Big, Bold, Beautiful with the Nissan Magnite: Part 1, West
There are several ways to enjoy motoring, however there’s just one that tops the list. A road trip. Now instead of one, how about three road trips for a single story? That’s how we kicked off our new series with the Nissan Magnite. Nissan India identifies the Magnite by three attributes ― big, bold and beautiful. We set off to find places in the west of India that do equal justice to these attributes. It isn’t just any excuse to get out of the office. What we promise, we deliver.
Here’s where our drive starts ― to the bold and majestic Tikona fort. We have been catching beautiful sunsets for a while. Since views from the fort of the stunning waters of Pawana lake at sundown are a sight for sore eyes, we invited Magnite owners to join us for the first leg of our journey. Proud Nissan owners who found an SUV that fits them perfectly, were happy to join us on this little road trip from the outskirts of Pune to Tikona fort and drive a little further to catch a beautiful sunset near the fort.
The drive began at Provincial Nissan in Pune. Here, the Magnite is off the shelves before they stack them up. A Nissan rep tells me they’d easily sell four times the cars had it not been for the chip shortage. It’s nice to see that energy in the air as other Nissan owners join us for the drive. We had everything from a petrol Magnite with a manual gearbox to our turbo-petrol with a CVT unit to put through the test on a long winding road leading to Tikona fort. The drive takes you through a few villages on the outskirts of Pune where the road surface is never ideal. But the Magnite takes on these rough roads with ease. The suspension is tuned for typical Indian driving conditions, soft enough to soak in all the undulations but with the right amount of poise to enjoy a long drive at highway speeds.
It makes me happy to see a proper turnaround for Nissan in India. After years of trying to find a clear winner, once Rakesh Srivastava was picked to head the company, things have moved quickly for the better. It starts with the Magnite, a SUV that feels just right for India. Priced well, feature rich, doesn’t get ruffled on our bad roads and has the performance to be more than just a city car. As of April, over 50,000 Magnites have rolled off the production line and it’s even exported to over 15 countries. Some of the participants were surprised with this fact and were pleased to know that they were driving an SUV that is built to international standards and sold in over a dozen countries.
An hour away from the dealership, the road winds up a hill and reveals the three-cornered fort. Tikona, as it is named after its shape, was strategically located in the Pawana-Maval region for the security of these western lands. You get a clear view of the hills on either side of Pawana lake. There’s also a dam nearby, which wasn’t there when the fort was built. The waters must have spread wider back then giving a wider safety net in the region. There’s a clear line of sight in each direction, even the back road from where we could spot the fort is where an enemy would be like a sitting duck. It’s smart and bold, an attribute that the Magnite represents well. The large front grille with the striking DRLs give the Magnite that road presence. You get a good view of the road ahead from the driver’s seat, making it easy to drive on broken road surfaces.
Even for all passengers, the large glasshouse of the Magnite is welcome compared to more claustrophobic cabins of similarly priced cars. In all, a Saturday well spent with people who drive and enjoy the Magnite every day. We took them to our favourite spots in this region, places they’d usually never go to even if they passed them on a drive. We are always scouting for the next sweet spot to film and shoot cars and stumble on so many hidden gems. It was nice to share one such location with people who love roadtripping.
We bid goodbye to our new friends in Magnites and headed to maximum city, Mumbai! Maximum city is a name made famous by a book written by Suketu Mehta a couple of decades ago. It revolves around hardships, the underworld and gang rivalry in Mumbai. A lot of those things are stories of the past now. Mumbai is a thriving metropolis with more opportunities than any other city in the country. It can be big and intimidating for someone who isn’t used to the pace, but with all the challenges on offer, you will find people and places that are accepting and welcoming to you beyond measure.
The massive glass-lined towering skyline of Mumbai is in contrast with the warm heart of the city. Driving the Magnite here shows how well the car adapts to the intensity of this urban jungle. The CVT gearbox is smooth in traffic. A lifesaver if you drive every day to work in a city such as Mumbai. I sit back and relax at low cruising speeds, often even crawling speeds without a worry. Traffic in our cities has only gone up. We had a few months of respite during the pandemic but now there are more cars than ever on the streets, which means spending time between a car occupying your entire front windshield and rear-view mirror. A smooth CVT unit such as the one in the Magnite is a godsend at such times.
When the traffic thins out early in the morning or late at night though, driving in Mumbai is a pleasure. The turbo-petrol SUV is nimble on its feet, making it a joy to drive as we soak in the sights of Mumbai ― the sea-link, the 19th century Victorian architecture of South Mumbai and the modern shimmering office buildings of BKC. When weekdays have such views though, you’ve got to have a contrast for the weekend and that takes us to the beautiful Chorla ghat.
When you live and work in Mumbai or Pune or any city of Maharashtra or Karnataka, the favourite road trip for everyone is the drive to Goa. It’s all about the journey for us though, not the destination. There are two major routes to drive to Goa, the North Goa route via the Amboli ghat and the South Goa route via Chorla. Even if I had to drive to North Goa, I’d take the scenic southern road.
This is driving paradise. Chorla is on the border of three states ― Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka, and people from every state equally love this beautiful piece of land. Even the rain gods adore Chorla. You could be in the sweltering heat of summer in the rest of the country but Chorla will welcome you with a pleasant shower. This is why you will find waterfalls and wildlife everywhere in Chorla. The Sahyadri mountains are no match for size compared to the Himalayas however they are beautiful weather barriers. A buffer between the sea and the plains, they hold a weather of their own. A pleasant surprise for travellers across this land, especially after driving from glass and concrete cities.
The beautiful winding roads of Chorla urge me for a more heavy-footed drive and the Magnite obliges. That turbo-petrol 1-litre engine is eager to bring on the speed and the SUV turns in with the agility of a hatchback. It’s not something you’d usually do with a spacious SUV, however with the Magnite, driving on winding roads is fun too. There are a few spots to stop at Chorla though as the road is narrow and is notorious for most motorists being a little too heavy on the right foot/wrist. As long as you are aware of the hazards on this road, it can be a lot of fun. An evening drive through this ghat with the sun setting between mountains is the ideal end to a road trip we have been on. If you enjoy driving, you will find many hotels to stay at near Belgaum an hour before Chorla ghat. Spend a night there instead of driving straight to Goa and do a couple of runs of the ghat. It’s more smiles per kilometre than you will find anywhere in the western part of India.
The Magnite is presented as big, bold and beautiful. When we were finding places that represent these attributes, it was an easy pick to drive to the big city of Mumbai, the bold Tikona fort and the beautiful Chorla ghat. Weaving three road trips around it and sharing our joy of motoring with Magnite owners certainly made for a special week at evo. We are driving to Southern India next for the second leg of this interesting journey with the Magnite.