MG Hector Plus Diesel MT: First Drive Review
- 4050 Views
- Write a comment
The Hector Plus promises a ‘Plus’ experience within an added row for more company. It even goes the extra mile and gets feature and cosmetic updates. Do any of these make a strong enough reason for you to spend the extra money?
The MG Hector is one of the most loaded SUVs in its segment. Be it in terms of features, powertrain options or the sheer size of the thing, the Hector has it all. Well... apart from a third-row of seats. That has now been fixed in the form of the Hector Plus. And MG has not just plonked a third row in the boot but also made sufficient changes all around to justify calling it a ‘Plus’. We got the Hector Plus for a couple of hours to figure out if the changes and feature additions have improved the SUV.
- Name: Hector Plus
- Variant: Sharp
- Powertrain: 2.0-litre Diesel MT
- Price: Rs 18.54 lakh (ex-showroom India)
MG has been smart while redoing the face for the Hector Plus. While there are no new features, it still manages to have a separate and more classy personality. The big MG grille is now frameless and gets small chrome accents, like Mercedes’ diamond grille. This helps tone down the more in-your-face design of the standard Hector. However, there is no lack of bling as you still get a more detailed LED DRL, new headlamps, fog lamps and a repositioned dynamic turn indicator. These changes retain the typical Hector elements while making it easy for you to differentiate the two.
From the side, the only change is that the SUV is now longer by 65mm. The extra length is due to the revised bumpers and does not make a difference in the interior space. The height, width and the wheelbase are still shared with the Hector. However, what MG should have changed are the 215/60 17-inch wheels. They still look a tad bit small on the bulky design and the alloy is also the same as the Hector. This sweet blue colour, however, is new and exclusive to the Plus.
At the rear, you get a proper refresh. The boot gate is new and gone is the red plastic “connecting” the taillamps. The detail I really liked is in the new tail lamp. The elements are detailed and the dynamic indicators get multiple layers, which look even cooler. The new, more sporty bumper houses fake exhaust vents, which is a silly trend. However, MG should have put more effort into hiding the actual exhaust to pull off the look.
Overall, the Hector Plus is easily distinguishable from the Hector when viewed from the front or rear and looks more premium and classy.
From the driver’s seat, the only thing new to notice is the dual-tone dashboard. The earlier black accent is now brown to match the new brown leatherette upholstery. Apart from that, things remain the same. You get a nice and chunky leather-wrapped steering, a 7-inch digital instrument cluster, and a 10.4-inch touchscreen in a minimalistic layout.
In terms of features, MG has added a new ‘Chit-Chat’ function to the infotainment system. This is similar (in theory) to the one Mercedes has on its MBUX systems. However, the one here is not very polished. In our tests, the voice assistant kept giving us random answers or current location for multiple questions like “how are you?”, “how am I looking?” and “where are you from?” The only one it could get right consistently was “are you alive?”. And for that too, the answer wasn’t quirky enough. And to know what that is, check out our video review. MG could have polished this feature more before rolling it out in the car.
The cabin remains fairly loaded with features. You get eight colour ambient lights, power-adjustable seats for the driver and co-driver, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 55+ connected car features, a brilliant 8-speaker Infinity sound system, heated ORVMs, auto headlamps and rain-sensing wipers. The touchscreen experience feels better than before with less latency in operation.
The addition of a third row has helped MG make the second row even plusher with the help of captain seats. These seats are well-bolstered and get individual armrests as well. This makes them a lot more comfortable than the usual bench seat. Plus, you can slide and recline them. Pushing them all the way back opens tonnes of legroom to stretch out for someone my height (5’7”). Recline them a bit more and this makes for a very comfortable long-distance traveller. Plus, if you are usually chauffeured around, the backseat now is the ideal place to be in. Adjustable headrests further help the comfort factor and headroom, despite the panoramic sunroof, is plenty.
Another thing you will appreciate is the airiness of the cabin. Large windows, a low widow line and the massive sunroof make for a very open cabin. The brown leatherette upholstery further helps open it up visually. Practicality aspect is taken care of by a USB charger, rear AC vents, storage space in the centre console and bottle holders in the doors. The only thing missing here are window shades and cup holders, both of which would have elevated the captain seat experience to a higher level.
Access to the third row is tricky and hasn’t been well thought out. The second-row seats only recline and slide forward, they don't tumble. This means you have barely a few inches of clearance between the door and the captain seats. Getting directly into the third row is not advised for any and all ages. The way you have to get in then is by walking in between the captain seats.
At the back, given the middle row has been adjusted for someone my height, there is just enough room for me to squeeze in. Width is enough for even two regular-sized adults to sit side by side. Knee room and legroom for the third row are adequate. But with the feet tucked below the middle row seats, you sit pointing outwards, and that makes it a bit uncomfortable. Adults will have to keep a leg in the aisle between the captain seats to get comfortable. Also, the seats are low and you sit knees up, something which will tire you in longer journeys. Another issue here is outside visibility. The windows are small and higher up, making you feel a bit cooped up. Overall, these seats can seat kids and it’s best if the adults stick to the captain seats.
