MG Astor: First Impressions Review
The ZS EV gets a petrol-powered cousin that slugs it out with the best-selling SUVs in the country. Should you consider buying one?
MG’s Astor is set to boldly foray into the cut-throat compact SUV space. Set to launch in the first week of October, this SUV will go head to head against established names like the Hyundai Creta and Kia Seltos as well as newbies like the Skoda Kushaq and the Volkswagen Taigun.
We got to spend a few hours with the Astor post its global unveiling. Does the in-person experience match the buzz it has created online?
MG is quick to point out that the new Astor is the longest, tallest, and widest SUV in its class. The wheelbase, however, is the shortest. In person, the Astor looks like a classy compact SUV.
While it might not have the upright, in-your-face styling that the Seltos and Creta do, it has a calm and composed vibe to it. The defining character lines on the bonnet flow down towards the nose, where a unique ‘celestial’ grille takes centre stage. This facelift to the ZS has sharper styling elements, including the full-LED headlamps with eye-brow-shaped daytime running lamps.
We like how MG hasn’t gone overboard here. For instance, the surround for the grille is finished in a sombre matte silver shade. The chrome on the grille itself isn’t the blingy variety, but closer to what you’d call ‘dark chrome’. There’s clever gloss black honeycomb detailing in the fog lamp surrounds as well as the air dam.
The side keeps it clean and simple too, with the two-tone 17-inch alloy wheels grabbing attention. You’d also spot ‘Brit Dynamic’ branding on the fenders, a nod to MG’s British origins, whereas the right door sports a ‘AI Inside’ badge. Note the red brake callipers too (both front and rear) — these will be exclusive to the Turbo variants. It gets some interesting details as well, such as a contrast colour for the ORVM and shark fin antenna, a matte silver finish for the roof rails, and a dab of chrome for the door handles.
MG has kept the design simple at the rear too, save for the badging that might make the tail gate seem busy to some. The tail lamps’ lighting signature mimics the daytime running lamps, a cool touch! We would’ve loved to see some sweet twin-tip exhausts stick out of the bumper, at least for this ‘sporty’ version.
The Astor has a strong presence, backed by a feeling of solidity. Consistent shut lines and reassuring thuds from the door make you feel this SUV is built well.
Inside too, MG hopes to wow you with quality. It’s upping the game in the segment with a soft-touch dashboard top and loads of leatherette on the dash, centre console, and door pads. This is a welcome change from the hard textured plastic that rivals see an overload of. Plastics used on top of the door pads and the quality of switches on the centre console all point towards a polished product.
The layered dash stands out in this red-and-black combination. MG will also offer an ivory/black and an all-black combo, although it remains to be seen if it’s reserved for certain engine options/variants.
The colour combination is carried over to the seats too, which feature seriously prominent contouring. For anyone of regular/fit build, these seats will hug you nicely. If you’ve put on some weight through the lockdowns, you might spill out of the seats. Supportive and comfy as it is, the driver’s seat is perched high, giving you that much-needed tall driving position you associate with an SUV.
For six-footers, sitting behind a six-foot driver isn’t an issue at all. There’s a healthy amount of knee room to spare, loads of foot room, and headroom as well. Underthigh support is acceptable, and so is the recline. Here too, the heavy contouring on the seats means passengers seated on the sides get great support. There’s enough width for a third occupant, and MG has thoughtfully bundled in a third headrest and proper seat belt too. But we’d rather flip the armrest down and use the Astor as a comfy four-seater.
MG hasn’t officially put a number on the Astor’s boot capacity. However, you should be able to carry a couple of overnight trolley bags for that weekend trip quite comfortably. There’s a 60:40 split-seat function too, should you need to transport large items.
Features and Technology
With the top-spec Astor, you get a host of features, practically all you need from a car that costs as much:
10.1-inch touchscreen: The infotainment system gets wired Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Lower variants are likely to get a smaller screen, but the connectivity apps will be standard. The screen is easy to use, and the bugs/lag from the Hector have been ironed out too. A 6-speaker audio system is on offer, but there’s no ‘Infinity’ branding here like the Hector.
7-inch digital driver’s display: It’s crisp and easy to read. You can toggle through data using the buttons on the steering wheel. The speedometer and tachometer are digital too.
Panoramic sunroof: This huge slab of glass extends all the way beyond the rear seats. Ups the sense of space in the cabin immensely.
AI Assistant: This cute little robot on top of the dash turns towards you when you talk to it. It can ‘emote’ too. It’s a cool way of personifying voice commands, and is something we think the kids will love. It can fetch information from Wikipedia, control car functions (like audio, air-conditioning and sunroof), and tell you jokes too.
Level 2 Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS): Developed by Bosch, the Astor gets adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, blind spot detection, forward collision warning, and rear cross traffic assist. There’s auto emergency braking that detects vehicles as well as pedestrians.
Bluetooth Digital Key: Once you’ve authenticated your key, the phone app can basically replace it. You can lock/unlock your vehicle using the app and also drive away. The underlying principle is that the vehicle recognizes the phone as a trusted device. We’d recommend you use this only in emergencies though!
360° Camera: The resolution could’ve been better, and graphics on the screen look low-res too.
Other features include keyless entry, push-button start, auto headlamps, automatic climate control, rear AC vents, and a 6-way power adjust for the driver’s seat.
What’s missing? At the same price point, rivals offer features such as ventilated seats, wireless charging, ambient lighting, and a head-up display.
The MG Astor will get four disc brakes, electronic stability control, and hill descent control across the range. Top-spec variants get six airbags, tyre pressure monitoring, and ISOFIX child seat mounts. The India-spec Astor has not been crash-tested yet by an independent authority like the Global NCAP.
Much like all its rivals, the MG Astor will be available with a pair of petrol engines. For commuters, the go-to choice is likely to be the 1.5-litre petrol motor that makes 110PS and 144Nm. Transmission options include a 5-speed manual and an 8-step CVT. Enthusiasts might want to test drive the 1.3-litre turbo motor that dishes out a tempting 140PS and 220Nm. A 6-speed automatic is your only choice with this engine. There’s no diesel option here, but there’s an electric alternative.
The Astor experience was a pleasant surprise. MG’s focus has been on quality and tech, and it shows. If you’re eyeing this SUV, here are three reasons why it’d suit you:
You appreciate a good build. A solid feel on the exterior and the finesse inside matter to you.
You want the latest ADAS technology: not just because you think it’s cool to have a car that can practically drive itself, but because you believe it makes your drives safer.
You prefer staying lowkey and want an SUV that mimics that vibe, not one that comes across as a loud show-off.
There are two unknowns for now, both crucial to the Astor’s fate in the market. First, the drive and ride/handling package needs to be nailed down. Second, pricing. MG is known to pull rabbits out of hats, and we’re keen to see how the Astor is positioned. We’re expecting prices between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 17.5 lakh, unless MG throws in a surprise in October.
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