm, but it does so without any prominent step or spike. Performance stays strong until about 5,500rpm, after which it tapers off in the last 1,000rpm. It responds keenly to sudden taps on the accelerator, which makes for effortless overtaking or quickly filling gaps in traffic. But you’ll do well to shift up early in the manual as this isn’t a particularly free-revving unit, and can sound coarse and feel strained past 4,500rpm.

The Magnite suffers from an overall lack of cabin insulation and hence all sorts of mechanical sounds seep into the cabin, particularly at higher revs or when the engine is under load. One can even feel vibrations on the steering, gear lever, pedals, and even through the seats, when the AC compressor kicks in while the three-pot engine rocks on its mounts at idle. Tyre and road noise, too, can become an issue at triple-digit speeds. 

The 5-speed manual transmission requires a bit more effort than most rivals and the shift action isn’t very positive either. Even the clutch feels heavier than others in this segment, and the release point isn’t easy to judge, so you will need to modulate it carefully for a smoother drive. What comes as a big surprise is that the Magnite can out-accelerate its  turbopetrol rivals in a sprint from 0-100kph, which takes just 11.19sec. However, acceleration through the gears is quite the opposite, and it takes the longest time to accelerate from 20-80kph and 40-100kph in third and fourth gears, respectively, with timings of 12.82sec and 16.72sec, quicker than only the Tata Nexon.

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CVT a perfect match for this engine. Sport mode makes it even better.

The superior transmission is definitely the CVT auto, which feels smooth, intuitive and in complete sync with the engine. In congruence with the peppy engine, it gets you off the line briskly but not abruptly, and quickly adapts to your driving rhythm. While there is no manual mode or simulated ‘steps’ to shift through like in some other CVTs, you won’t miss it, thanks to a very effective Sport mode that keeps the revs higher than usual for quicker responses when you need them. And even in this mode, if you attempt to drive flat out, there’s very little rubberband effect (an increase in revs without a corresponding increase in speed).

There’s an L or Low mode that focuses on providing maximum torque, intended for better hill ascents or descents, or if the car is carrying a full load, but even here, the Magnite impressively pulls well above 100kph with ease. In summation, this is one of the best CVTs in this price ballpark, and impresses with its smoothness, responsiveness and ability to adapt to a variety of driving conditions.

This car also packs in cruise control, and what’s interesting is that when the cruising speed is set and you accelerate to make a quick overtake (in the same gear) and then lift off, it will bring the car back to the preset cruising speed automatically. Also, the speedo cluster turns purple indicating cruise control is engaged.

Suspension duties are handled by MacPherson struts linked with a stabiliser bar up front, twin-tube telescopic shock absorbers at the rear and coil springs all around. Get moving, and on a less-than-ideal patch of road, you will notice an underlying firmness to the Magnite’s ride, particularly at low to medium speeds, but seldom to the point of being uncomfortable. It’ll crash quite hard into big potholes or sharp bumps and the suspension perhaps doesn’t feel quite as robust as what you’ll find in most other compact SUVs, it has to be said; but then it’s nowhere as brittle as what you’d find in a hatchback either. As is often the case with slightly firmer setups, things only get better as you pick up the pace, and once you’ve worked up to a decent cruise, the Nissan pummels out road imperfections a whole lot better, with far less movement inside the cabin.

The other advantage of a slightly firmer setup is that, when you get to highway speeds, there’s little wallow and float, which only adds to confidence. What also helps in this environment is the steering, which does put on a fair amount of weight as you go faster, and because it’s not overly responsive, it doesn’t require constant minute course corrections to stay in your lane on an expressway at speed.

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Stiff suspension has a hard edge and sharp bumps filter through into the cabin.

At low speeds, this slow steering may mean you need a few more turns, lock to lock, to make a U-turn, but it feels light enough (as is the car itself) so it’s seldom a bother, and manoeuvrability in most situations is very easy. Now yes, a light, slow steering is not the best recipe for handling, and what doesn’t help is that it’s not the last word in feel and feedback either. But the Magnite’s good body control, again down to that slightly taut suspension, does at least make it quite capable through a set of corners, if perhaps not the most enjoyable. Those 195-section tyres even provide a surprising amount of grip.

On the braking front, it takes a little getting used to as there’s some slack in the pedal before the brakes bite. That said, once you’re acclimatised, you’ll find their performance quite impressive. Perhaps some of this can be attributed to the Magnite’s light weight, but we managed to get it from 80kph to a standstill in less than 25 metres – one of the best showings in the class.

Owing to its lightweight construction and a responsive engine that doesn’t need to be spun hard to up the pace, the turbo-petrol manual version returns an impressive 12.8kpl in the city. With fourth and fifth being overdrive gears, and the engine spinning at a rather relaxed 2,500rpm in top gear at 100kph, the Magnite is an easy sipper on the highway, returning 16.1kpl. So, despite being a mere 5-speeder in a segment where all its turbo rivals get 6-speed manuals, the Nissan Magnite turbo is the most fuel efficient of the bunch.

The CVT doesn’t particularly shine in the fuel-efficiency department, however, returning 10kpl and 13.3kpl in the city and on the highway, respectively. Still, we feel these numbers are more than satisfactory for those seeking a turbo-petrol automatic compact SUV, especially given how well the gearbox works.

