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Forces of Attraction

Following an excessive teaser campaign, Nissan has finally released the Magnite – its name is a portmanteau of the words “magnetic” and “ignite”. Recently, we were afforded the opportunity to gauge if this subcompact crossover does indeed kindle forces of attraction, or not.

The subcompact crossover market in South Africa is booming with a sleigh of new arrivals, with the Suzuki Vitara Brezza, its Toyota Urban Cruiser twin, the Honda WR-V, Kia Sonet and Honda WR-V following the Renault Captur, Mahindra XUV300 and Hyundai Venue already here, and more earmarked for arrival.

The Magnite, initially conceived as a Datsun model, now branded Nissan, has literally landed in the epicentre of this fracas, and though it appears as a decent offering on paper, we could not help but be somewhat doubtful of its attributes – given its Renault-Nissan CMA-A+ platform origins and our experience of other Datsun products.

Viewed from the front, its Datsun lineage is evident in the chrome-edged hexagonal grille, completely at odds with the rest of the Nissan range, yet still attractive with thin LED headlights, L-shaped daytime running lights in the lower bumper, and a sliver skid plate affording it a sense of modern appeal.

Bulging wheel arches with black cladding and a high waistline highlights its robustness and at the rear horizontal tail lights, a small roof spoiler and additional cladding contribute to its sturdy appearance. Attractive diamond-cut wheels (available even on the entry-level model), a blacked-out roof and roof rails further emphasise its premium appearance.

Well-specced

Adding to the attraction of our Acenta Plus model was a long list of standard interior features, such as an 8-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system with 6 speakers, wireless smartphone mirroring and charging; automatic climate control; cruise control; a multi-function steering wheel with leather rim; keyless central locking with push-button start; rear parking sensors; and a segment-first surround-view together with the rear-view camera.

However, the digital design of the configurable colour instrument cluster is not as desirable, as if it simulates an old Sega game. The interior plastics are unyielding, and the electric window on the front passenger side (there is one-touch operation for the driver window) was a challenge to close.

Still, the interior design is attractive and the ambience pleasing, and the cloth and artificial leather upholstered seats are comfortable. Cabin space is more than sufficient for four adults, the large glove box is a bonus, and 336 litres of luggage space is sufficient in its class. In addition, many of the standard features in the Magnite are only optionally available with the more expensive derivatives.

Peppy engine 

Rated for 74 kW and 160 Nm (in manual form; 152 Nm with CVT) one would assume that the detuned version of the turbocharged three-cylinder engine used in the Micra 1.0T would be somewhat pedestrian compared to other competitor turbo triples.

This is not the case. In our manual model it was surprisingly peppy, with enough low-down brawn to overtake with reasonable confidence, as long as you are prepared to keep the engine on the boil by stirring the slick-changing five-speed ’box. Nissan claims a 0-100 km/h time of 11,7 seconds and a top speed of 173 km/h for the Magnite – on par with its opponents and quick for a vehicle in its price bracket.

Yes, the engine is audible when pushed hard but insulated enough to allow for stress-free open road driving. With a laminated front windscreen and satisfactory sound insulation, the Magnite’s ride was surprisingly silent and notably refined. Yes, tyre noise and wind noise from that offending window was present, but overall, it was well-muted for a vehicle in this segment. 

Its handling (on modestly sized 195/60R16 tyres) predictably generated quite some body roll and understeer in fast corners but grip is more than enough for its moderate performance, and its ride comfort was surprisingly pliant – comfortably dealing with most road imperfections, also due to its ground clearance of 205 mm.

The Acenta Plus is also well equipped in terms of safety systems, including stability- and traction control, ABS with EBD, hill-start assist, and tyre pressure monitoring. Unfortunately but it only comes with two front airbags.

Last word

At R28, 600, including a six-year/150 000 km warranty and three-year/60 000 km service plan, the Magnite Acenta Plus is competitively priced, and this is already evident in the ever-increasing sales figures – with 532 Magnite’s retailed in June, second only to the Urban Cruiser in its market segment.

With a lengthy list of standard features, handsome appearance, a practical cabin, decent suspension system, and a willing engine delivering a wholesome driving experience, the Magnite is a great value proposition. Possessing these forces of attraction, sales success is inevitable – as long as the pricing remains competitive.

Report by Ferdi de Vos | Images © Ryan Abbott

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