Nissan Magnite Acenta Plus CVT: Latest contender to the compact crossover class

Designed to enter the bustling compact crossover segment, Nissan’s Magnite has to battle a number of strong competitors. Over the past 12 months, myriad contenders have set foot in the ring – including the competent Kia Sonet, Suzuki Vitara Brezza and Toyota Urban Cruiser. Take a peek at SA’s roads and you’ll notice all three have done exceptionally well, sales wise.

The aforementioned trio litter local avenues, with consumers falling for the chunky styling, practicality and value for money. Clearly, the Magnite has its work cut out. Nissan’s entrant isn’t off to a bad start if aesthetics play a big factor. Angular and ultra-modern, the Magnite stays true to the concept that was first seen in 2020. It stands out from the crowd with a chic design and a fashionable two-tone paint scheme. Our Acenta Plus CVT test unit glistened in the sunlight, courtesy of the Vivid Blue gloss and contrasting Storm White roof.

Positioned at the top of the range, the feature-rich Acenta Plus is equipped with a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbopetrol engine which is the sole powerplant option in the Magnite range. It offers 74 kW and 152 Nm of torque which – despite the Magnite’s smaller capacity engine – is on par with its (naturally-aspirated) rivals. Not necessarily of importance with a car like this, the Japanese crossover reaches 100 km/h in a fairly glacial 13.4 seconds (claimed).

Magnite boasts bold styling that looks modern and fresh. Standard 16-inch alloy wheels and plump tyres aid ride comfort.

The turbocharged powerplant has sufficient poke at city speeds, making the Magnite feel sufficiently energetic. It pairs with the CVT transmission rather nicely; the gearbox is smooth and keeps engine noise to a minimum when driven gently. Ask for brisk acceleration and, as with all ‘boxes of this ilk, the revs surge. The thrumming three-pot engine note permeates the cabin and can become wearisome after a while. When settled at highway speeds, this becomes less of a problem – unless you need to perform an overtaking manoeuvre.

On smooth, unbroken surfaces, the Magnite provides a comfortable and composed ride. It does struggle when presented with rougher roads, the crossover unable to react quickly enough to sudden road irregularities. That being said, the Magnite does absorb most potholes with aplomb.

Not as polished as the ride quality, the steering feels cumbersome and vague. In this class – where rivals tend to have rather sharp steering – this is a notable fly in the Magnite’s ointment. It certainly doesn’t feel dangerous or scary, but it lacks the crispness that makes the Vitara Brezza so enjoyable to pilot, for example.

The cabin of Nissan’s smallest crossover is well-equipped and offers decent levels of passenger room and luggage space.

With an identical wheelbase to the Vitara Brezza and Sonet (2,500mm), interior space is on par with rivals. Up front, the height-adjustable steering column and driver’s seat makes finding your ideal position a doddle. The cloth-trimmed pews feature an interesting, wave-like design and prove comfortable – even on longer trips. Cloth trim also covers parts of the door cards and armrest; a nice touch that enhances the interior ambience. The boot measures a useful 336L.

Although the cabin plastics appear hard-wearing, there are a number of surfaces that feels a touch flimsy. The materials around the gear lever, for example, feel a touch insubstantial. Other than that, the Magnite matches the Vitara Brezza for perceived quality. One place where the Magnite steams ahead of the competition is in standard equipment. Not satisfied with offering a full suite of safety features – I’ll touch on that shortly – the Magnite, as standard, boasts digital dials, keyless entry with push-button start, a 360-degree camera (an absolute boon in car parks) and LED headlamps. A three-year/30,000 km service plan is also standard.

Another area in which the Magnite trounces the competition is when it comes to standard safety features. Like the Brezza and Sonet, the Nissan is equipped with two airbags, ABS and EBD. But the Magnite also receives stability control (standard on the Sonet) and traction control. Despite Nissan claiming a fuel economy figure of 6.0L/100 km, I managed 7.6L over my week with the crossover.

The Magnite’s bold styling has an upmarket look. The grille treatment and aggressive front end turns heads.

Nissan’s Magnite is capable as a commuter and has plenty of equipment that undercuts other crossovers (price wise) with similar space and performance. Late to the party, Nissan’s newcomer is already enjoying success in SA – take a look at how frequently they’re starting to appear on our roads. There are flaws, however. It rides comfortably (for the most part) and is decently refined on the highway, but the interior could do with sturdier trim pieces in some places.

That being said, there’s much to recommend here for those who are looking for an attractive crossover with plenty of equipment at a remarkably low price. Unless you’re absolutely fixed on getting the CVT model, I’d recommend getting the cheaper manual derivative, at R282,600.

Fast Facts:

Nissan Magnite Acenta Plus CVT

Price: R305,700

Power: 74 kW/152 Nm

Fuel consumption: 6.0L/100km (claimed)

Top speed: 168 km/h

Rivals: Renault Kiger, Suzuki Vitara Brezza

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