Nissan Magnite Test Drive Review: Is this lifeline good enough?

Nissan Magnite - the company's subcompact SUV will battle it out with some of the most popular vehicles in this segment like Tata Nexon, Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza, Kia Sonet, Mahindra XUV300 and many more. That said, things clearly won't be easy for the new kid on the block. More importantly, can the Magnite change the fortunes of Nissan and how good or bad it is to drive?

By:Updated: Nov 20, 2020 7:08 PM


Nissan’s run in India has been quite disappointing till now, primarily due to the lack of modern vehicles well-suited to Indian conditions. With the company’s future in the country now at stake Nissan has thrown in everything to create the Magnite, a sub-compact SUV. With the Magnite the Japanese carmaker intends to get a share out of the huge sub-compact SUV segment and secure its operations in India. We recently drove around the Magnite around Delhi/ NCR to find out if the Nissan Magnite is capable of taking the fight to the Hyundai Venue, Kia Sonet, Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza, Mahindra XUV300 and Tata Nexon.


Nissan Magnite Exterior Design

It’s no surprise that design is one of the primary purchase decision drivers for car buyers and the Nissan Magnite comes out with flying colours in this round. It’s not just the stunning blue shade but the Magnite has a sharp, dynamic and attractive design that has a considerable Japanese flavour in it. Some people say that the wide grille up front looks like it’s from a Datsun and that’s not entirely wrong but it looks quite good. The sharp headlamps, sleek LED DRLs, skid plates and tastefully done chrome give the front a sporty and premium look. In addition, the front design accentuates the width of the car ad hence the Magnite looks bigger than it actually is.

The 16-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels with a striking design in addition with roof rails (functional), a dynamic shoulder line and the white roof lend the side a sporty and impressive stance. Tail lamps also bear a sleek design and the skid plates and bumper gel well with the rest of a design making the Nissan Magnite one of the best looking sub-compact SUVs in India.

Nissan Magnite Interior, Space and Features

Nissan Magnite doesn’t just look big on the outside but offers good space inside as well. Space at front and rear is more than most of its rivals and both rows of seats offer good comfort. The rear seat is wide and flat thereby allowing three adults to sit in decent comfort. Headroom and legroom in both rows are also better than most of the competition.

The dashboard design is different and pleasing with the metal finished hexagonal air vents and the honeycomb effect on the middle part. Plastics in the lower part of the dash feature average quality so nothing to appreciate or complain about here. The infotainment touchscreen is good with a decent display and touch response while the user interface is quite easy to navigate through. The screen also offers access to the connected car features as the Magnite is a connected vehicle. This means functions such as vehicle status, service details, location, geo-fencing and many more are available along with smartphone accessibility.

Android Auto and Apple Carplay are wireless and there’s a wireless smartphone charging pad as well. This screen also features a 360-degree camera view system, which makes parking a breeze. Another impressive element is the climate control panel with a distinct design for the switches along with circular displays. In the lower part of the dash, there’s a storage area with a USB and 12v outlet.

Head on from the driver’s view the multi-functional steering wheel looks good and the digital instrument cluster looks funky and might appeal to many young buyers. However, I would’ve preferred the old school rotary dials but that’s just me, a middle-aged man afraid of growing old. The denim finish on the seats and door pads is refreshingly pleasing and much better than the boring fabric designs we see on some other vehicles. The driver armrest is wide but it doesn’t open up for any storage space. That said, the lower part of the centre console is quite spacious and won’t give you a reason to complain.

With all the good things discussed, now it’s time to point out the misses. For starters. the panel gaps aren’t consistent, especially around the glove box and steering column cover area. While the touchscreen is good in terms of overall performance it’s not at par with its Korean rivals. Also, for reasons beyond my understanding, many Indian buyers prefer having a sunroof in their car these days and this is another feature the Nissan Magnite misses out on.

