The Magnite is the booster shot the Japanese company needs for its India operations.
Whatever features aren’t available in some sub-4 metres SUVs in India, it’s a fair chance you would find these in the Magnite. This new SUV—the first product under the Nissan NEXT strategy for India—will be launched on December 2, and will enter the highly-competitive segment dominated by Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza, Hyundai Venue and Kia Sonet, among others. We drive it in and around Delhi.
For the Magnite, Nissan’s engineers, it appears, have benchmarked all existing sub-4 metre SUVs and tried to better those. This gets reflected everywhere, including the exterior design. Barring the huge Datsun-like front grille—which may elicit mixed reactions—the SUV looks well-proportioned and well built. Its ground clearance is 205 mm, and has a turning radius of just 5 metres. Everywhere we drove it, there were curious reactions from people, and some even stopped us to have a detailed look at the SUV. The Magnite is sure to get people to Nissan showrooms.
The cabin is where the Magnite tries to stand out. The seat fabric in the top-end variant we drove is firm, there are plenty of functional storage spaces, the dashboard has quite a distinctive design, and Nissan claims it is the most spacious SUV in its segment—including 336 litres of cargo space. In fact, we found the rear seating area of the Magnite almost as comfortable and spacious as in SUVs a class above. Top-end variants of the Magnite get a ‘tech pack’ that includes a wireless charger, air purifier, puddle lamps and ambient/mood lighting, and speakers from JBL.
At the same time, cost-cutting measures are visible. For example, the plastic quality—on the dashboard and on the doors—doesn’t appear to be as good as you would find in competitor SUVs such as the Sonet or the Venue. This, in a way, means that the Magnite may be priced lower than most sub-4 metre SUVs.
It gets a 999cc petrol engine in three specifications—the naturally aspirated with manual gearbox (72 horsepower; 96Nm torque), the turbocharged petrol manual (100 horsepower; 160Nm) and the turbocharged petrol CVT automatic (100 horsepower; 152Nm). The claimed fuel-efficiency figures of the three are 18.75 km/l, 20 km/l and 17.7 km/l, respectively.
Nissan India let us drive only the turbocharged petrol units.
Five-speed manual: In the right gear, this variant is surprisingly quick from any speed to any speed. What helps acceleration is that the Magnite, at about 1,000 kg of weight, is a relatively light SUV. It’s got that ‘excitement’ you get accelerating from 0-100 km/h in about 10 seconds. The driveability is also commendable. The steering feedback—mechanical signals that the front tyres send to the steering wheel—is accurate and you feel every bump and dip on the road through the steering wheel. Having driven mostly on the highway for about 200 km, the trip computer showed us ‘actual’ fuel efficiency of 20 km/l.
CVT: It provides a very refined power delivery—the ‘rubber-band effect’, where the engine speed and the noise it produces appear to be unrelated to the speed of the vehicle, is minimal in the Magnite CVT. Having driven mostly in Gurgaon city traffic, the trip computer showed us ‘actual’ fuel efficiency of 14 km/l.
Nissan is promoting the Magnite as “the ideal aspirational upgrade for hatchback customers in India,” and not really as a competitor to other sub-4 metre SUVs. While the Magnite comes across as a good SUV, Nissan will have to price it ‘just right’. With the Kicks, Nissan did a major mistake by pricing it higher than its own brand value. With the Magnite, it cannot afford to repeat that.
(Its price will be announced during the launch on December 2.)
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