MG Astor is gearing up for an imminent market debut and we have had a quick glance at it. Here are our thoughts
Words: Neeraj Padmakumar Photography: Sarath S
What Is It?
Morris Garages pitches the Astor as a worthy C SUV, a strong Creta rival to be more specific. It is essentially the petrol-powered version of MG ZS EV. However, it is based on the facelifted global ZS platform, hinting at a possible upper hand over the ZS EV that is currently on sale here.
It Looks Fresh!
The Astor looks fresh in the Indian context, as the ZS EV available here is the pre-facelift model, thus missing out on many of the latest MG design ethos. The Astor thus has a fair amount of freshness in terms of design. It has in fact, high degrees of aesthetic appeal, and is based on MG's new-age 'Emotional Dynamism' design philosophy.'
Many of the design cues on the Astor, the grille to cite an example, come straight from the global car. The hexagonal grille, has a similar shape as the one on the global car, but differs in its detailing. While the global ZS has it with Black honeycomb elements, the Astor gets significantly more striking 'Celestial grille design' with prominent touches of Chrome. The all-LED headlamps too have handsome designs to them, and are said to have taken inspiration from 'hawk eye' or 'the eyes of a hunting eagle'. Astor has this 'sharpness' in many areas of its design. The headlamps get powerful LED units and magnificent crystal elements inside and integrated Boomerang-shaped DRLs. The front bumpers look handsome and boast multiple touches of gloss Black.
The overall silhouette would remind you of the ZS EV. However, a deeper design analysis would reveal a few key changes. The shoulder line on this car rises towards the rear in the most heart-warming fashion, similar to a leaping leopard! This 'Leopard jump line' seems to have taken inspiration from classic British sportscars (Remember seeing similar ones on old Jaguars?) and adds a sense of dynamism to the profile. The roof rails come finished in Grey and the 17-inch alloy wheels have their designs inspired by turbines! The car runs on 215/55 tyres.
The rear looks quite European. It has a pleasing tailgate design, tail lamps with LED elements identical to those at the front, (obvious) pool of badges spread across the tailgate- 'Astor', 'ZS' and 'ADAS', and a bumper that gets a faux skid plate and faux dual exhausts (with the actual tailpipe hidden under the vehicle!).
Quick opinion: As with many other MGs, too many badges hamper the overall aesthetics of the Astor as well. You get to see tonnes of badges on this car- Brit Dynamic, AI Inside, ADAS, Astor, and ZS. The total number of badges on this car is more than its seating capacity! Seriously? Please consider minimalism for these MG...
The overall design and layout of the Astor's cabin remain identical to those of the ZS EV. This car gets 3 interior color schemes to choose from -2 tone Sangria red, 2 tone Iconic Ivory, and Tuxedo Black. The dual-tone Sangria Red is the plushest of these. The fit, finish and material quality are top-notch. There is generous use of leatherette- on the seats, door pads, dash and several other places. Soft-touch materials with premium stitching can be found on the top of the dash as well. The look and feel are quite European.';
There are a plethora of features on offer, like a 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment unit with good quality audio, electronic parking brake with auto hold, motorized driver seat, all-digital instrument cluster with a 7 inch central LCD unit, air purification system with PM 2.5 filter, rear AC vents, and a panoramic sunroof that covers 90% of the net roof area. Things like ventilated seats and wireless charger have, however, been omitted.
The seats offer ample comfort. Legroom and headroom at the rear are quite good. The rear seat angle could have been slightly more relaxed and the thigh support too, could have improved. There are multiple storage spaces on the inside and the boot is decently sized. The spare wheel, which has a 16-inch steel rim, has minimal impact on the usable boot space.
AI Inside: Better Voice Recognition And More Commands!
Voice-based functions have been the cream of almost all MG cars in India. MG uses its iSMART technology for facilitating voice-based operations and effective voice recognition. Things get sweeter on the Astor as the iSMART here, gets smarter with the inclusion of Artificial Intelligence. The AI engine uses machine learning to learn and adapt to individual accents and facilitate more efficient voice recognition. A number of new commands have also been added to the system and there is the Chit-chat function that had premiered on the Hector Plus. The AI engine can recognize Hindi, English, and Hinglish.
To make the human-machine interaction more soothing, in other words, to provide a 'more human' experience to the occupants, the engine now ditches the previous machine voice and uses Paralympic athlete and Arjuna Award winner Deepa Malik's voice instead. Also, it now has a tiny screen sit atop the dash called the personal AI assistant. This unit has a pair of 'highly expressive eyes' to give the user a better connect, and can even detect the speaker and rotate to face him/her as a gesture of being attentive, a really pleasing touch! MG India has partnered with Jio for the e-SIMs that fuel the AI and other internet features onboard the Astor.
Infotainment And Other Tech
The 10.1-inch touchscreen offers great touch-response and highly improved software compared to the previous MGs. It has a light interface and large cinematic display with an optimum angle to suit both the driver and co-driver alike. The unit gets Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and 80+ internet features! There is direct integration of Shortpedia, while news can also be had via Microsoft Bing. The system can also pull out any piece of information from Wikipedia upon request and there are the likes of MapMyIndia based navigation, Park+, and a few subscription services. Jio Saavan now replaces Gaana, and has more podcast content on offer.
The Astor also offers a Blockchain-based digital vehicle passport by KoineArth, which would be useful in the long run! Another interesting feature is the smartphone-based ignition. You can use the authorized iSmart application as the ignition key, lifting the necessity of having the key fob handy.
Level 2 ADAS
Advanced Driver Assist System (ADAS) had debuted in India through the MG Gloster, which had the level 1 autonomous driving tech. The Astor takes things further ahead and comes with level 2 ADAS. We had recently seen level 2 ADAS on the Mahindra XUV700 as well. Sourced from Bosch, Astor's ADAS uses 6 mid-range radars and 5 cameras to facilitate 14 ADAS features including Lane Keep Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Departure Prevention, Speed Assist, Emergency Braking and more.
Engine, Transmission And Other Mechanicals
MG Astor will be available with two different engines and 3 transmissions- a 1498 cc naturally aspirated petrol engine with 110 hp and 144 Nm, and a 1349 cc turbocharged petrol with 140 hp and 220 Nm. The NA petrol will have both manual and 8 speed CVT gearboxes on offer while the turbo-petrol will come mated just to a 6 AT. Having no diesels on offer at the moment can be a concern considering the diesel market shares in the C SUV segment. However, MG could launch a diesel Astor in the future, is what my gut says!
The car gets disc brakes for all wheels. Other safety features include multiple airbags, Traction control, ABS, EBD, Hill Descent Control etc. The ZS platform as such is quite crash-worthy as well.
Price It Right!
MG India will launch this car in the coming weeks, and all it needs to make a boom in sales is the right price tag. The Astor is a close pitch at the Creta (and obviously the Seltos too). The Creta prices start at Rs 10.16 lakh (ex-sh) and the Seltos starts at Rs 9.95 lakh (ex-sh). If MG could pull off the entry price somewhere close, this car can do wonders, maybe a sub-10 lakh entry price and a maximum of 17.5 lakh for the top-spec turbo would do. While we are yet to get any official confirmation, we think MG Motor India will price this product aggressively. Fingers crossed...