Without putting too fine a point on it, Nissan hasn’t had the best of runs in India in the last while, with the competition racing away with the honours in most departments. The Japanese firm needs a winning product, and that product (it hopes) is the new Magnite, which has been all over the internet in the form of design sketches.
It is now here as an actual car, and since the proof of the pudding is in the eating, here’s a first-drive impression.
Let’s start with the looks
The first thing you’ll notice about it is that rather large grille, a design feature that is all the rage these days (just have a look at the new BMWs). In fact, the Magnite was destined to be a Datsun, but was steered away from that direction by Nissan – hence the familiar Nissan logo.
The car has a substantial presence, even though it’s narrower than its competition, because of its wide rear half and the flared wheel arches. At the back, Nissan has taken a fairly simply route, with split tail lights and badging/lettering. The overall effect is pleasing and quite striking – the Magnite definitely turns heads.
Let’s go inside
The cabin, if you’re used to older Nissans, will come as a refreshing change. It’s dominated by an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system in the middle of the dashboard, with easy to read icons as well as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility; it must be mentioned here that both can be activated wirelessly, which is a huge plus. You can also get a wireless smartphone charger in the higher trim model, which essentially means you don’t have to carry a cable at all.
You also get a newly designed steering wheel with well placed controls and a new, all-digital instrument cluster which doesn’t bombard you with all manner of information, which is a relief (why Nissan decided to place the cruise control switch behind the steering wheel, however, is a mystery). The other switches and knobs are reasonably well placed, thankfully.
The Magnite shares its platform with the Renault Triber and, like that car, manages to ace its utilisation of space. Three adults will fit in the rear seat, although long drives with all of them might be a bit cramped; overall head, leg and elbow room for four adults is excellent. Overall, the cabin is functional, quite well finished and comfortable.
Let’s talk performance
The Magnite’s 1-litre, 3-cylinder turbo-petrol engine is a lively unit, especially considering that it has to power a car that weighs only 1039 kg. It takes a little time to work up a head of steam, but once the turbo kicks in, and post 3000 rpm, the fun begins – it pulls cleanly till the red line and has a sporty exhaust note. You can option a 5-speed manual or a CVT transmission with this engine, and even though the manual gearbox is far more fun to use, with a smooth shift action and well-spaced ratios, the CVT is probably a better bet for daily use. It’s hassle-free, and doesn’t have much evidence of the annoying rubber-band effect that CVTs come with; it also has a sports mode.
The Magnite rides well, with 205mm of ground clearance to boot. It handles most bumps, speed breakers and potholes adequately, and unless you’re really pushing it, passengers will stay comfortable. Handling isn’t what can be described as sporty (unlike its effervescent engine) – it’ll keep things right side up, but more sharpness around corners would have been nice.
As mentioned earlier, this is pretty much a make-or-break product for Nissan – the company has no option but to get it right (which they more or less have). What remains to be seen is its price, which the grapevine says will be extremely competitive.
If that happens, the Magnite would be an attractive option in this segment.Rana Chaudhury is a writer passionate about automobiles.