Getting up close with the all new MG Astor ...
Words: Neeraj Padmakumar Photography: Sarath S
It was recently that Morris Garages took veils off its upcoming product-the C segment SUV, MG Astor. Falling directly into a highly competitive segment, the Astor has its own set of roses to flaunt! Consider the Astor to be the petrol-guise of the familiar ZS EV. The design, features, and engines- all feel fresh! We have listed the key details of this SUV in our first-look story.
How Does It Drive?
Before we go vocal about the looks, feel, and features, let's get straight into the game. We have a racetrack- the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) to test the dynamics and performance of the Astor. Of the two available petrols, we have the more enthusing 1.4L turbocharged petrol engine to drive. Mated to this is an AISIN sourced 6-speed (torque converter) automatic transmission (no manuals). This engine (called 220 Turbo) has 140 hp and 220 Nm on offer.'
Astor is quite fun to drive. It might not be as lively as the other turbo petrols in this class in terms of delivery. The torque here comes in a linear and enjoyable fashion. Though we don't have any official figures yet, we expect 0-100 to come in around 10-11 seconds. The transmission has a 'Sport' (S) mode to it which offers aggressive shifts and enthusing performance. While the on-paper figures of the Astor are less than those of the EV, the actual performance is pretty competent, thanks to the hefty shedding of weight that has come in when the petrol engine replaced the electric powertrain. The turbo kicks in at around 2900 rpms and up ahead lies all the fun. Peak torque on this car comes in at around 3600 RPMs. Astor pulls enthusiastically and the speed builds up quite effortlessly.
The overall shift quality is quite decent. Despite being a torque converter box, Astor's automatic transmission offers near-decent shifts in the 'D' mode, and competent shifts in the S-mode. The overall performance is almost on par with the DCT equipped players in the segment (with the S mode deployed). It is no secret that you would want to stick to the S alone, should you be someone who loves to drive. Missing, however, are a pair of paddle shifters or a dedicated 'Sport' mode to the engine.
The Astor feels quite speed-friendly. We could do over 160 kph on the straights at BIC. The vehicle stays planted at high speeds and the suspension remains tailored for the same. But this doesn't limit the ride quality either.
It is not just the straights that Astor feels home on. Push it to corners and you will be surprised. Despite being a mid-size SUV, the Astor behaves quite well around corners. The front end is responsive and the 215/55 tyres offer good grip. With the powerful turbo petrol and the likes of traction and stability controls turned off, you can throw this car into corners and come out fast, with some pleasing soundtracks of squealing tyres! There is some body roll felt inside, apparently due to the tall stance. The suspension is a bit on the softer side, but never intrusive with the overall dynamics.
The steering doesn't feel too sporty but is neither too light. It always had me connected to the roads. MG is offering selectable settings/ preset modes for the electronic power steering- Urban, Normal and Dynamic. ' Dynamic offers optimum weight and a good connection to the road. Urban makes it light and pretty detached. Consider 'Normal' as the mid-point between the two.';
MG Astor gets disc brakes for all its wheels. These offer great bites and are quite soft. The overall braking efficiency is quite impressive. There are multiple other safety equipment on offer as well.
Level 2 ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance System)
Level 2 ADAS is another key talking point on the new Astor. We had first seen the level 2 autonomous tech on the Mahindra XUV 700. There are a host of ADAS features on offer on the Astor. It gets a blind-spot warning, Adaptive Cruise Control, lane assist, speed assist, and a couple of other driver-assist systems.
Astor's ADAS is sourced from Bosch. The Lane Assist includes functions like Lane Departure Warning, Lane Departure Prevention, and Lane Keep Assist. These functions can be used at speeds of 60 kph and above. Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) functions are identical to what we had previously seen on the Gloster, but are now more efficient and better-suiting the Indian driving conditions. These can be used at speeds of 30 kph and above. ACC can also detect cross traffics on the roads using its Radars. The car's ADAS is powered by 5 cameras and 6 mid-range radars.
The overall design seems fresh. You would not often draw comparisons with the ZS EV on the design front, as the EV available here is based on the pre-facelift global ZS, while the Astor has the facelifted global ZS as its base.
The Astor gets MG's new-age 'Celestial Grille design' which gets a lot of Chrome on it. The pattern and finish of this are truly aesthetic and exclusive to the Indian spec alone. The central MG logo is quite big and blends beautifully with the overall design.
