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Nissan Magnite CVT review: On a journey to Asia’s highest suspension bridge

During the period between the first and second wave of COVID-19 in India, we had a chance to drive new cars and manufacturers got a window to launch new products. One of the most interesting cars that I drove during this period is the Nissan Magnite. However, due to time constraints on the media drives, I just couldn’t spend much time with Nissan’s latest product in the market. So when the borders of the states opened up and roads to the Himalayas cleared up, I pounced on the Magnite and set off on a journey of more than 1,500 km.

Since the popularity of automatics has increased by quite a noticeable margin in recent times, I chose the CVT over the manual for the journey. While my preference was the manual because of the challenges that the roads to the world’s highest bridge could throw at me, I chose what the customers are choosing.

The destination was Chicham Bridge in the Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh. Spiti was closed for tourists for a long time and we were one of the first ones to enter the valley. It is more than 4km high than the mean sea level and is located over a gorge that is more than 1,000 feet deep. The bridge connects the rest of the valley to Chicham village. It took about 14 years of construction and was opened in 2017. Before the bridge, the residents of the village used a dangerous ropeway to commute and carry essentials to their homes.

Nissan Magnite – The highway run

The Magnite is an interesting car to look at. The huge grille in the front with the L-shaped DRLs do attract a lot of eyes. And the eyes always try to find the name of the car. People have stopped and stared at the Magnite and some of them even asked how it drives in a much inquisitive way than I expected. So that’s the only comment I will leave on the looks of the Magnite.

Now on long drives, comfort is paramount and so is the driving dynamics. If you drive a vehicle that does not hold its line while turning at a moderate speed, you fatigue quicker. The Magnite performed excellently on the highways. The journey started with the KMP Expressway, which has a speed limit of 120 km/h. The Magnite is surprisingly stable at high speeds despite its low weight.

Also, with the cruise control engaged, you only have to concentrate on the road ahead without thinking of crossing the speed limit. And it changes directions at high speeds without losing its line. It was this journey when my confidence in his handling cemented further. And it was only the start of the humongous journey ahead.

On the first day, Magnite gulped the highways at a decent pace while delivering fuel efficiency of above 16 km/l. We also started to climb the lower Himalayas on the same day and since the night stay was a good driving time after the sunset, I got a chance to use the headlamps too. The all-LED lamps are good but in misty weather, they don’t work as good as the halogens. So I would have preferred halogen foglamps for such conditions. It remains very impressive when the weather is clear.

Taming the mountains

Even after the impressive first run, the Magnite had a long way to go and the roads were only deteriorating. After crossing the Rampur Bushahr, the roads towards the Spiti Valley becomes sparsely populated and that’s when you start to notice the exuberance around. Himachal Pradesh is home to one of the highest numbers of dams in India and because of that, the constant movement of heavy vehicles for construction, repair and building new dams is a frequent sight.

The movement, however, kills the roads and leave them with big potholes. The Magnite, despite offering a stiff suspension set-up remains comfortable over the rough patches. The suspension may bottom out if you hit a pothole after not noticing it in time and slowing down but overall, the comfort is supreme in this sub-4m. The fabric seats are quite comfortable too and hold your body in place through the turns and hops on the potholes.

You do get long stretches of freshly laid tarmac and that’s when the wilder side of the Magnite comes out. Light body, turbo-petrol engine is alright but I underestimated this X-Tronic CVT. It is very responsive once you get to know the amount of push you need to put on the accelerator to make the engine go helluva. It runs and it runs, as mentioned above, composed.

Fuel economy? Surprisingly, it did not fall much from the highways. The display was still showing 14.2 km/l. We reached the world’s highest retail fuel pump in Kaza, which is located at 12,270 feet above mean sea level. A tank full at this place gives us an average fuel consumption of 14.6 km/l, which is surprising, especially after the kind of fun it can give you in return.

Can it go off-road?

Now I did not take it particularly to do an off-roading stint but there were enough situations where the Magnite had to prove its capability. Since the roads in that region are always under construction due to the weather and challenges, at a few spots, the slush created a difficult situation for the front-wheel-driven Magnite. Since it was an automatic, I did not have control over the clutch too. But there is a low-ratio setting on the transmission that works pretty well in such situations, especially when you turn off the traction control system.

The Magnite’s front wheels have enough traction and the transmission ensures that it has an ample amount of torque to power through. We did not have to lower the tyre pressure to increase the traction, it just went over these stretches as is. No extra effort needed. So with a high ground clearance of 205mm, it can go over extremely damaged roads, or no roads even.

With all the challenges thrown at the Magnite, we saw the spectacular Chicham Bridge reach the village. Moving here feels like that you’re running out of breath but the Magnite survived here quite well and since it was turbocharged, there was no sign of power loss.

The best bits?

I was fairly surprised by the Magnite’s fuel efficiency, driving dynamics and space management. It offers an ample amount of space and the massive glove box can hold a person’s overnight luggage! Other than that, it has a good amount of space for the luggage of four people on a long trip. It has a lot of useable features. Yes, it does not offer automatic headlamps, automatic wipers or even a sunroof but it gets a 360-degree camera, optional wireless smartphone charger with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and an extremely good price tag.

It also feels safe. The car has a four-star rating from A-NCAP. Nissan has also added smart features like the alarm for not wearing the seatbelt silences the music system. Overall, it is a likeable product but a few things could have been better.

What are those?

The overall quality. Yes, I am not expecting a top-notch fit and finish at this price range but I expected a bit more ruggedness. There are no creaking noises or unpleasant noises but a few things came out of place. Like the chrome bit that is plastered by the showroom as an accessory.

Also, the climate control system is not as effective. It throws a good amount of cold air but the design of the vents hampers the flow of the air. Also, the outside temperature gauge is way off. When the other vehicles were showing single-digit figures on the instrument cluster, the Magnite’s display temperature did not come below 14 degrees. That’s it. Those are the only flaws I could find in the long road trip, which goes through one of the world’s most dangerous roads.

Back home, the Magnite’s display gave an indicated fuel efficiency of 15.3 km/l, which is quite satisfactory. Nissan has launched an excellent product in years and looking at the waiting period, we are not surprised at all.