MG Astor to launch next month – Here’s the first drive review from BIC
Since its arrival in the country, MG Motor has been very selective about the segment it wants to operate in. It chose the SUV segment, which was the fastest growing segment in the Indian automotive industry. Now, to increase its presence in the segment and in the country, MG has now decided to foray into one of the largest sub-segments, that of compact SUVs. However, the challenge before it is that due to the demand, it is also a very crowded place.
We were recently invited to the media drive for the upcoming Astor from MG and we’ll try to tell you what MG is up to. For beginners, the MG Astor is basically a facelift of the MG ZS. In fact, it even gets a ZS badge on the boot lid. In India, MG already sells the facelifted 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 definitely catches your attention (for all the right reasons) is the front grille, which in MG’s terminology is called the Celestial Grille. It also gets an all-new full LED headlamp, LED tail-lamps, dual tone 17-inch alloy wheels and a busy rear with multiple badging.
As far as the dimensions are concerned, the Astor is taller, wider and taller than all its competitors. This translates into increased space on the inside, which makes it a comfortable place to stay inside. The level of seating comfort is good for the front seats and so is the case with the second row of seats. Leg-room, shoulder room, knee room will not be a concern for any regular sized person.
On the inside, MG is offering multiple color themes. What MG has used for all the promotions is the dual tone Sangria Red color scheme, which you will see in the pictures as well. If you are like us and red is too bold for your taste, MG will also offer a subtle color palette like distinctive black/beige etc.
The interior quality is excellent and the cabin space makes you feel like you are sitting in a luxury car. There is almost no presence of cost-cutting inspired rigid plastic panels anywhere in the cabin. As for the exteriors, 5 shades are 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 offer the Astor with 2 engine options, both of which will be petrol. These include a 1.5-litre naturally aspirated motor that will be capable of producing 110 PS and 144 Nm of peak torque. The other offering will be a 1.35-litre turbo motor that will put out 140 PS and 220 Nm of peak torque. The 1.5-litre motor will be offered with a 5-speed MT and CVT, while the turbo engine option will get a 6-speed AT setup as standard.
For the media drive, we came across a turbo motor, which was paired with a 6-speed AT. The engine and gearbox combination is responsive and suitable for typical Indian traffic, be it in the city or on the highway. Sports mode lets you explore the more aggressive side of the Astor, which can be helpful if you’re planning some quick overtakes or if you want to have some fun on the pier section. After driving the ZS EV, we partially missed the acceleration punch that an electric motor can provide. However, there are no complaints about the overall combination.
MG is also offering the drivers an option to modify the steering feedback feel as per their preference. There are 3 modes on offer, Urban – Normal and Dynamic, suitable for bumper to bumper traffic. The functionality to re-calibrate the EPS as per preference is really useful as it allows the driver to feel more confident when needed and not unnecessarily make a heavy traffic day as his arms day.
The suspension setup is partly on the stiffer side, which helped in controlling the body roll extensively. Braking power is adequate, thanks to 4 disc brakes. However, it could have been better if the brake bite had been stronger.
Technology and Features
It would be an understatement if we say that like most MGs, the Astor is packed with a lot of technical features. Astor’s list of features may have a dedicated 2,000-word story, but there’s still a chance we might skip a few. While most of the features are useful, some are even partially gimmicky, but then, if they help MG woo customers, they are extremely useful for MG.
The Astor is being marketed with the tag-line of ‘The AI Affair’, and MG calls it 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 the Astor. You can talk to it, ask it to do the work for you (eg, open or close the sunroof), ask Wikipedia for some information, or just joke. You can think of it as the MG design version of Alexa/Google Assistant/Siri, which can also do car-related stuff.
Our experience with the AI assistant was not great and we felt it could have been better if MG had collaborated with Alexa/Google. The problem could also have happened because we were testing the car in Greater Noida, which is known for connectivity issues, so we wouldn’t want to discount that fact.
While the face-changing robotic AI could have been more on the gimmicky side of things, Astor comes with loads of technology that is really helpful. For example, it gets an 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 can experience most of the above and we can really feel the difference these features can make to make the drive experience safer and more comfortable.
Other features like spacious panoramic sunroof, digital Bluetooth enabled smart key, full digital instrument cluster, 5-USB charging port, auto AC, rain sensing wipers, 25.7 cm-touchscreen infotainment system, connected car app etc. All add up to be perfect ingredients for success in the Indian car market.
The top trim of the Astor will get a host of 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 ORVM and much more. NCAP safety ratings are not yet available for Astor.
It is a known fact that in consumer or customer-ended businesses, if you want to compete and win against something that is already ‘Ultimate’ or ‘BadAss’, you don’t have too many options. You have just 2 paths, be better than the competition and be competitive in terms of pricing.
In our opinion, MG has at least made the first run with a product that beats the competition. And if history can be used for context, MG has been known to ditch the competition in terms of pricing. So, if the Astor is priced right, the Indian market may get a new SUV that will be the ‘badsly ultimate’.