Driven - May 2021

Magnite First Drive – the new compact crossover from Nissan

Indian manufactured compact crossover SUVs are becoming more prevalent on our local market; Kia recently launched the Sonet, Renault is yet to deliver the Kiger but this week Nissan unveiled the new Magnite to the motoring press (even though it’s been on sale for over a month). We spent the day with the new Japanese designed, Indian made B-SUV along some urban and country roads in Gauteng.

There is a burning desire for versatile, compact and efficient vehicles for automotive consumers in Mzansi. These offerings have now become the best sellers in almost all brands that offer them in their lineup, unsettling information for anyone that anticipated this trend to be a short-lived fad a few years ago. This means that they are here to stay, which is reaffirmed by Nissan’s attempt in the lucrative market with the new Magnite.

Nissan Group of Africa Marketing Director Kabelo Rabotho states “the Magnite reiterates our brand philosophy of keeping customers at the heart of everything we do to deliver exciting products for enriching experiences”. The success of these cars relies not only on the driving experience but also on the bold, self-driven go-for-it attitudes of the intended consumers which the car is poised to align with.

While exterior design freedom in the compact sub-4-meter SUV segment is limited, the Magnite is one of the more rich, modern looking variations – particularly when placed next to the joint-venture Suzuki Vitara Brezza/Toyota Urban Cruiser, which employ a demure aesthetic which appears as if it was conceived a decade ago.

The Magnite’s styling includes angular headlamps with lightsaber-style turn indicators, L shaped-DRL’s, a robust front and rear skid plate and a dominating front grille. A selection of 5 exterior colours with 3 dual tone options can be chosen from – the Vivid Blue and Storm White combination being the showstopper at the launch.

Standard across the Magnite range, the 16” diamond cut rims which fill out the chunky tyres, while robust black trim forms the surface around the squared wheel arches. An above average ground clearance of 205mm also affords the peppy compact with more gravel road ability or pavement conquering capabilities over its other competitors.

Many automakers in this segment look to reduce the costs of manufacture and development by partnering with other brands. It is overtly obvious with the badge engineered Suzuki Vitara Brezza/Toyota Urban Cruiser but more subtle in vehicles such as the Kia Sonet and Hyundai Venue which share underpinnings only. The Magnite follows the same protocol as the latter, utilizing the Renault-Nissan CMF-A+ platform, also used by the slightly narrower and shorter Renault Kiger.

This means that the Magnite range is competitively priced in the segment starting from R256 999 on the Acenta MT and topping out on the Acenta Plus CVT at R305 700. As with most choices in this segment, of which there is a new offering almost every month – deficient interior quality plagues most products.

Multiple surfaces and a comfortable ride height in what is an equally modern looking cabin are let down by lamentable quality. There are limited soft touch points and a host of cheap, crude plastics in the cabin which is expected in this segment, but general fit and finish typical with Indian manufactured cars is the bigger gripe. Components like the door card and headliner seem poorly secured while the pedal placement in the narrow footwell means your right foot constantly brushes on the adjacent surface to the accelerator pedal.

With that aside, this is a tech heavy choice in the cut throat compact crossover segment. We sampled the top of the range Acenta Plus CVT as well as the Acenta Plus MT which includes a host of tech features that are traditionally reserved for premium products.

Over and above the aforementioned exterior features, cruise control, an 8-inch full flash touch screen with Android Auto & Apple CarPlay, a first-in-class bird’s eye view AVM (Around View Monitor) for parking scenarios and a full 7-inch TFT instrument cluster with built-in tyre pressure monitor and are included. The instrument cluster is easy to navigate through the steering wheel mounted buttons while its resolution is clear and its function isn’t laggy or compromised. The included tech is commendable at the price point of this product!

Visibility and interior space is laudable too, despite a petite rear view mirror. Road/wind noise in city driving is non-existent, although the raspy 3-cylinder can become clamorous towards the higher spectrum of the rev range. Powering all derivatives of the Magnite is the HRA0 1.0-litre Turbo engine which has outputs of 74kW and 94Nm and can achieve a claimed 5.2l/100km in the MT or 6l/100km in the CVT. Its seemingly linear torque delivery is perfectly suited to sedate urban driving while its function is reasonable with open road driving and overtaking scenarios.

Of the derivatives on launch, the 5 Speed Acenta Plus MT did the job perfectly well while the Nissan Signature X-Tronic CVT transmission, which is best in class, was unexpectedly comfortable and quiet and our pick of the bunch despite its significantly increased price to the manual option.

The Magnite is also class leading with the many safety features that are included throughout the range which includes dual front airbags, Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) and an anti roll bar for improved cornering, Hill Start Assist, Traction Control and Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD). Despite this, its stature does mean that it has significant body roll in tight corners and considerable rear-to-front weight transfer under hard braking.

The Magnite range includes a 6 year/150 000km warranty and a 3 year/30 000km service plan.

Acenta MT – R256 999
Acenta CVT – R280 100
Acenta Plus MT – R282 600
Acenta Plus CVT – R305 700

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