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Nissan Magnite First Drive Review: A Good Compact SUV, but Should you be Buying it Just yet?

Manav Sinha
·7-min read

Well, first thing first, I got to drive on the highway after 8 long months. I missed it, I really did. And what better way to get back on the highway than with a car like the all-new Nissan Magnite. This car is important and special and we are about to find out why.

Let’s start with the important bit. The Nissan Magnite has the same shoes to fill as the Nissan Micra did back in the day as that was the car that was supposed to set the ball rolling for Nissan sales in the Indian market. So without a doubt, the Magnite is really important. So much so that, originally, it was supposed to be a Datsun offering and hence you have the Datsun grille upfront. But at the end, it became a Nissan, and hence, you have the Nissan badge on a Datsun grille.

Having said that, let’s talk about what makes it special which means, we have to talk about the entire package. So in order to understand that, let’s start peeling away the layers by first talking about the design.

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The design is quite clever. The combination of a large grille with slim lights makes the car appear bigger at first glance. The same effect comes with the excess use of the body cladding on the sides and the overly sized wheel arches which give the car some muscle, but after a few glances, it felt like it could have used bigger wheels.

Nissan Magnite. (Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

The car looks proportionate from the back and the silver skid plate will make it stand out of the crowd. Overall, it’s a smart-looking SUV. The fact that it has a massive ground clearance only adds to the stance and ‘big-SUV’ looks of the Magnite.

CHECK OUT OUR MASSIVE 22-PICTURES IMAGE GALLERY OF THE NISSAN MAGNITE HERE

Coming to the interiors, it keeps up with the bold and flashy design language of the exterior. The first thing that you will notice once you are seated inside are the hexagonal AC vents which look eerily similar to what you would see in a Lamborghini, I mean really, look it up, you’ll be surprised. What I was also really impressed with was the overall design of the cabin. Although the materials used in the cabin are really not that great as the plastics are scratchy, I’m not really impressed with that.

Nissan Magnite. (Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

But overall, it feels like a modern place to be in thanks to the screens that are in front of you.

You have a large touchscreen infotainment system which comes with wireless Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay and this feature adds so much more convenient, I cannot stress enough. Adding to the wireless list of features that the car has, you also have a wireless charging pad. However, it is operated manually so it’s not an automatic one like you would see in a Hyundai, keep that in mind. Then you also have the big digital instrument cluster in front of you which has really nice animations, is colourful, and is helpful as it shows all the information that you would need.

Nissan Magnite. (Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

This includes information like the gear shift indicator and the Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) as well. The animations on the dash are smooth but once the novelty wears off, cycling through the menu ends up being cumbersome because the animations take too long. The Magnite also gets Cruise Control which is controlled by the steering-mounted controls but is switched on from the dash, on the driver side.

Coming to practicality, you have a lot of compartment spaces, the door pockets can hold 1-litre bottles and you have a large glovebox which is great.

It’s not all perfect, though. We drove two cars as we had to test the different gearboxes and in the first one while plugging in the USB cable, the USB port, quite embarrassingly, simply broke off. And such quality is simply unacceptable. The car even has the Renault logo on the rearview mirror and I wish Nissan had put in a bit more effort and avoided things like these.

Anyway, on to the back seat.

Nissan Magnite. (Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

Now coming to the rear seat of the Nissan Magnite, well, after setting the driver seat as per my height, which for reference is 5’10”, I had all the amount of legroom that I would want. Seriously, it was like being seated in a car that belongs to a segment above. The amount of space at the back Magnite is really impressive. In terms of comfort, also, it’s nice as you have decent under-thigh support, you get a drop-down armrest with two cup holders in it and you also get adjustable headrests. And yes, you can sit three people abreast.

Additionally, you get a rear AC vent and a power socket just below it. It’s also important to note that the Magnite does not come with a sunroof and I think that’s a miss and should be offered at least as an option.

Nissan Magnite. (Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

With that, let’s come to the driving experience of the Nissan Magnite.

It comes only with a 999cc petrol engine that can be had in two states of tunes – one without a turbocharger and one with a turbocharger. As a result, both the engine tunes have different power and torque output. We drove the turbocharged variant and this one comes with an additional gearbox choice – a CVT unit along with the standard choice of a 5-speed manual gearbox.

The engine has the typical characteristics of a small turbocharged engine, which is, the engine is best left at higher RPMs. Under 2,000 RPM, you’ll be left wanting for more power. Once you are past that mark, though, the engine feels aptly responsive and has enough grunt to meet your needs. It is not the most refined unit, however, as there are some vibrations that can be felt on the gear lever.

Nissan Magnite. (Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

And that brings us to the gearbox. The 5-speed manual transmission allows you to have fun with the turbo engine and brings out the best experience from this engine. The gear ratios are on point and the car feels comfortable even on the highways. The CVT gearbox is decent too but it has a prominent rubber band-effect and will shift down a couple of gears when you ask power from it for those quick overtakes, which means there's a delay in response. It's just the nature of CVT gearboxes, though, you really can't blame Nissan for it.

The chassis setup, on the other hand, is a lot better. The ride is plush in both city and highway and the Magnite has really nice road manners. It’s fun around corners too and gives a confident ride even at high speeds. It’s so good that you would wish the Magnite had more power and torque on offer because the car can take it. The steering feedback is a letdown, though, because the steering has no feel at all and lacks feedback while you engage in spirited driving. All in all, the ride quality is fantastic but the driving experience is not the strong point of the Magnite.

Nissan Magnite
Nissan Magnite

Nissan Magnite. (Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)

So as my day with the Nissan Magnite came to an end, after about 200 km, I have an understanding of the car and honestly, the things you will be looking at this car for are practicality that it offers, the amount of space that it has and above all, the looks of the car, because let’s be honest, the Magnite looks gorgeous.

But, as of now, the concern that needs to be addressed is the fact that Nissan has stayed away from the mass market for far too long. It looks like the Magnite will interest a lot of people, and rightly so, as it gets a lot of things right. But as for the ownership experience, we recommend that you wait and see how that goes in the time to come.

So, if you’re thinking of getting the Magnite, we would suggest that you wait it out a bit and let Nissan get back in the groove of things before you put your money on the table.