Go bold with Nissan’s Magnite compact SUV

Nissan South Africa recently launched its funky compact SUV, the Magnite, into a highly competitive market segment. The Adventure Afrika team of Lizaan Snyman and Anton Willemse Jnr got the opportunity to test this cutie in the striking Vivid Blue body colour, with its contrasting white roof, and reckon it has what it takes to compete in the segment.

Our test drive to the small resort town of Hartbeespoort gave us a good chance to explore the power delivery from the Magnite’s HRA0 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder engine. With 74 kW at 5000 rpm and 162 Nm of torque over a decent widespread of 2800 to 3600 rpm, it proved to be a perky performer. The two transmission options are a five-speed manual and an X-TRONIC CVT automatic. Our test unit was equipped with the latter, and it impressed with smooth changes and when accelerating did not show the usual irritating droning or slipping-clutch effect.

The small vehicle (length 3994 mm and wheelbase 2500 mm) not only has a dynamic road presence with its chunky contoured wheel arches and upbeat styling, but it also offers smooth and agile handling, which makes overtaking and cornering a fuss-free affair.

We stopped for lunch at the picturesque Windmill Waffle House in Harties, before making our way to the well-known dam wall and tunnel, taking in the beautiful surroundings. The Magnite didn’t look shabby either, with its eye-catching design elements that turn heads no matter where it goes. The vehicle looks the classy urban SUV part with its prominent grille, sleek halogen headlamps, L-shaped LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL), wide split taillamps, stunning 16-inch diamond-cut dual-tone alloy wheels and those signature squared-off wheel arches. This look can be further upgraded with optional body graphics and side steps.

The interior has its share of hard plastic surfaces, notably on the dash, but is saved by decent driver-focused ergonomics, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and attractively patterned cloth seats. The infotainment focus in the centre of the dash is an 8-inch touchscreen equipped with the NissanConnect system offering wireless smartphone synching and both Android Auto and Apple Carplay functionality. We particularly enjoyed the premium Harman sound system and JBL speakers, perfect for blasting out tunes in the traffic on our way home.

Technology features are at a high level, and include keyless entry with a push-to-start button, a multifunctional steering wheel, cruise control, 12V USB port, automatic air conditioning, reverse camera, tyre pressure monitor and a 7-inch thin-film-transistor driver’s digital instrument screen.

 Go for the higher-specced Acenta Plus, and one gets LED headlamps, an additional 12V power socket in the rear, and an around-view monitor to assist with parking.

While time limits meant an off-tar excursion was not possible, the Magnite’s 205 mm ground clearance promises to allow for some adventurous gravel travel. There is a reasonably-sized 336-litre boot for all your baggage for longer trips, and it also contains a full-sized spare wheel.

Apart from nice-to-haves like central locking and Hill Start Assist, the Magnite comes standard with a good spread of safety features, from ABS brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Hydraulic Brake Assist, to a traction control suite that include a Vehicle Dynamic Control module. There’s also an SRS dual-airbag system with pretension and load limiter seatbelts for driver and passenger.

Even though the Magnite makes a bold statement, we have some critiques. My main quibble is that the digital instrument cluster design does not complement the rest of the interior style, and the placement of some of the function buttons is strange. However, the more accustomed you get to the vehicle, the less this will be a bother. On the other hand, my tall colleague found the driver’s seating position a little uncomfortable as he could not get enough rearward reach.

Our test unit, the Acenta CVT (R280 100), is competitively priced against segment rivals such as Toyota’s Urban Cruiser (starting at R247 900) and the KIA Sonet (from R284 995). It’s a busy segment with recent entrants including the Suzuki Vitara Brezza barking at the heels of more established players including the Ford EcoSport, Honda WR-V and Hyundai Venue. However, if you want to make a bold statement (to quote Nissan’s marketing campaign), the Magnite has a lot going for it in terms of  technology, safety and head-turning looks.

Model line-up and pricing:

  • Nissan Magnite Acenta MT: R256 999
  • Nissan Magnite Acenta CVT: R280 100
  • Nissan Magnite Acenta Plus MT: R282 600
  • Nissan Magnite Acenta Plus CVT: R305 700

*The range comes with two plain colour choices (Storm White and Blade Silver) and four body colour combinations: Flare Garnet Red with an Onyx Black roof, Vivid Blue with a Storm White roof, Pearl White with an Onyx Black, and Blade Silver with an Onyx Black roof.

*All derivatives include a 3-year/30 000 km service plan and a 6-year/150 000 km warranty.

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