Nissan Magnite Engine, Gearbox, Acceleration

There is no diesel engine on offer in the Nissan Magnite lineup so with that out of the way let’s focus on the petrol engines and gearboxes. There’s an entry-level 1 Litre petrol engine with 72 ps of power but we didn’t drive it so we can’t comment on that right now. We drove the version with a turbocharged 1 Litre petrol engine developing 100 ps and 160 Nm of torque. You can opt for a 5-speed manual gearbox or a CVT with the latter combination offering a slightly lower 152 Nm of torque.

WATCH VIDEO: Our Nissan Magnite First Drive Review

The engine offers good performance off the line and once you’re past about 1,800 rpm the turbo lag disappears and the acceleration hereon is pretty good. The engine revs cleanly to a shade under 6,000 rpm and refinement is good bt not the best in the segment. For those looking to have fun, the manual gearbox is the one to go for. The throws are short and the shifts are smooth when driving normally but try pushing the car hard and we found the shifts to become a bit notchy. High-speed performance from the engine is good and even at early triple-digit speeds, there is enough power on tap to pull off a quick overtake on highways.

The CVT gearbox offers a good balance between performance and convenience. Being a 3rd gen unit the gearbox now exhibits far lesser rubber band effect usually associated with a CVT. That said, it would’ve been good to have paddle-shifters for better control over the gearbox.

Nissan Magnite Ride & Handling, Suspension

The Nissan Magnite again left us impressed with the way it can dance around corners. The suspension setup offers a good balance between handling and comfort as a result of which one can attack corners with enthusiasm and come out smiling. The Magnite holds the intended line well and while there’s some body-roll it doesn’t get to the point of being bothersome unless pushing to the limit. Ride quality is a bit firm and jumpy at slow speeds but gets better as velocity increases. On the highway, the Magnite tackles the road undulations and rumble strips quite well leading to a comfortable ride for the occupants.

Nissan Magnite Round-Up: Buy it or not?

For Nissan in India, the Magnite is the most critical vehicle launch to date as the company’s future in the market is riding on it. Hence, it isn’t surprising to see Nissan having put in all that it had in its arsenal to make a foothold in the fiercely competitive subcompact SUV space. The Magnite looks great, drives well, offers good space & comfort and also comes with an impressive list of features. That said, please keep in mind that the Magnite will rival the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza, Mahindra XUV300, Ford EcoSport and Tata Nexon as the Hyundai Venue and Kia Sonet are considerably ahead in terms of features, technology and powertrain choices.

For that Nissan Magnite needs to be priced aggressively and not competitively. If Nissan can price it between Rs 5.5 to 9.5 lakh then Nissan would’ve won half the game. Thereon it’ll just be a job of getting the sales network and the marketing in place to create a recall for Magnite in the minds of potential consumers. If Nissan can manage all this then there’s a good chance Nissan could finally have a sustainably successful vehicle.

Nissan Magnite Specifications:

Engine Specs: Petrol
Engine: 1.0-Litre, 3-Cylinder
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Power: 72hp @ 6,250rpm
Torque: 96Nm @ 3,500rpm

Engine Specs: Turbo Petrol
Engine: 1.0-Litre, 3-Cylinder, Turbocharged
Transmission: 5-speed manual / CVT
Power: 99 bhp @ 5,000rpm
Torque: 160Nm @ 2,800-3,600rpm
Torque (CVT): 152Nm @ 2,200-4,400rpm

Wheelbase: 2,500mm
Tyre Size: 195/60 R16 Diamond-Cut Alloy Wheels
336-Litre Boot Space
50KG Load Bearing Roof Rails
205mm Ground Clearance

Nissan Magnite Features
All-LED Lighting
Bi-Projector Headlamps
Dual-Tone colour options
8-Inch Touchscreen Infotainment System
Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
7-inch TFT All-Digital Driver Instrument Cluster
360-Degree Camera
Nissan Connect with 50+ features

Tech Pack
Wireless Charger
JBL Premium Speakers
Ambient Lighting
Air Purifier
Puddle Lamps

Nissan Magnite Safety Features
Dual Airbags
ABS with EBD
Traction Control
Hill Start Assist
Vehicle Dynamics Control
Anti Roll Bar

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