The Nissan Magnite EZ-Shift pairs an AMT with the nat-asp 1-litre engine
The Nissan Magnite EZ-Shift pairs an AMT with the nat-asp 1-litre engineAvdhoot A Kolhe

Nissan Magnite EZ-shift first drive review

The compact SUV segment has evolved, but Nissan aims to grab a share of the micro SUV market with the Magnite EZ-shift

Until 2020, Nissan India's portfolio consisted of some fairly competent but ultimately uninspiring hatchbacks, sedans, and SUVs. But then came the Magnite, an absolute game changer in the compact SUV segment. In 2020, the Magnite was launched at a frankly unbelievable introductory price of ₹4.99 lakh, undercutting the competition in the compact SUV segment and even gave premium hatchback buyers a reason to pause and reconsider their options. Nissan had finally cracked it, giving the Indian consumer what they wanted: unbeatable value for money.

However, three years is a long time in the automotive industry, and the segment has moved on significantly in that time. The competition in the compact SUV and premium hatchback segments have gotten more upscale and therefore more expensive. The Magnite and its sister car, the Kiger, find themselves in an automotive no-man's land. At least they would if it weren't for the new micro SUVs like the Hyundai Exter and Tata Punch that are taking India by storm. Nissan has decided that it wants a piece of this action and has given the naturally aspirated variant of the Magnite an automated manual transmission to create the EZ-shift.

Nissan Magnite EZ-shift design and styling

Nissan has taken the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach with the Magnite. Apart from offering a blue and black dual-tone option exclusive to the EZ-shift, Nissan hasn't updated the exterior of the Magnite in any other way. However, this is no bad thing as the Magnite still manages to look as fresh and sporty as it did when it was launched. The front fascia is quite distinctive with sharp LED headlights and DRLs framing a bold front grille. The Magnite is well-proportioned too, which is evident when viewed from the side. It has 205mm of ground clearance, and the 16-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels fill out the wheel arches quite nicely. The rear three-quarters angle is perhaps its best, with its robust rear haunches. 

The Nissan Magnite's design still looks as fresh  as it did in 2020
The Nissan Magnite's design still looks as fresh as it did in 2020 Avdhoot A Kolhe

Nissan Magnite EZ-shift interior and features

The Magnite EZ-shift gets a shift lever with a chrome insert similar to the one in the Renault Triber AMT. The rest of the interior is largely unchanged and has a black and dark grey theme. The dash design is fairly simple but has some touches like the hexagonal A/C vents and toggle switches for some of the controls. The seats, door inserts, and armrests are covered in black fabric, which does feel quite premium; however, the same cannot be said for the rest of the interior, which is made of hard plastic.

In terms of tech, the Magnite comes equipped with an 8-inch infotainment system that supports wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. While it may not be the slickest system around, it seamlessly connects to your phone and gets the job done quite effectively. Additionally, the car features a surround-view camera, 7-inch colour TFT gauge cluster, and steering mounted controls for the audio system and cruise control.

The only change to the Nissan Magnite's interior is the AMT shift lever
The only change to the Nissan Magnite's interior is the AMT shift leverAvdhoot A Kolhe

Nissan Magnite EZ-shift powertrain

The naturally aspirated engine of the Magnite has spent very little time in the limelight, with most media reviews focusing on the 1-litre turbo-petrol. While the double-digit power and torque figures—71bhp and 96Nm, to be precise—might seem sub par, the engine itself was a pleasant surprise. The engine feels perfectly adequate for ambling around town between 30 and 60kmph. If you are patient enough to wait for it to get to triple-digit speeds, it will happily sit there for as long as you'd like. What isn't so pleasant, however, are the NVH levels. Wring it out past 4000rpm, and the 3-cylinder engine sounds gruff, with a fair bit of noise and vibration making its way to the cabin.

The EZ-shift’s automated manual transmission does a reasonably good job of shifting gears at moderate speeds. The shifts, while noticeably slow, are smooth enough to make it usable within the city. Clutch engagement from a start is also quite linear, but the lack of accelerative force had me checking if the handbrake was up on a couple of occasions. Push the throttle hard, and the transmission will downshift eventually, but the lack of power does mean that overtaking requires forward planning. Shift to manual mode, select the right gear, pick your spot, and make your move. Do not, however, upshift mid-overtake, or you might lose all momentum and need to start all over again.

The 1-litre engine is adequate in the city, but gets quite vocal when pushed
The 1-litre engine is adequate in the city, but gets quite vocal when pushed Nissan

Nissan Magnite EZ-shift ride and handling

Highway duty isn't the EZ-drive’s forte, which is a shame because the Magnite does ride really well. The suspension soaks up bumps and potholes with aplomb, but once again, the NVH levels play a spoiled sport. You don't feel bumps as much as you hear them. The Magnite handles fairly predictably, but the numb steering inspires very little confidence to push hard in the twisties. The trade-off is that the light steering makes it a joy to pilot in the city, which is the primary role of the EZ-shift variant.

Ride quality is one of the Magnite's biggest strengths
Ride quality is one of the Magnite's biggest strengthsAvdhoot A Kolhe

Nissan Magnite EZ-shift fuel economy

Nissan claims that the Magnite EZ-shift will be more efficient than the manual variant, which already returns an ARAI figure of 18.75kmpl. We would have to get the car on test for longer to understand the real world fuel economy figures. The Magnite gets an eco scoring and eco coaching system in the infotainment system which guides drivers on how to maximise fuel efficiency.

The EZ-Shift badge is the only visual differentiator
The EZ-Shift badge is the only visual differentiator Avdhoot A Kolhe

Nissan Magnite EZ-shift price and verdict

The Magnite EZ-Shift is priced between ₹6.49 and ₹8.89 lakh (ex-showroom). This pricing strategy positions the Magnite EZ-Shift well below the cost of AMT versions of micro SUVs such as the Hyundai Exter and Tata Punch, with a price difference exceeding one lakh rupees. The key reason for this price advantage lies in the absence of an AMT option on the lower trim levels of the Exter and the Punch. 

The EZ-shift retains the Magnite’s core strengths, and it is physically larger than the micro SUVs, which translates to more cabin space. Whether this is enough to sway buyers away from the newer competition remains to be seen, but in the long term, Nissan will need a fresh offering to stay competitive in the dynamic Indian automotive market. Let's hope it's a knockout like the Magnite was.

Evo India