MG Astor will be launching next month – Here is a first drive review from BIC
Since its arrival in the country, MG Motor has been extremely selective about the segment it wants to operate in. It chose the SUV segment, which was and continues to be the fastest growing segment in the Indian automotive industry. Now, to increase its footprint in the segment and the country, MG has now decided to get into one of the largest sub-segment, which is of compact SUVs. However, the challenge it faces is that thanks to the demand, it also happens to be an extremely crowded place.
We were recently invited for the Media Drive of the upcoming Astor from MG and we will try and let you know, what is MG counting upon? For the uninitiated, the MG Astor is basically a facelifted version of the MG ZS. In fact, it even gets a ZS badge on the boot lid. In India, MG already sells the pre-facelift version of the ZS, but with an electric drive train.
In terms of design, the Astor looks like an evolved version of the ZS, which has become smarter and sleeker. What certainly draws your attention (for all the right reasons) is the front grille, which in MG’s terminology is called the Celestial Grille. It also gets all new Full LED headlamps, LED Tail-lamps, dual tone 17-inch alloy wheels and a rather busy posterior with multiple badging.
As far as dimensions are concerned, the Astor is longer, wider and taller than all of its competition. This translates into increased space on the inside, which makes it a comfortable space to be in. The seating comfort levels for the front seats are good and so is the case with the second row of seats as well. Leg-room, shoulder room, knee room, shall not be a concern for any regularly sized individual.
On the inside, MG is offering multiple color themes. The one which MG has used for all Promotions is the Dual Tone Sangria Red color scheme, which you will see in the photos as well. In case you are someone like us and found the Red too bold for your taste, MG will also be offering subtle color pallets like the typical black/beige etc.
Quality of interiors is top-notch and the cabin space makes you feel as if you are sitting in a luxury car. There is almost no presence of cost-cutting induced hard plastic panels, anywhere in the cabin. For the Exteriors, there are 5 shades on offer, which include Spiced Orange, Aurora Silver, Glaze Red, Candy White and Starry Black. Our top 2 picks would be Starry Black and Candy White.
Powertrain and Drive
MG will be offering the Astor with 2 engine options, both of which will be petrol. These include a 1.5 litre Naturally aspirated motor, which will be able to churn out 110 PS and 144 Nm of max torque. The other offering would be a 1.35 litre turbo motor which will be dishing out 140 PS and 220 Nm of peak torque. The 1.5 litre motor will be offered with a 5-speed MT and a CVT while the turbo engine option will get a 6-speed AT setup as standard.
For the Media Drive, we got to experience the Turbo motor which was mated to the 6-speed AT. The engine and gearbox combination is responsive and suitable for typical Indian traffic, be it in the city or out in the highway. The Sports mode helps you to explore a more aggressive side of the Astor, which can be helpful if you are planning on some quick overtakes or if you intend to have some fun on a ghat section. Having driven the ZS EV, we did partially miss the acceleration punch which an Electric Motor can provide. However, talking about the overall combination, there are no complaints.
MG is also providing an option to the drivers to change the steering feedback feel, as per their likings. There are 3 modes on offer, Urban – suitable for bumper to bumper traffic, Normal and Dynamic. The functionality to recalibrate the EPS as per preference is actually useful as it allows the driver to feel more confident when required and not unnecessarily make a heavy traffic day as his/her Arms Day.
The suspension setup is partially on the stiffer side, which helped to control Body Roll massively. Braking power is adequate, thanks to 4 Disc brakes however, it could have been better if the Brake Bite was stronger.
Technology and Features
If we were to say that like most MGs, the Astor is filled with multiple tech features, it would be an understatement. The list of features on the Astor could take a dedicated 2,000 word story, but still there is a chance that we might land up skipping some. While most features are useful, some are partially gimmicky too, but then, if they help MG to entice customers, they are extremely useful for MG.
Astor is being marketed with a tag-line of ‘The AI Affair’, and MG calls it to be the first Indian SUV with AI Inside. Hence, the highlight of the car is the small dash-board mounted AI car-buddy, which calls itself Astor. You can talk to it, ask it perform tasks for you (like, opening or closing of the sunroof), ask for some information from Wikipedia or simply joke around. You can consider it to be a MG designed version of the Alexa/Google Assistant/Siri, which can also do car-related stuff.
Our experience with the AI Assistant wasn’t great and we felt that it could have been better if MG would have just collaborated with Alexa/Google. The issue could have also been because we were testing the car in Greater Noida, which is known for connectivity issues, so we would not want to discount that fact.
While the face turning robotic AI could have been more on the gimmicky side of things, the Astor does come along with loads of tech which is actually helpful. For example, it gets Autonomous Level 2 Advanced Driver Assistance System. Some of the highlights include Lane Keep Assist, Lane Departure Warning and Prevention, Blind Spot detection, Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Front Collision Warning, Automatic Emergency Braking, Intelligent Headlamp control and Intelligent Speed Warning. During the drive, we could experience most of the above and we could actually feel the difference these features can make to make the drive experience safer and more comfortable.
Other features like a gigantic panoramic sunroof, digital Bluetooth enabled smart key, full digital instrument cluster, 5-USB charging ports, Auto AC, Rain sensing wipers, 25.7 cm-touchscreen infotainment system, connected car apps etc. All add up to become perfect ingredients for success in the Indian car market.
The top of the line trim of the Astor will be getting multiple safety features, which include 6 airbags, ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, ESP, Traction Control System, Hill Hold Control, Hill Descent Control, Electronic Parking Brake, 360 degree surround-view, TPMS, Heated ORVMs and much more. The NCAP safety ratings are not available for the Astor as of now.
It is a known fact that in consumer or customer-ended Businesses, if you intend to compete and win against something which is already ‘Ultimate’ or ‘BadAss’, you don’t have too many choices. You just have 2 ways out, be better than the competition and be competitive in terms of pricing.
In our opinion, MG has at least done the first part right by coming up with a product which outsmarts the competition. And if history can be used for reference, MG is known to undercut the competition in terms of pricing. So, if the Astor is priced right, the Indian market might just get a new SUV which would be ‘Badassly Ultimate’.