Sunday Drive with Hormazd Sorabjee: MG Hector is not as rugged as its SUV rivals, but scores with mile-long features list
The first product from MG Motor India is set to define what the brand stands for
There’s a lot riding on the MG Hector, which is the first product from MG Motor India and the one that will define what the brand stands for. It’s been a copybook launch so far. A clever pre-launch campaign has piqued the interest of prospective buyers who have flocked to showrooms. More importantly, the company has won over some strong dealers and that’s a crucial advantage to have in a car market that’s tanked.
This all-new brand, which goes by its full name Morris Garages, is blatantly flaunting its British heritage and even signed on the British Hollywood star Benedict Cumberbatch as its brand ambassador. The truth is that the Hector, which is based on the Baojun 530 from Chinese parent SAIC’s vast portfolio, is about as a British as Confucius. And that’s no bad thing
With the large Baojun 530 as the starting point, the Hector has an immediate size advantage over its rivals and this is pretty important in the ‘mine is bigger than yours’ one-upmanship playing out in the SUV segment. Besides, MG has thrown everything it possibly can into the Hector to make it as upmarket and appealing as possible, with a dazzling list of equipment which includes many first in-class features.
So has MG, with Confucius-like wisdom, done everything right? As the saying goes (not Confucius’s), the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
It’s got the looks
The Hector is certainly a head-turner and drew crowds every time we stopped for a photo op. You just can’t miss the humongous grille even on a car so big. The blade-like turn indicators and the techy headlamp cluster look quite futuristic and of course, everything is wrapped with a liberal dose of chrome.
However, what robs the Hector of a bit of its SUV-ness are the tiny 215/60 tyres and 17-inch wheels, completely dwarfed by the Hector’s huge size. That apart the Hector comes across as an upmarket-looking SUV, which certainly stands out from the crowd.
The Hector’s spacious cabin is centred around the TV-sized 10.4-inch touchscreen, the biggest you can get in the Indian market. It houses everything from infotainment to navigation, and even the air-con controls. The sheer size of the screen makes it easy to operate, but the touch response has a bit of delay and could be faster.
You won’t complain about the number of functions and apps though, which range from a 360-degree camera, on-board navigation (with real-time traffic updates) and the Gaana app, which streams music through the impressive-sounding Infinity sound system.
The internet car
But it’s the suite of ‘connected’ features that is the novelty factor in what MG has dubbed as the ‘Internet Car.’ The Hector’s infotainment system comes with an embedded SIM card, which allows your car to ‘talk’ with your smartphone. Sitting in your office, you can lock and unlock the car, start the engine and even turn on the air-con. The best bit is how you can keep tabs on your car, through the Find My Car function (useful if you’ve forgotten where you’ve parked your car) and the ‘geofencing’ setting, which alerts you if someone has sneaked your car out of the boundary (up to a 100km radius) you can set.
The Hector’s best party trick is the voice command system that can be activated by a pleasant ‘Hello MG’ greeting. You can follow up on that with a command like ‘Please open the sunroof’, and the car coolly does it for you.
Where the Hector really aces it is in terms of sheer all-round space, especially in the rear seats, which are plush and comfortable. But is it equally as good to drive?
You get both diesel and petrol options and it’s the diesel that impressed me more. The 2-litre 170hp diesel is refined and makes for a great highway cruiser with strong performance and good fuel economy. The 143hp 1.5-litre petrol-hybrid engine is smooth and refined too, but could do with a bit more gusto. The overall handling too isn’t as well-composed as rivals and on a bumpy road the Hector tends to bounce all over the place.
It may not have the rugged feel or engineering depth of its rivals, but where the Hector scores is with its bold looks, top notch comfort and mile long features list. And finally, it’s the very attractive price that could you give the extra nudge to sign that cheque.
Hormazd Sorabjee is one of the most senior and much loved auto journalists in India, and is editor of Autocar India
Sunday Drive appears every fortnight
From HT Brunch, June 30, 2019
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