MG Astor mid-size SUV Review
The automotive industry is so dynamic with a lot of new regulations in terms of emission norms, safety norms, speed limits and so on. The vehicle manufacturers on one hand are developing new products depending upon the customer need and on the other hand to meet the government regulations. MG Motor, the recent entrant into the Indian market is meeting customer expectations with segment leading features and regulations, with their cars like Hector, Gloster, Hector Plus and ZS EV. MG is predominantly in the SUV space with both internal combustion engines and EVs. Within two years the company has marked its presence in the Indian market and now it is ready to shake it once again with its new car Astor.
Astor is essentially the petrol version of the ZS EV. But it isn’t just a motor swap. What you have is a whole lot of goodies inside, and of course, you have a facelift on the outside too. The Astor has got an all-new bumper and headlights. And while the headlight and bumper treatment, maybe a little subtle, what isn’t is the new grill. The grill is a cool looking design and MG calls it the celestial grill and it does look quite nice and it’s very eye-catching.
On the side, Astor gets new alloy wheels. The 17-inch rims look are new and stylish too. They also show off the red callipers on both the front and rear disc brakes quite nicely. Apart from these two new changes, there isn’t anything new from the ZS EV. At the rear, you do have new taillights. The design is new. It looks nice and attractive. I particularly like these segmented little displays inside.
And the bumper has a new treatment at the diffuser end with two fake exhaust outlets. There’s also a lot of badging on the rear with the MG logo, ZS, Astor and it has ADAS lettering, which is one of the highlights of this car, which we will discuss ahead. Boot space is quite large and MG has not disclosed the capacity, but it appears sufficient for regular use. Plus you also have a 60:40 split seat to increase the luggage space. The spec sheet reveals that the Astor is slightly longer, taller and wider than the Hyundai Creta and Kia Seltos SUVs, which will be the primary competitors of the Astor.
I felt like spending more time inside the cabin, because MG said that a whole lot of fun lies inside and you may remember the tagline of MG Hector when it was launched ‘Internet Inside’. Now in the Astor, it is beyond the internet and it has got Advanced Driver Assistant System (ADAS) Level 2 system and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Something we are hearing for the first time in this segment, isn’t it? Yes, let us go and talk to Astor.
Hello Astor! The robot placed in the centre of the dashboard just turned and looked at me. With few voice commands, you can open the sunroof, keep the desired cabin temperature and many more. It also has an on-board SIM through which you can check things on the internet. It’s powered by Wikipedia. So you can ask for pretty much anything, but to fully exploit the system, we think it would be better to go with Alexa or Google Home.
The other changes are the new touch screen, which is larger at 10.1 inches. It’s not the smoothest to use, but it’s loaded with quite a few native apps and has Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity. Speaking of which, the Astor has a fully connected car experience and it takes it a step further with the digital key that you can install on your phone. You can fully operate and use your car without the actual key. MG has also given the upholstery a complete makeover. And it looks really rich like in luxury cars. There are three colour combinations and the deep red, which we drove looks premium and has nice features like a six-way power driver’s seat. It also comes with a PM 2.5 cabin air filter and a 360-degree camera.
When it comes to safety features it has six airbags, ABS and ESP, along with the level 2 ADAS system. Autonomous Level 2 not just makes driving more comfortable and intuitive, but also keeps your safety at the forefront. The system uses both radar and camera input and it is comprehensive with features like lane-keeping aid, lane departure warning, lane change assists, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and auto emergency braking.
Lane Functions keep the vehicle within the lane to prevent the vehicle from deviation due to distraction. In case of any unintentional lane departure, it warns the driver through visual and acoustic signals. Astor also has a Speed assist system that will monitor any traffic sign on the road from which it is possible to infer speed limit.
The 6-speed automatic torque converter complements the turbo engine very well and gives a comfortable feel especially in day-to-day traffic. The engine is a bit noisy inside the cabin and MG could have done some more insulation to avoid it.
The system alerts the driver in case of overspeeding through visual and audio means. It also comes with a forward collision prevention system that alerts the driver about a probable collision with a four-wheeler, two-wheeler or a pedestrian when the gap becomes too close. In case the driver takes no action on the alert then the vehicle applies autonomous deceleration.
Considering the requirement of the light required, intelligent headlamp control recommends activating and deactivating the high beam depending on the traffic and environment situation to obtain optimal usage of headlights while driving at night. With all these features and a few more in the cards, MG has demonstrated its Autonomous Level 2 capability in the Astor.
MG has partnered with homegrown blockchain firm Koinearth, to record the data into something called a ‘Digital Passport’. For the customer, the digital passport is simply an interface on the app, which shows the data the car has recorded. The platform will include the auto-maker, insurance firms and even resellers, to use this data for future decisions. For instance, insurance premiums for a good driver can be lower than that of someone whose Passport data shows that they drive more recklessly. Similarly, when the customer sells their car in future, service records etc. can be stored on the Passport to help determine the resale value.
The twin dials that were on the ZS EV are now with the digital display in the Astor, which gives you a whole lot of information. And I must say in terms of treatment, it’s quite nice and neatly laid out and the information is quite easy to pick up.
Now in terms of the seats, they are quite broad. It’s really broad, so taller, bigger people would feel quite comfortable as well. The steering wheel too looks nice, it’s got this little perforated leather wrapping and a flattish bottom. The rear is pretty much the same, as the ZS EV. There’s a lot of space for people of average height. There’s a nice place to stretch out and the headroom two is generous. In terms of features, what I’m sure owners would love is this really large panoramic sunroof.
The seating position is also comfortable and it does appear more natural compared to the slight knees-up posture in the ZS EV, which was to make space for the batteries below. Other features are rear AC vents, twin USBs, as well as a flip-down armrest with some integrated cup holders.
Like the Skoda Kushaq and Volkswagen Taigun, the Astor will only be petrol driven. Astor comes with a choice of two engines and an entry 1498cc naturally aspirated engine developing 110hp and 144Nm, and a more powerful, 1349cc turbocharged engine that churns out 140hp and 220Nm. The 1.5 litre has a 5-speed manual gearbox and an 8-step CVT automatic, while the Turbo is available only with a 6-speed automatic torque converter. We drove the three-cylinder turbo engine and I would say it is responsive and smooth. The 6-speed automatic torque converter complements the turbo engine very well and gives a comfortable feel especially in day-to-day traffic. The engine is a bit noisy inside the cabin and MG could have done some more insulation to avoid it.
The suspension is on the softer side, which means it offers good comfort on the normal roads but at the same time we felt some body roll and discomfort over speed breakers. Interestingly the steering comes with three modes: Normal, Urban and Dynamic but the normal mode does the job for most of the conditions. So what else? MG has ticked most boxes and only one is pending, which is the price. If you are entering into the midsize SUV it has to be cost-competitive and tech loaded. MG has provided ample tech now we need to wait and watch on the price announcement. If MG is pricing Astor competitively, it can surely give a tough fight to the Creta, Seltos, Kushaq and Taigun.