Nissan Magnite - Tomato Sauce
Yes, all of you reading this right now must be thinking why have I titled this review of the Nissan Magnite as Tomato Sauce? What's the association of a Car with something that we usually eat? It is exactly what is happening in the Auto Industry right now, every manufacturer today is focusing on giving the greatest gadgets, the greatest connectivity and the greatest non-sense on four wheels. Gone is the era where we talked about the structural strength of the car, the power to weight ratio, the suspension setup and how well is it tuned. NVH, gear ratio, engine packaging, dynamics and so many important things seem to skip the current manufacturer board meetings where the final car is signed off. There are a few marques however who are wanting to put more effort into things that matter and one such Car-maker is Nissan! Yes, the same legendary Japanese moniker that has pulled out the great R34 and R35 Skyline GT-Rs, the Silvias and the crazy Patrol SUV that does flying sessions on the Arabian deserts and kills Porsche 918s in Drag races at the same time. Their cars, however, have been pretty popular in India too. The X-Trail, Sunny and the Terrano were the cars that put Nissan's name on the top seller's list a decade ago. But in the past few years, they have been reduced to just selling their KICKS Crossover and the imported GT-R which to be honest did not get popular in India with the tough and pretty great competition swinging a sword on top of their head. A sketch was revealed a few weeks back followed by spy shots and we knew Nissan was on to up its game in India, it wasn't ready to give up already.
Say hello to the Nissan Magnite, the car that has overwhelmed us at TRM's office and we'll discuss why is it a game-changer for this segment and why should the industry learn from Nissan's priority list.
The most outrageous design award of all cars under Rs.10 lakh has to go to the Magnite. The design language is so sharp that it competes Samurai Jack's Sword game. The front looks very aesthetic with a massive semi-oval grill garnished with a good dose of boomerang chrome bars on the sides. The headlamps are very sleek and well detailed and get Full LED bulbs for both low and high beam and the L-shaped LED Day Time Running lamp cluster that is the most ravishing design element I have seen on a car in a long time. The fog lamps are placed on the lower side of the bumper and do provide a great beam and spread, so much so that even Cyclops would get embarrassed.
Onto the side profile, you are greeted by huge squared wheel arches that remind me of Arc de Triomphe which can fit a life-sized Spongebob. But what they fit instead are some tasty looking 10-spoke diamond cut 16-inch alloy wheels which are wrapped with 195/60 R16 Semi-Sticky Continental tyres. The ground clearance is a healthy 205mm which is one of the best in the segment. The muscle lines are quite prominent on the body panels are it does make the Magnite look very sporty on the whole. But the fat wheel arches take away the glory cake for the side profile. The windows are large and the window lines converge after the quarter glass on the C pillar which does give the Magnite a very SUV like appeal.
The rear-end however looks like the love child of Nicki Minaj and Kim Kardashian. The bold muscle lines and the wide tail-lamp cluster which poke out a lot makes it one of the sexiest looking asses in the segment at the moment.
Step inside the Magnite and you'll be greeted by a lot of physical space. When I saw the car in pictures and various online videos I had huge doubts about it being spacious enough to cut the competition. Sure to say the black interior scheme doesn't help in the bringing the true representation of dimensions inside the cabin but on the flip side that also makes it look very sporty indeed. Once you perch onto the driver's seat you do experience two major things, the excellent seats and top drawer ergonomics. The front seat cushioning and bolstering is probably one of the best under all cars that fall under the Rs.10 lakh price bracket. There is so much support for your back, shoulders and thighs in the front seats that you can easily do 1000 km of a drive in day without feeling much fatigue.
The comfort of the seats is helped to a great deal with the excellent ergonomics of the front cabin. The steering wheel has a shorter diameter and feels chunky to hold. It also feels very sporty with a flat bottom setup and some logically laid out audio and cruise control buttons on it. All the buttons and knobs for the driver's control and the air-conditioning system are within reach of the driver and one does not need to bend to access them. There are big bottle holders in between the seats and can accommodate some bold sized Tupperware from your fridge. The central armrest is quite wide and fortunately can take two thick elbows to rest on it without crashing into each other, which is something we haven't seen in cars in the segment the Magnite is competing in, which also translates to the fact that the front seats have the widest shoulder room in the compact SUV segment, hands-down. What we also haven't seen in cars in Magnite's segment is massive gloveboxes. The one in this car can easily accommodate a small laptop and a little handbag besides your paperwork. On the downside, however, the same glovebox does not have a cooling function, neither does the central armrest have a storage compartment. The fabric used on this central armrest and the seats feel very soft and high quality and would last a lifetime.
The Screens! Let's talk about Indian consumer's favourite topic of the decade. Everyone loves big screens in their cars and the Magnite does appeal a lot in this regard as well. The big 8-inch central infotainment TFT screen has high and crisp resolution and packs in a lot of data. It has iPod Integration, Eco Driving Analysis Read-out and a segment-first WIRELESS Android Auto and Apple Car Play which is an absolute boon because it just lets you get rid of that clumsy USB cable setup, what is also WIRELESS is the smart phone charging station which is placed right below the Air-Conditioning controls and can accommodate all sizes of smart-phones. The Magnite also gets the segment-first 360-degree camera which does help a lot while parking in very tight spaces, however, the camera quality left us asking for more. I'm being nit-picky here!
