After a long absence, Nissan is back in the limelight, and the focus is on the snazzy Magnite, which, even after less than a month of being on sale, already seems to be turning the tide for the Japanese company in India. It’s garnered over 32,000 bookings at the time of this writing, and waiting periods are climbing steadily. Wearing a fresh design and packing in tonnes of equipment, the Magnite is already an inviting proposition. But then you factor in the knockout pricing Nissan has managed, and things only get better. Ranging between Rs 5.49 lakh and Rs 9.88 lakh, it undercuts every other compact SUV on sale by a huge margin, and this sounds like great value when you look at the features it offers. So just how have they managed to do it, and could this really be all the compact SUV you need? This road test will give you the answers.
Suspension duties are handled by MacPherson struts linked with a stabiliser bar up front, twin-tube telescopic shock absorbers at the rear and coil springs all around. Get moving, and on a less-than-ideal patch of road, you will notice an underlying firmness to the Magnite’s ride, particularly at low to medium speeds, but seldom to the point of being uncomfortable. It’ll crash quite hard into big potholes or sharp bumps and the suspension perhaps doesn’t feel quite as robust as what you’ll find in most other compact SUVs, it has to be said; but then it’s nowhere as brittle as what you’d find in a hatchback either. As is often the case with slightly firmer setups, things only get better as you pick up the pace, and once you’ve worked up to a decent cruise, the Nissan pummels out road imperfections a whole lot better, with far less movement inside the cabin.
The other advantage of a slightly firmer setup is that, when you get to highway speeds, there’s little wallow and float, which only adds to confidence. What also helps in this environment is the steering, which does put on a fair amount of weight as you go faster, and because it’s not overly responsive, it doesn’t require constant minute course corrections to stay in your lane on an expressway at speed.
Stiff suspension has a hard edge and sharp bumps filter through into the cabin.
At low speeds, this slow steering may mean you need a few more turns, lock to lock, to make a U-turn, but it feels light enough (as is the car itself) so it’s seldom a bother, and manoeuvrability in most situations is very easy. Now yes, a light, slow steering is not the best recipe for handling, and what doesn’t help is that it’s not the last word in feel and feedback either. But the Magnite’s good body control, again down to that slightly taut suspension, does at least make it quite capable through a set of corners, if perhaps not the most enjoyable. Those 195-section tyres even provide a surprising amount of grip.
On the braking front, it takes a little getting used to as there’s some slack in the pedal before the brakes bite. That said, once you’re acclimatised, you’ll find their performance quite impressive. Perhaps some of this can be attributed to the Magnite’s light weight, but we managed to get it from 80kph to a standstill in less than 25 metres – one of the best showings in the class.
Nissan’s 8.0-inch touchscreen is easy to get accustomed to and, though it’s a bit slow in its operation, the touch sensitivity is rather good. While there aren’t physical buttons, touchsensitive shortcuts on the left of the screen let you control volume, power and the camera; not ideal when on the move. Sound quality from the JBL speakers is good, if a bit lacking in bass. The tweeters are placed at the edge of the dashboard where it meets the base of the windscreen, hence the sound quality isn’t as crisp or as immersive as it could have been.
Brilliantly designed, comfy and well-equipped at an incredible price; it’s the best compact SUV for the money.
The compact SUV class has been growing steadily - adding new competitors and going more upmarket, and with this, things have been getting more expensive. And then, in comes the Nissan Magnite to disrupt the party and prove that you can have your cake and eat it too. With a killer starting price of Rs 5.49 lakh, it could easily woo you away from a hatchback, and even the fully loaded automatic (including the optional tech pack) clocks in at just Rs 9.88 lakh. Then there’s the equipment list, which genuinely includes some top-shelf features that are sure to wow customers. And all this would have been for nought if the Magnite simply didn’t function satisfactorily, but even after this exhaustive test, it has left us impressed on almost every front. Yes, we uncovered a few areas where costs seem to have been trimmed, but the long list of pros on offer more than outweighs the few cons. With the Magnite, Nissan truly seems to have nailed its big last shot at redemption, and is once again a brand name that will find its way into car-buying discussions.