Test all limits in the Nissan Navara
Test all limits in the Nissan Navara

Nissan Magnite Review:

Some older readers might recall a humble little car brand named Datsun. It became known for its little 1400 bakkie, which replaced the big American gas guzzlers during the fuel crisis of the 1970s. Now fast forward to 2022, and we find ourselves amidst another fuel crisis. And here to save us from the large gas guzzlers yet again is another humble little Japanese vehicle, the Nissan Magnite.

The Magnite isn’t our sole saviour though. The entire crossover segment is providing respite during these challenging times. It’s a highly competitive environment though, so in order to make its mark a product has to stand out from the rest of the pack. Looks-wise, the Magnite does just that.

The space-age styling is completely bold and different, and it perfectly suits the personality of the Magnite. It has some truly eye-catching design elements, such as the sizeable gaping grille and small headlights, which are reminiscent of a large SUV but also give it a sleek, almost futuristic look. All of it is brought nicely together by some chrome accents here and there. The side profile gives you a real SUV feel, thanks to a small overhang both the front and rear and a high roof line. The rear itself continues with the sleek minimalistic design. Overall, the Nissan Magnite is a natural beauty.

We sampled the Magnite X-TRONIC CVT during our test weekend. It has a HRAO 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine that has a power output of 74kW at 5 000rpm and 162Nm of torque over a decent spread of 2 800rpm to 3 600rpm. The Magnite is a bit lighter than the rest of the pack, and as a result, it feels nippier than you’d expect from such a small powerplant.

The Magnite is available with two transmission options: a CVT or a five-speed manual. Usually this is the part where a motoring journalist will sign and tell you to ignore the CVT and opt for the manual. Normally I would agree, but in this particular instance, that isn’t the case. I found this CVT to be one of the best on the market at mimicking a conventional auto box, meaning that there’s little or none of that usual droning or slipping-clutch effect you’d expect from a CVT.

The Magnite has a tiny stature, which translates into smooth and agile handling. Like most others in this segment, it suffers from some body roll but while cruising through the twisty bits down the escarpment, the Magnite handled itself well and gave you a real sense of control and confidence.

The interior has its share of hard plastic surfaces, notably on the dash, but it offers 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 eight-inch touchscreen equipped with the NissanConnect system, which offers wireless smartphone synching and 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 plentiful and include keyless entry with a push- start button, a multifunctional steering wheel, cruise control, 12V USB port, automatic air conditioning, reverse camera, tyre pressure monitor and a seven-inch digital instrument screen for the driver.

While time limits meant an off-tar excursion was impossible, the Magnite’s 205mm ground clearance should 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 that includes ABS brakes with EBD and hydraulic brake assist, and a traction control suite that includes 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 minor 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. And it’s also important to note that taller people might find the driver’s seating position a little uncomfortable as it does not offer enough rearward reach.

To conclude, the Nissan Magnite hits many of the right notes for customers wanting something small and practical. Its modern styling sets it apart from the pack and it has probably one of the best CVT gearboxes on the market. So overall, it will be a viable option for any person looking to switch over to the compact SUV segment.

*Price: Nissan Magnite 1.0T Acenta CVT: R314 300. The model range includes four variants, priced from R287 700.

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