Big, Bold, Beautiful with the Nissan Magnite : Part 2, South
Royalty. That's what the state of Karnataka has always been associated with. Known for its rich heritage and culture, lip-smacking food, gorgeous hill stations and what has now become the 'tech capital of India', Bangalore, Karnataka was the obvious choice for the second and Southern leg of evo India's Big, Bold and Beautiful drive with the Nissan Magnite.
But if you aren't familiar with this series that we've just commenced, here's a little run-through. We've taken the Nissan Magnite's snappy tagline — i.e. Big, Bold, Beautiful — and adapted it into a series of road trips, where we find the Biggest, Boldest and most Beautiful representation of the place we plan to take this SUV around the country. The first time around, we showed you what the western part of our country, Maharashtra, has to offer when it comes to being Big, Bold and Beautiful and now we've come down south, to explore Namma Karnataka.
The first stop in our itinerary was the famed Nandi hills. It's an ancient hill fortress that was built by the Ganga dynasty rulers. Also known as the 'hill of bliss', this is a place you've definitely been to if you're from around Bangalore. Because of the cool climate and its scenic view, Nandi Hills became the go-to spot for rulers in the 11th century. But we aren’t 11th century rulers now, are we? Why did we choose this place, you ask? Two very simple reasons. Keep Google handy for the first one – the breathtaking sunrise. You'll find the same amount of people here during the weekdays, as it is during the weekends. People travel to this hill that's 60km away from Bangalore to get a glimpse of what quite possibly one of the best sunrise views in the country. You're treated to a sea of clouds that literally float under in front of you and reflect the morning sun coming up the horizon. It is a sight for sore eyes.
The second reason comes in the form of the road that makes its way to the top. Nandi hills was once the hillclimb capital of Karnataka and the 8.5km odd road that makes its way to the top is a joy to drive. A bunch of twisties, both sharp and flowing. Perfect to sample a car like the Nissan Magnite, with its turbo-petrol engine.
To enjoy this magnificent place to the fullest, we invited a couple of Magnite owners, Shrinidhi L and Gnanaraj Nivedha, from Bangalore. People who found an SUV in the form of the Magnite that fit them perfectly. These are two very different types of buyers of the Magnite as we found out. Shrinidhi's Magnite is his first new-car and he was looking for something that apart from being friendly to his pocket, would also be a sporty car to drive. And that is exactly why he chose the turbo-manual powertrain. Gnanaraj on the other hand, was looking for something that would carry his family in utmost comfort, while being stylish. Both of the owners were happy to report their hassle free ownership experience of the Magnite to us and said that they're looking for a lot of adventures with their beloved Magnite.
Both of them, and not to forget us, enjoyed hustling the Magnite all the way to the top of the Nandi hills. Although it's an SUV, it tackles these corners very sharply and its turbo-petrol engine makes sure you're never out of oomph even on the steepest of slopes. The Magnite is very comfortable too. We drove it all the way to Bengaluru from our headquarters in Pune, and it demonstrated how it handles bad patches and tall speed breakers very confidently. And once we were at the top of Nandi hills, I started craving something that always makes my morning better – coffee! Our next destination had to be Coorg, of course! South Indians love their coffee and the city where we pointed the Magnite to next, after that lovely time at the Nandi hills is called the 'coffee capital of India'.
To reach Coorg or Kodagu, we took the brilliant National Highway 75 that would take us from the crazy congestion of Bangalore to the infamous city of Channarayapatna. Drive on this road and you'll find out what an excellent highway cruiser the Magnite really is. Especially if you opt for the turbo-petrol-CVT combo. This gearbox is a gem. Unlike the AMTs in its competition, there is no lag and you always have power available for an overtake or two. The fact that this pair can return you mileage of over 20kmpl is just an added bonus. The Magnite also feels stable, even at triple digit speeds. Backed by an infotainment system that can play your favourite music through the JBL sound system through wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, all these qualities make the Magnite a splendid highway machine.
After passing the town of Channarayapatna, we were welcomed by the single carriageways of Karnataka. Smooth roads now turned to some not-so-smooth and traffic infested ones, but they were pretty nonetheless. Here you might encounter a pothole or some and this is where we found out that the Magnite's 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.
So why is Coorg so famous for its coffee? Well, it's mainly because of the climate. A coffee plant requires a very cool climate and a lot of water to be cultivated and this place has both in abundance. Coffee seemed to be the perfect thing to represent the Bold aspect of Karnataka as the local economy relies heavily in the regions wherever it's grown. Over 70 per cent of India's total coffee cultivation is done in the hills of Coorg and it is exported to a lot of foreign countries in huge quantities. Just like the Nissan Magnite!
Nissan has produced over 50,000 Magnites so far and the SUV is exported to over 15 countries around the world. This is an SUV that is built to international standards and that shows. If it can take on the world, it can surely take anything we throw its way! The Magnite soldiered through all the slushy trails in Coorg with ease. Its hill start assist is a blessing if you lose momentum and stop halfway through a steep climb. It ensures the car doesn't roll back and helps you make it to the top. All thanks to its 205mm high ground clearance, the Magnite made sure we never got stuck in the rocky and filled-with-muck coffee estates and it handled everything like a champ.
After a day's rest at the magnificent Riverside coffee estate in the town of Siddapura, we headed to the Dubare elephant camp near Coorg to see what the biggest thing Karnataka has on offer. The largest land animal in the world. Elephants! Now who doesn't like elephants? These majestic creatures represent India at its very best. People like us who live in concrete jungles rarely get a glimpse of these friendly giants and heading to Dubare was a way to reconnect with that side of you that loves the wild!
Dubare lets you get close to these magnificent animals. You can give them a bath, feed them and even go on rides on them. And what better way to reach this magical juncture than in the Nissan Magnite, a car that shares one quality with the haatis. It's big on the inside! Packaged extremely well, the Magnite offers more than a comfortable second row of seats. There’s a pair of AC vents back here and a 12-volt socket too. Even upfront, you don’t feel like you’re in a small car at all, even though the Magnite isn’t as wide as some rivals. Boot space — 336-litres with the seats up or 690-litres with them folded down — ensures you can carry luggage for days and plan a long trip.
South India has a lot of everything. Peaceful mountains and gorgeous views, some of which took our breaths away. You get a chance to get so close to mother nature here and all the epic roads around make driving a lot of fun. This region has a lot in common with the Nissan Magnite, which proved to be the perfect companion on the second leg of our Big, Bold, Beautiful drive and feels right at home here. It is time to head to our next stop – the north – but before that, I think I’m going to get myself another piping hot cup of filter coffee!