The all-LED headlamps too are quite handsome. These, the manufacturer claims, have been inspired by the 'hawk-eye', and we do not disagree as these actually look quite sharp and aggressive. My personal favorite bits in these headlamps are the crystalline elements inside. The Boomerang-shaped DRLs look good and add much attitude to the overall design. Touches of gloss Black can be found at multiple spots in the design like the front and rear bumpers and wing mirrors, and there is a decent-sized body cladding as well.
The side profile looks stylish and equally dynamic. The 17-inch alloy wheels take their design inspiration from turbines (!) Of course, the ZS EV had similar claims as well, but the Astor's wheels, on a rather personal note, look better. Red Calipers tucked inside the Black wheels further escalate the dynamism of the side design. Interestingly, the spare wheel that sits comfortably inside the boot, is a size smaller (16 inches) and made of Steel.
The most important styling element on the silhouette could be the shoulder line that makes an evident rise towards the rear as if it were a leopard that is about to leap! MG says this 'Leopard line' has been inspired by old British sportscars. Look at it for half an hour or so, and you might end up being able to draw visual connections to classic Jaguar silhouettes! (Ok, consider that an exaggeration!)
The rear design has a signature European air to it. The overall design remains eye-pleasing and modern. The taillamps get LED crystalline elements similar to those of the headlamp units. The rear bumper is stylish and gets a pair of faux exhaust tips (the actual exhaust hides beneath the body though). There are multiple letterings at the rear- the large MG logo that doubles as the boot release, ASTOR, ZS, and ADAS. Having so many badges on a rather petite tailgate as this has its own niggles on the observer's eye. I would personally prefer a neater, less crowded tail end instead.
Dimensions And Space
The overall dimensions of the Astor stand on par with the segment standards. MG Astor is 4323 mm long, 1809 mm wide, and 1650 mm tall. It has a wheelbase of 2585 mm that goes hand in hand with the segment standards as well. The boot is fair-sized and can be quite useful in all daily scenarios.
The Astor's cabin is stylish and gets generous use of premium materials and trims. There are 3 interior color options on offer on the Astor- Sangria Red, Tuxedo Black, and Ivory. The first is evidently the best. There is generous use of leather inside. The dashboard has soft-touch materials with premium stitching. The key highlight inside is the AI assistant. A tiny display that sits on the dash gets two toon eyes and swival function. The Astor gets an improved version of MG's iSMART technology. It uses AI to better understand voice and offer more voice-based functions with higher efficiency. The dashboard display makes for a more human-like machine-human interaction. The overall recognition and efficiency of this system seem fine. However, we did encounter some glitches in 'talking to this' at times.
Check out our previous story to know the cabin and features of Astor in detail.
The infotainment system offers good sound quality ( from no 'branded speakers') and has Jio Saavn in place of Gaana. With Saavn comes the choice of podcast content as well. The 10.1 inch HD touchscreen offers good responses and has a display angle that equally suits both the front row occupants. However, we faced slight delays in responses from the touchscreen occasionally during our drive. We suspect these to be due to the moisture content on our fingers, owing to the extremely sunny day. Reassuring is the fact that the car offers physical controls for the basic functions carried out by the touchscreen like climate control, audio controls etc.
Instrumentation duties are carried out by an all-digital unit, comprising two digital displays and a 7 inch LCD screen. This cluster is quite usable and offers good readability. The car also gets a massive panoramic sunroof covering 90% of its entire roof area.
Other major features on offer include 360-degree camera ( the display quality, however, did not impress us), 5 USB ports, an electronic parking brake with auto-hold function, a motorized 6-way adjustable driver seat, steering mounted audio controls etc. But, segment-familiar features like wireless charger and ventilated seats are missing on this car.
Seating And Comfort
The seats offer good support and comfort. The upholstery feels premium. The front seat bolstering could cause slight discomforts to Plus or XL-sized adults. The rear row is quite comfortable a place for many. The leg, knee and head rooms are great. However, the rear seat angle seems a tad too upright. The thigh support could also have been improved slightly. The rear row occupants get comforts like a broad armrest with two cup holders integrated into it, two USB ports, and dual rear AC vents.
The Astor has some big names as its key competition. The C SUV market here revolves around the two Koreans- Hyundai Creta and Kia Seltos. Other options include Nissan Kicks, and Renault Duster, which enjoy minimal market shares. The Astor will have its pricing as the 'make or break' factor. Trusting its past, MG is likely to give the car disruptive pricing. The Astor as a product is quite appealing.It is good-looking, feature-packed, modern, and notably dynamic.