Where I won't be nit-picky though is with the Digital Instrument cluster which, in a very simple language, looks something that is taken out of a Nintendo Game. It does come with a lot of on-board data like Tyre-pressure Monitor and Fuel History display, which is quite handy.
Get into the back seat of the Magnite and what you immediately notice how well the cabin is ventilated with natural light. The large windows and the quarter glass on the C-pillar does ingress a lot of light making the cabin feel very airy and spacious. The seats on the back too are very comfortable, the back rest and the lower half has a good amount of cushioning which is also stiff, which is a pretty good thing to do long journeys in. The upper-back support and the under-thigh support for my 5 ft 8 inch structure was pretty good and the adjustable headrests extend all the way up, although I wish the seat bases were slightly more extended. The knee room is fantastic thanks to a longer wheelbase and a recess behind the front seat to liberate extra space. There is a pretty wide central armrest which has two cup holders and a very thoughtful smartphone holder so you don't end up scratching the edges of your expensive phones. The AC wents are placed behind the central armrest and have quite a powerful air-flow, perfect for hot Indian summers.
The boot space is pretty large too with a capacity of 336 litres which can easily accommodate a life-size human being like me or Kevin Hart and some bags for your long trips. The better part about this storage space is how the boot lid is designed. It is square and wide so that loading wider and longer items is an easy task. The storage is further helped by the 60:40 folding rear seats which do free up a lot of space to pack in your wife's wardrobe when she is going on that long trip to her parent's house.
There are very few cars which are great for commuting that also drive well. Well, the Magnite certainly is one of them. With an incredibly smooth 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine churning out 100 bhp of max power and 160 Nm of max torque through a 5-speed manual or Nissan's revolutionary X-TRONIC CVT transmission this car is quite a rocket for its size. What also helps the snappy sprints is the 1040kg kerb weight which gives the Magnite the best power to weight ratio in the segment by a pretty good margin! The lower weight also means that this car drives much tighter in the corners and on our drive through Aravalli Hills where there were quite a lot of twists and turns with some great tarmac quality this car handled significantly better than most hatchbacks.
The transition from corner to corner even at higher speeds is pretty smooth and well sorted, all of this thanks to a great suspension setup up front comprising the MacPherson struts with Lower Transverse Link and a Grip Bushed Solid Stabilizer Bar which keeps the roll a lot in control when you're going full Rally-Cross mode around the bends. At the back, we have twin-tube telescopic shock absorbers which are set to be a bit on the stiffer side to reduce pitch and roll in all situations and help to keep the ride to be absolutely flat over some really bad patch of roads we went over through the day.
The ride quality at speeds up to 70 kmph is so good you really forget that this car is competing against cars like the Brezza, Venue, Sonet and the Nexon. It feels solid and very well composed indeed. As the pace increases, you do realise that the same stiff suspension. setup does make the ride and handling quite a joyful experience. It is hard to nail both the low and high-speed ride and handling balance perfect, Nissan seems to have gotten the recipe right and have invested heavily in improving the mechanical experience of the car rather than installing silly things in the cabin. The steering feedback is good and does communicate well with the surface you're driving on and because of the shorter diameter of the steering wheel, it does become very easy to drive the Magnite in a very sporty manner.
And because every button/knob is in good reach of the driver, thanks to Magnite's excellent ergonomics the drive experience on longer durations goes a level up. What also accelerates my great experience behind the wheel is the NVH levels inside the cabin, this is the quietest cabin of all the cars Magnite is competing against and it really truly helps calm your pulse rate when you're driving in bumper to bumper traffic or doing a 1000 km road trip. The Magnite absolutely is a very relaxing car to drive.
Yes! There are quite a few of elements in this car that do look rather out of place, starting with the inside rearview mirror which feels very cheap and looks like it has been lifted straight out of a TATA Nano, The cabin lights are dim and the housing for them feels catchpenny as well. The top of the dashboard has shiny ABS plastic which could have been the same dimpled surface on top of the instruments display. The plastic on the doors too feel mediocre and the cars in the competition do a much better job at the plastic quality game. Nissan's after-sales network is still questionable but they are working on expanding it to give its customers a much better experience.
The Nissan Magnite creates a great niche for itself in the market right now. You'll go to the market and try all types, colours and flavours of sauces, but you all come back to the good old Red Tomato Sauce poured on almost everything you eat. That's the essence you have with the new Nissan Magnite as well, when the entire industry is inclined towards gadgets and stupid amounts of features on-board, Nissan chose to stick to making a better driving car. They invested heavily on the mechanical strength of their product and made it one of the most exciting cars to drive in the market today. It ignited the love for driving back again in a car enthusiast like me and it will delight so many people around the country with its strong credentials and great driving experience. I am thankful Nissan chose the right path and brought the love of driving back to life because of which a lot of negative points about the Magnite can be discounted. And it looks pretty astonishing as well from every angle! Well, it all comes down to the pricing. Rumour has it that Nissan plans to undercut its competition substantially in terms of the price band which will give the new Magnite a boost to attract prospective buyers.