Nissan’s new compact crossover SUV, the Magnite was unveiled during lockdown last October and today I got to drive it in Pretoria. The name Magnite is a combination of the words ‘magnetic’ and ‘ignite’.

This entry-level SUV is a big deal for Nissan, as it plays a key role in the company’s Next strategy, featuring the latest in tech as part of Nissan Intelligent Mobility (NIM) – its vision on how vehicles are powered, driven and integrated into society.

Let’s talk looks

The Magnite has a bold front grille (that admittedly looks like the Datsun Go) but works as a whole with its headlights and turn indicators. I like the design of the L-shaped LED daytime running lamps. It comes in various colours with a different roof shades like red and black; blue and white; or just solid silver.

Inside features a well designed, ergonomic cabin. I felt that everything was within easy reach. It just took a while to find the lock buttons but I found the layout neat. There enough room to put your phone cable and little odds and ends. I like the layout of the wireless charging pad and then more space beneath it. The air vents are hexagon shaped, which I quite like.

Standard features

The Magnite impressed me with what comes as standard on this compact SUV.  It’s a 1.0L turbocharged engine that delivers 74kW of power and 160Nm of torque, with a top speed of 173km/h. It features keyless entry with a push start button; 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with wireless Android Auto & CarPlay; cruise control; reverse cameras; rear parking sensors; and a tyre pressure monitor.

This 5-door vehicle has electric power steering, 336L of boot capacity with 60/40 split rear seats, and 16-inch wheels (diamond cut alloys) with a full size spare wheel. There are front and rear cup holders, 12V socket, rear-window de-mister, and driver and passenger sun-visor with vanity mirror.

Safety features include: anti-lock braking system (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), hydraulic brake assist (HBA), vehicle dynamic control (VDC), traction control system (TCS), hill start assist (HSA), speed sensing door lock, central locking and SRS dual airbag system with pretension and load limiter seatbelt for driver and passenger. It also received a 4-star safety rating in the ASEAN NCAP tests, which should put anyone at ease.

All the tech

If you’re reading this post, you know the tech is important to me and why I got to drive the vehicle. It features a 7-inch advance drive-assist display with welcome animations, fuel history, a tyre pressure monitor (super handy), and large display of the most important bits you need to pay attention to.

Nissan calls its wireless connectivity a first-in-segment that supports wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – to be fair this is mainly on high-end vehicles. Connecting to CarPlay instantly was refreshing – no need for the vehicle to be stationary, it just worked. The 8-inch infotainment display is large enough to view what you need. It has Bluetooth connectivity, and supports AM/FM radio, and USB. It has 6 speakers.

It also has an Around View Monitor (AVM) to give a bird’s eye view for parking, which is first for its class, according to Nissan. The steering wheel has integrated controls for audio, cluster and cruise control. It has voice integration support, and Nissan says ‘carefully placed mic and speaker for better phone calls’. It features Nissan Connect.

As an optional extra, there is a tech pack which includes a wireless charger, air purifier, puddle lamps, ambient mood lighting and premium speakers –JBL powered by Harman.

My first impressions after a quick drive

I drove both the manual and automatic variant of the Magnite. It comes in either a 5 speed manual gearbox or Nissan’s X-Tronic CVT (automatic). For an entry-level SUV, the drive was great. With the 1L turbo, I managed to overtake some trucks on the way, though at times it did struggle and had to wait for the right moment. Our route was mostly urban and some long stretches of road.

I did prefer the automatic (I used to love manual cars but I’m over the gear changes, this pandemic life means we hardly drive, so when I do, I want to get from A to B without worrying about the small things). Especially driving through Pretoria with speed bumps and traffic lights every few hundred meters, the auto was just preferable.

I loved that I could connect my phone to the car with ease, without having to put the car in stationary mode so it could connect (like most vehicles). The layout of the buttons and what I needed to access was all within reach.

The Magnite is an entry-level SUV that gives you a lot of extras as standard, especially with the technology and this is my favourite thing about the car. It’s accessible without breaking the bank and forking out for features that you normally would pay as an extra on other high-end vehicles. Cars are long-term purchases and I’ve been saying for the longest time, if you’re buying a car today, make sure you can pair your smartphone to it seamlessly.

I think the Magnite gives you a lot of car for your money. It budget allows, get the automatic, otherwise the manual is very well-priced, starting at R256 999. This isn’t a car you’re gonna speed with, and I’d say it is suited for couples or small families, considering the safety features too. The drive wasn’t too lengthy and thus I cannot comment on what it would be like for longer road trips.


The Nissan Magnite line-up:

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

It comes with a 3 year/30 000kms service plan (3 services) and a 6 year/150 000km warranty.