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Nissan’s 8.0-inch touchscreen is easy to get accustomed to and, though it’s a bit slow in its operation, the touch sensitivity is rather good. While there aren’t physical buttons, touchsensitive shortcuts on the left of the screen let you control volume, power and the camera; not ideal when on the move. Sound quality from the JBL speakers is good, if a bit lacking in bass. The tweeters are placed at the edge of the dashboard where it meets the base of the windscreen, hence the sound quality isn’t as crisp or as immersive as it could have been.

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Brilliantly designed, comfy and well-equipped at an incredible price; it’s the best compact SUV for the money.

The compact SUV class has been growing steadily - adding new competitors and going more upmarket, and with this, things have been getting more expensive. And then, in comes the Nissan Magnite to disrupt the party and prove that you can have your cake and eat it too. With a killer starting price of Rs 5.49 lakh, it could easily woo you away from a hatchback, and even the fully loaded automatic (including the optional tech pack) clocks in at just Rs 9.88 lakh. Then there’s the equipment list, which genuinely includes some top-shelf features that are sure to wow customers. And all this would have been for nought if the Magnite simply didn’t function satisfactorily, but even after this exhaustive test, it has left us impressed on almost every front. Yes, we uncovered a few areas where costs seem to have been trimmed, but the long list of pros on offer more than outweighs the few cons. With the Magnite, Nissan truly seems to have nailed its big last shot at redemption, and is once again a brand name that will find its way into car-buying discussions. 

ENGINE Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Fuel Type / Propulsion Petrol Petrol
Engine Installation Front, transverse Front, transverse
Type 3 cyls, turbo-petrol 3 cyls, turbo-petrol
Cubic Capacity (cc) 999cc 999cc
Bore/Stroke (mm) 72.2/81.3mm 72.2/81.3mm
Compression Ratio 9.5:1 9.5:1
Valve Train 4 valves per cyl, DOHC 4 valves per cyl, DOHC
Max Power (hp @ rpm) 100hp at 5000rpm 100hp at 5000rpm
Max Torque (Nm @ rpm) 160Nm at 2800-3600rpm 152Nm at 2200-4400
Power to Weight Ratio (hp/tonne) 98.6hp per tonne 96.2 hp per tonne
Torque to Weight Ratio (Nm/tonne) 157.8Nm per tonne 149.9 Nm per tonne
Specific Output (hp/litre) 100.1 hp per litre 100.1 hp per litre
TRANSMISSION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Gearbox Type Manual CVT
No of Gears 5-speed -
1st Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 3.727/7.45 -
2nd Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 1.957/14.20 -
3rd Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 1.233/22.53 -
4th Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 0.903/30.77 -
5th Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 0.689/40.33 -
Final Drive Ratio 4.214:1 -
BRAKING Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
80 - 0 kph (mts, sec) 24.97m, 2.26s 24.97m, 2.26s
EFFICIENCY Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
City (kpl) 12.8kpl 10kpl
Highway (kpl) 16.1kpl 13.3kpl
ACCELERATION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
0 - 10 kph (sec) 0.56s 0.66s
0 - 20 kph (sec) 1.10s 1.4s
0 - 30 kph (sec) 1.75s 2.26s
0 - 40 kph (sec) 2.58s 3.20s
0 - 50 kph (sec) 3.55s 4.22s
0 - 60 kph (sec) 4.70s 5.34s
0 - 70 kph (sec) 5.88s 6.67s
0 - 80 kph (sec) 7.24s 8.23s
0 - 90 kph (sec) 9.12ss 10.10s
0 - 100 kph (sec) 11.19s 12.28s
0 - 110 kph (sec) 13.39s 14.89s
0 - 120 kph (sec) 15.87s 18.60s
0 - 130 kph (sec) 19.43s 22.65s
0 - 140 kph (sec) 24.05s 27.60s
1/4 mile (sec) 18.01s 18.86s
20-80kph (sec) 12.82s 6.86s
40-100kph (sec) 16.72s 9.34s
MAX SPEED IN GEAR Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
1st (kph @rpm) 49kph at 6500rpm -
2nd (kph @rpm) 93kph at 6500rpm -
3rd (kph @rpm) 149kph at 6500rpm -
4th (kph @rpm) 174kph at 5600rpm -
5th (kph @rpm) 170kph at 4100rpm -
NOISE LEVEL Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Idle (dB) 41.2 40
Idle with AC blower at half (dB) 54 55
Full Revs, AC off (dB) 70.3 NA
50 kph AC off (dB) 65.4 63.5
80 kph AC off (dB) 68.3 67.1
BODY Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Construction 5 door, monocoque, SUV 5 door, monocoque, SUV
Weight (kg) 1014kg 1039kg
Front Tyre 195/60 R16 195/60 R16
Rear Tyre 195/60 R16 195/60 R16
Spare Tyre 185/65 R15 185/65 R15
SUSPENSION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Front Front McPherson strut with lower transverse link, coil springs Front McPherson strut with lower transverse link,
Rear Rear Twin-tube telescopic shock absorber, coil springs Rear Twin-tube telescopic shock absorber, coil spr
STEERING Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Type Rack and pinion Rack and pinion
Type of power assist Electric Electric
Turning Circle Diameter (mts) 10m 10m
BRAKES Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Front Disc Disc
Rear Drum Drum
Dimensions Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Length 3994mm 3994mm
Width (mm) 1758mm 1758mm
Height 1572mm 1572mm
Wheel base 2500mm 2500mm
Front Track (mm) 1536mm 1536mm
Rear Track (mm) 1535mm 1535mm
Rear Interior Width (mm) 1320mm 1320mm
Ground Clearance (mm) 205mm 205mm
Boot Capacity (Lts) 336 litres 336 litres
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