By : RACHNA TYAGI
GREATER NOIDA :
Each time MG Motor announces a new car, excitement levels amongst new car buyers reaches a frenzy of sorts. While a big reason for that is because MG Motor has walked the talk by successfully delivering three products in 18 months and is now gearing up for the launch of its fourth product, the much-awaited MG Astor, happening within 24 months of their arrival in India, the main reason should be attributed to all the new Tech that MG packs into their cars, making them truly a Technophile’s delight. And that is why, car buyers seeking the latest Tech on their cars, especially the ones who love doing brochure-to-brochure comparisons, find it easier to further narrow down their options before finally putting money down on their big purchase. Recently, at the Buddh International Circuit (BIC), in Greater Noida, we got our hands on the shiny, new MG Astor where we managed a few laps and here’s what we think of it…
You may remember the MG ZS EV that we reviewed in December 2019 which we were rather chuffed about, well, the MG Astor, is the same ZS minus the EV but with a few aesthetic changes and some cool new features. What that means is while a few things remain the same, a bunch of changes have been carried out on the inside and the outside and voila, you have a brand-new offering! So, instead of the Electric Vehicle (EV) what you get is an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicle which in this case happens to be petrol. The grille that MG calls “the celestial grille,” stands out and is slightly different from the one that we saw on the ZS EV. In fact, this one is more prominent but what is missing here is the charging socket behind the large MG logo, on account of it being a petrol model. Also, the headlamps are different on the Astor and are more boomerang shaped as compared to the circular ones that we saw on the ZS EV. While we like them both, it must be said that the ones on the Astor look fresher and add to its overall appeal. The fog lamp design is also slightly different and instead of the mesh design that we saw on the ZS EV, what we now get is a split design which isn’t bad looking at all. Below the MG logo, in the middle of the celestial grille, sits a tiny camera, rather discreetly, and below the celestial grille, in the lower half of the bumper, sits a radar that assists in Autonomous driving (Level 2) which the Astor comes with. The red brake calipers add a dash of sportiness to the Astor’s styling and the panoramic sunroof which covers 90% of the Astor’s roof further adds to its overall appeal. The Astor also gets chunky roofrails, which in our opinion feel solid and look rather good. The rear gets the MG Astor badging, the ZS badging as well as the ADAS badging, not to mention the most gorgeous tail lamps with segmented lighting that look really upmarket and stylish. The lower part of the rear bumper also gets sensors and radars that assist you in driving safely.
We also quite like the side profile of the Astor and when viewed from this angle, it certainly looks all set to take on competition, in the form of Hyundai Creta, Kia Seltos, Nissan Kicks, Skoda Kushaq and VW Taigun. MG has also ensured that the Astor gets the ‘Brit Dynamic’ badging on the sides, lest you forget its origins.
One big tech feature that we really dig on the Astor is that it is actually possible to get into your Astor even if you have forgotten your car key upstairs at home/office and are in no mood to go back and get it. Thanks to Bluetooth, on your smartphone, you can not only easily enter your Astor but also actually start driving it sans the physical key. The reason why this has been enabled via Bluetooth is so that you don’t have to rely on bad/fluctuating network signals especially in places such as basement parking areas that may possibly restrict your entry into your Astor. With Bluetooth available at all times, you’re all set 24/7. (Just make sure your phone is adequately charged). A really cool tech feature, we say. In fact, often when women fumble for car keys in their large tote bags, especially in dark, poorly illuminated and unsafe parking areas, this is a super handy feature to just unlock your Astor, as you near it, jump in and just drive away without having to fish your key fob out of your tote bag, at all. Full points to MG for equipping the Astor with this really useful feature which can be really useful in different situations.
Inside, our red Astor came with Sangria red interiors. Whether you like red interiors or not frankly depends on you but the guys at MG have offered two more options, black and ivory, so that you can take your pick. The dash and the door pads use a lot of soft touch materials and the cabin looks clean, elegant and comes with a non-fussy and practical design.
The electrically adjustable driver’s seat is just the right amount of firm and we really enjoyed the experience of being seated in it while driving the Astor around at the BIC, however, we wish that the Astor had come with ventilated seats.
Nevertheless, we’ll wait for MG to introduce it in the next edition. Having said that, the rear seats are also comfortable and spacious and friends and family should be able to travel long distances comfortably in the Astor with sufficient head and leg room. Of course, the Astor can seat five but ifyou really want to travel comfortably, it is best to ensure that the fifth passenger is a child, who will also be very comfortable in the rear seat.
