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The Nissan Magnite is ‘Made in India, for the world’, and a perfect millennial cruiser. We caught up with Kei Kyu, the brand’s Future Design Director, on what makes this sub-compact SUV so special.

Nissan has pulled a double SUV-offensive this year — first the Ariya and now the Magnite. While the former strives to be an automobile of tomorrow, the latter is a pure people’s car, making its big global debut today. A portmanteau of the words ‘magnetic’ and ‘ignition’, Magnite personifies the magnetism brought forth in its design, and the beginning of a new era for Nissan (ignite).

From being an Indo-Japanese hybrid in terms of culture and design, to being fine-tuned to serve as a perfect millennial car, there’s a serious amount of excellence that the Magnite holds within its four wheels. To understand this better, we spoke to the man behind the Magnite, Kei Kyu, Nissan’s Future Design Director.

In conversation with Kei  Kyu, on the new Nissan Magnite

Kei Kyu

How did Nissan take inspiration from Indian culture while creating the Magnite? And how did this inspiration translate into its design?

The Nissan Magnite takes after the philosophy of ‘Make in India, for the World’ and has been designed in Japan while keeping in mind the requirements and aspirations of Indian customers. As a Japanese Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), we needed to express the Japanese sense in our product and at the same time focus on our core customer and market.

The teams in Japan worked very closely with the India team for local insights which helped us in formulating our offering for the market. India is huge, busy, and colourful, with an incredible energy. I don’t think anyone can describe India in just a few words – I might need my whole life to truly understand the vibrancy and depth of this country.

The Nissan Magnite is built on three fundamental design elements — Kabuku, Sui, and Inase. Kabuku represents a pioneer and game-changer; Sui stands for purity of purpose; and Inase denotes dynamic and vibrant energy. These elements reflect the attitude of the Indian market and people through our Japanese sense of culture and aesthetics. So, blending Japanese philosophy and Indian culture together, we formed the Nissan Magnite as the true spirit of ‘India on wheels’.

Nissan Magnite

What makes the Nissan Magnite a perfect car for Indian millennials?

At Nissan, whenever we create a new design, our primary objective is to understand the need of our customers. We also look to get a deeper understanding of who our customers are, what is the nation’s mood and atmosphere like, consumer behaviour and of course, new trends and fashions. This discovery of people’s expectations is the starting point of our design approach.

We observed Indian customers and their preferences, and realised the design needs to be aspirational. We ensured we give the B-SUV a personality that also reflects its function and endurance over time. Thus, the Nissan Magnite also offers advanced technology and features, high ground clearance and substantial roominess. The owner of the Magnite is someone who makes independent choices and is a constant explorer despite living a busy life. Someone who would like recognition, has chosen a successful career path, and always strives for things.

Nissan Magnite

Tech is of course a major driving force for millennials while choosing a car — how has Nissan capitalized on this with the Magnite?

From the day we started working towards the Nissan Magnite, we decided that its technological features will provide owners with a seamless experience through Nissan’s intuitive interface.

The Nissan Magnite is the innovative fusion of SUV authenticity, agility, and dynamic silhouette. Its 3-volume construction (fenders and solid mono body) give it an uplifting and vibrant sculpture, while its sleek head lamps, DTRL on exterior and screens on the dashboard exude confidence and sturdiness. From an interior point of view, its packaging works together with the proportion where roominess is a key element.

What must Indian consumers look out for when buying a city car today?

Indians have always been well-informed and are always looking to buy a vehicle with international appeal. They are interested in owning a car that’s advanced in multiple facets — design, technology, and safety. This has been a key driving force especially for younger buyers. We built the Magnite to meet these needs.

Nissan Magnite

In your opinion, why do you think the SUV market in India booming today?

Indian roads have always been challenging and in addition to that, diverse weather conditions also play a key role in the country’s commute aesthetic. Which is why, SUVs are currently very popular there. Their bold styling and brawn stance creates a protective and sturdy impression, setting them apart on urban roads. More so, they also offer a wider peripheral while driving, something that’s always a plus point. But beyond the aggressive styling and packaging, the Indian customer also prioritizes spacious interiors, especially towards the rear end of seating. The Magnite was designed to perfectly encapsulate all these emotions.

How do you think motoring and urban commute will change after the pandemic?

Traditionally, a car was simply a medium of going from point A to point B. Today, we’ve moved way past this humble dynamic of motoring. In this generation, it stands as a symbol of aspiration and innovation. However, given the current global climate and the pandemic, personal mobility has emerged as a trend. This ‘new normal’ influences the car all the way to its design and engineering. For example, seating has to be more spaced out, cabin materials need to be anti-microbial and clean, door handles may need to be redesigned, voice control will go mainstream to minimize the use of touch commands. More so, buyers are also seeking health features like germ filters and temperature detectors.

The next hurdle we face is road population, which has seen an increase every year, and secondly, the pollution. These are key details that will affect the entire aesthetic of motoring in the years to come.

What can we expect from Nissan for India in the years to come?

Innovation is, and always been, at our core. We believe this is what gives us an advantage, we strive to give the people what they desire. Traditionally, OEMs design the car first and then give it to the customer. But with the Nissan Magnite, we took a different approach – we began with a deep understanding of the customer. Currently, the Magnite is under the spotlight. We will continue this journey of understanding and expressing customer needs, concluding with us delivering on this promise of customer insight with a car they will love.

It has now been leaked online that the Nissan Magnite is priced at Rs 5.5 lakh for the 1.0-litre XE petrol variant, going up to Rs 9.55 lakh for the 1.0-litre turbo petrol XV premium CVT variant.

All images: Courtesy brand

Mikhail Gomes
Senior Features Writer
A watch aficionado, Gomes also enjoys learning about fine whiskies, and one day hopes to establish his own menswear label. At Lifestyle Asia India, he writes on watches, menswear, auto and tech.