As far as features are concerned, MG has given a fair bit of attention to the third-row passengers as well. They get cup holders, a USB charger and their very own AC vents with a fan speed controller. The placement of these vents, however, makes them a bit tricky to adjust. On the plus side, the third row does get three-point seatbelts and adjustable headrests.
The Hector’s boot, at 587-litres, was plenty for the weekend luggage. Luckily, the third-row hasn’t eaten too much of that space when folded down. At 530-litres, you will still manage to keep all kinds of bags and suitcases with ease in the boot. With the third row up, you only get 155-litres, good for a couple of small bags and a small suitcase.
This time around, you also get the smart swipe feature. Just kick an imaginary ball out from underneath the rear bumper and the electric tailgate opens up. This function works 7 out of 10 times and is quite handy if your hands are full with heavy bags, and you cannot raise them even slightly to press a button. Or, you are just looking to show off.
The Hector always had a good safety kit on offer, and MG hasn’t tinkered it any way for the Hector Plus. So you get 6 airbags, ABS with EBD, front and rear parking sensors, 360-degree camera, traction control, Electronic Stability Program, Hill Hold, ISOFIX child seat anchors, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System and all-wheel disc brakes. The SUV has not been tested by Global NCAP for a crash test score yet.
Engine And Performance
Engine and transmission options get no new additions. You can pick a 1.5-litre turbo petrol with a manual or a DCT automatic. The same turbo-petrol is available with a 48-volt hybrid setup and gets a manual transmission. Or you could pick the 2.0-litre diesel with a 6-speed manual. No option for a diesel automatic yet. Power and torque figures are exactly the same as the Hector as well. We only got to experience the diesel in our first-drive.
The 170PS, 350Nm diesel is a punchy motor and feels at home both in the city and on the highway. Sound and vibration levels are kept in check and while it is not the most refined version of the Fiat-sourced engine we have driven, it won’t leave you complaining either. Overtakes in the city are handled with ease and the motor proves to be plenty tractable as well. However, the gear shifts are a bit clunky and take a conscious effort to shift. Plus, the clutch is a bit heavy and will make you regret missing leg day in bumper to bumper traffic (if such a thing exists anymore). And then there is a tendency to stall while applying the throttle after overcoming a minor undulation.
On the highway, it manages triple-digit speeds with ease and doesn’t feel tired or out of breath until you are seriously pushing it. And even with six people on board, this engine should not struggle in any situation. As the diesel experience is exactly the same as the Hector, it’s safe to assume the petrol is going to be the same as well. To read how they drive, check out our Hector First Drive Review.
Ride and Handling
The ride has always been a strong suit of the Hector. And I am glad to report that things are the same here. The suspension is softly sprung and tuned for Indian roads. As a result, it gobbles up speed breakers and broken roads effortlessly. Inside the city, at speeds of up to 40-50kmph, the Hector offers a very comfortable ride. But increase the speed a bit and it starts to roll. Plus there is a fair bit of side to side movement as well. It takes a while to settle back too, which you will have to get used to.
Naturally, with such a tall car and a soft setup, there is going to be roll. The Hector isn’t shy about letting its body roll in corners, but it settles and doesn’t become scary. The steering feedback is very car-like and tuned to minimise effort, and not read the tyres. However, if you still decide to have a bit of fun, the tyres do offer good grip to give you a bit of confidence.
Now here’s the tricky part. The MG Hector Plus is priced between Rs 13.49 lakh and Rs 18.54 lakh (ex-showroom, India). This is a premium of up to Rs 65,000 over the corresponding Hector variants. However, these are introductory prices and are said to be valid till August 13 after which the variant-wise prices will go up by up to Rs 50,000.
The Hector Plus definitely is a Plus to the Hector. The middle row seating is the biggest upgrade here and is surely the most important one in terms of improving the cabin experience. The last row can seat kids and gets ample features as well. The new features that have been added are a bit gimmicky and don’t really add value to the overall package. Finally, the looks. They are definitely more sober and classy as compared to the Hector, and will be preferred by more sophisticated buyers. The drive experience and the ride quality remain likeable. Bigger wheels and finishing touches to the middle row like window shades, cup holders and tumbling seats would have surely made this THE pick in the Hector family.
With its new price, the Hector Plus offers a better overall experience and should be the pick if you have narrowed down to get the Hector for your family. But at this price, you land in Toyota Innova’s territory, an MPV which has proven to be the benchmark for 6/7 seaters in the country time and again. Something worth checking out if it's space and comfort for the family that you are looking for.