The dash gets a very good infotainment system that isn’t as large as the MG Hector but is in proportion with the Astor and it comes with a very slick display that gives out plenty of information to the driver. In fact, MG has loaded the Astor with so much Tech that you’ll rarely, if ever, feel alone while driving it, thanks to Artificial Intelligence (AI) inside. But then how does AI really work? Well, for starters, we ran a very simple test during one of our laps around BIC, where we asked the little robot (AI Assistant) that sits on the dash “Hey Astor, who is Madonna?” And it instantly looked in the direction of my voice and embarked on a rather long monologue telling me everything about Madonna and her career which was enough to put a big smile on my face.
The instrument cluster also looks classy and gives the driver all car-related information at a glance. We wish MG had given wireless charging also instead what you get are two USB ports upfront to plug in your cables and two USB-C ports for the convenience of the rear seat passengers.
We absolutely loved the bright backlit display on the small knobs and buttons especially on the door pad of the Astor. It shows that MG has paid attention to the smallest of details and not neglected this area by providing dim lighting here which can often be a pain point in many vehicles.
The Astor comes with two engine options, 4-cylinder, 1.5-liter (1498cc), 5-Speed MT and CVT that churns out 110 bhp @ 6000rpm and 144 Nm of torque @4400rpm as well as a 3-cylinder, 1.4-liter (1349cc), 6-Speed AT that churns out 140 bhp @5600rpm and 220 Nm @3600rpm of torque.
After driving the Astor at BIC, one thing is certain – the Astor is not something that you’ll pick if you like living life on the edge, instead this is what you’ll pick for yourself and your family when you’re thinking ‘safety’ because it is packed to the gills with features, that will ensure you stay safe while out on our roads. In fact, this is the vehicle that you’ll pick to drive your family and friends out on long leisurely drives, out of town, during those long weekends, savouring precious moments with them, in the comfort of the Astor, while making the most of all the Tech onboard. We couldn’t test the Astor for ride quality because we were driving it on the race track which is hardly pock-marked, but we are happy to report that the Astor’s steering is light, direct, and easy to maneuver and MG has even offered three different steering modes – Dynamic, Normal and Urban that give you a different feel while driving it in those respective modes. Also, the Astor’s brakes did a very good job when it came to stopping, a big requirement in our traffic conditions.
The Astor has a bunch of radar and AI-related Tech onboard, all of which we are really excited to explore in greater detail and can do when we do get to spend more time with it but for now let’s just say that whatever we tried on the Astor, we were pretty pleased with. Some features such as Adaptive Cruise Control may take some people some time to get used to, but it is definitely a great feature to have and you only need to get the hang of it. Warning about an approaching car in the blind spot detection is also something that we really liked and is a feature that we feel is super useful for many of us on an everyday basis whilst driving on our roads. It is smart features like this that makes the Astor a really tech-savvy offering and one of the joys of owning it will be familiarizing yourself with these rich features and making them a part of your everyday life thereby enhancing your driving experience furthermore.
In terms of safety, the Astor comes with 6 airbags, ABS, Traction Control, Hill Descent Control, Rear Disc Brakes as well as ADAS (Level 2). (We didn’t get a chance to test all the ADAS features because of paucity of time but we did test many of them when we drove the MG Gloster, in October 2020, except that the Astor now comes with Level 2 features, which we’re sure do an even better job.) MG has equipped the Astor with a bunch of Tech features and provided the owners of the Astor with the latest Technology to ensure that the risk of accidents is minimized. It is really up to the Astor owners to make the most of the Tech that has been provided onboard and integrate it in their daily driving lives.
Overall, the Astor is good looking and in certain colours it looks even better. With all the Tech that MG has managed to install onboard, it is all set to provide some serious competition to its rivals. There is little doubt that the Astor will do well, however, pricing is key. Sure, there is a lot of Tech onboard but hopefully, it won’t translate into steep pricing because at the end of the day all the Tech is there for a purpose – to simplify life and also save lives in the event of unfortunate accidents and to minimize damage. Therefore, it is vital that more and more people have access to such advanced Technologies and MG would do well to price it with their hearts instead of their heads.
As for you, dear reader, if you’re not the types who fancies sliding his/her car to work and back, on a daily basis, then the Astor, is definitely something that you should be checking out. It’s a great size, comes packed with some really advanced Tech features and most importantly – makes you look good. Need I say more?