There has been so little action in the affordable, entry small car category that any new addition is welcome. For a country where the sub-four-metre hatch is still the lion’s share of the passenger car market, it is certainly disappointing to see so many buyers heading to the used car market because there just aren’t enough approachable, and yet exciting new options to choose from. The early years of the boom in the Indian passenger car market happened simply because a plethora of new vehicles brought on a range of new choices for car buyers. Increased competition and an expansion of options often leads to growth in any sector. Set a little in that context, comes the new Nissan Magnite with its affordable automatic AMT transmission. A new transmission option with its own range of trim variants that joins the existing range in what is quite literally the only model line in the brand’s portfolio.
Even though the Magnite AMT is not significantly different in terms of design compared to its siblings the prospect of a more aggressive price positioning is good news for Nissan, which hasn’t had any major new model program for years. Also, its dependency on one model makes it imperative that more price points be covered to ensure that a larger spectrum of buyers can be targeted.
This makes the Magnite AMT a key addition to the portfolio of this Japanese brand. While alliance partner Renault has had the AMT (automated manual transmission) being offered with the Kiger, Magnite’s platform sibling, Nissan has had to wait it out. Finally, the Magnite’s naturally-aspirated 3-cylinder petrol engine gets an automatic gearbox in the AMT. With automatics becoming popular by the day, the only option for value-conscious customers, who may have otherwise stayed on with the Magnite, was to look for rival entry hatch models with the automated manual. As part of the portfolio, the Nissan Magnite has been offered with an automatic gearbox, but that was the more expensive CVT (continuously variable transmission) being offered with the turbocharged version of the same one-litre petrol engine. Now, with an introductory starting price of ₹6.49 lakh for the base variant of the Magnite AMT, the vehicle is finally more affordably priced, and should be able to take on some of the newer competitors in the sub-compact sports utility body style category.
In terms of design and the overall exterior features, the new Magnite AMT is identical to the current variants. Of course, depending on the trim variant you choose there would be variations in some of the exterior kit. The Magnite is a smart-looking SUV body style sub-compact and that is already a good thing going for it. The other positive for the Magnite AMT (being called EZ-Shift by Nissan) is the fact that the company has decided to offer it across multiple variants. So, it is available as a transmission choice right from the base XE variant and all the way upto the XV Premium. The newly introduced Magnite Kuro special edition also gets the AMT gearbox. There is also a new dual-tone Blue and Black colour combination that’s being offered specially for the AMT variants.
The narrow slit-like headlamps, the wide and deep bonnet grille with its twin boomerang style chrome frame and the tall stance, all of which give it a SUV character, come together making it still a very attractive design. The 3D taillamps and the rest of the rear design are identical to the current Magnite and the only addition here is the EZ-Shift badging at the bottom of the tailgate. Like the exterior design, the cabin too remains identical, and here too the design and layout of the dashboard and the rest of the cabin is still fresh despite the years of the Magnite being seen on our roads.
The only downside to the cabin has always been the quality of materials used and that issue continues with quite a few panels finished in scratchy, hard plastics, including on the dashboard and the door panels. The addition to the mix here is the new AMT gearbox shifter with its simple R, N, D selector for reverse, neutral and drive. It is good to note that there is a triptronic option on the stick for manual selection of gears. The rest of the cabin is identical to the Magnite variants currently available. Some of the features and kit may vary based on the trim variant, but one feature that is missing in all of them is a sunroof — a feature that many customers in the segment seem to want.
I spent a half day driving the new Magnite EZ Shift AMT around the outskirts of Chennai. The engine is the same one-litre, 3-cylinder, naturally aspirated petrol unit that is an alliance platform regular in both Nissan and Renault vehicles. The turbocharged version of the engine is available in the top trim and CVT transmission variants. This one though produces 72hp of peak power and 96Nm of peak torque. The overall refinement level of this engine is still very much like the average 3-cylinder petrol that some of the entry small car rivals have. There is a mild thrum and vibration in the cabin that gives away the engine’s character. After one has experienced the turbo, this does seem underpowered. And so, on the road, the impact of the relatively lower output tends to show up during times of high demand. Overtakes are laborious and they need to be executed after proper planning and with some room for error. The engine also gets loud with what seems like a disproportionate amount of noise compared to the amount of acceleration.
The new AMT gearbox is not unlike some of the early AMTs in some of the rivals in the entry segment. This is also the same AMT that is offered in the Renault Kiger and while some changes to the ratios have been made, the powertrain mapping and tuning is largely similar to the Kiger. There is quite a bit of head-nodding style of gear changes even when driving in the city, and the impact is more pronounced under hard acceleration and during kickdowns. Using the triptronic manual gear selection helps make the changes a bit more intuitive and predictable, though even here while the gear selection is reflected instantly on the instrument cluster, the execution takes time.
The Magnite EZ-Shift gets what the company calls intelligent creep function, and so in slow-moving traffic the vehicle moves forward slowly even without any throttle input and just by releasing the brake pedal. In terms of fuel efficiency, the new Magnite EZ-Shift can offer an ARAI-rated mileage of 19.7kmpl, compared to the manual variant’s 19.35kmpl. The ride quality is identical to the current variants of the Magnite and tends to have a slightly firm ride. Safety features in the EZ-Shift include vehicle dynamic control and Hill Start Assist.
Overall, while the naturally-aspirated engine’s lower output and the not-so-brisk performance of the AMT may not be to the liking of some buyers, it still is a combination that should work for many who are looking for an affordable entry sub-compact that can offer freedom to their left foot and deliver the convenience of clutch-less driving. The competition is quite intense in the sub-compact SUV body style segment and there are now multiple brands with multiple variants that cover a wide range of price points. Some of the newer ones like the Hyundai Exter and Tata Punch have more novelty value. Yet, the Magnite EZ-Shift AMT variants should help Nissan target the value-conscious buyer. Introductory prices start from ₹6.5 lakh and go up to ₹8.9 lakh.