MG Hector First Drive Review: Can The Gizmos Make a Difference?

MG Hector First Drive Review: Can The Gizmos Make a Difference?

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When one talks of the MG Hector, the first question I get is "Is it a Chinese car?" Well, the brand is British, now owned by SAIC, a Chinese conglomerate. With MG's heritage dating back to 1924, MG is using that card to lure buyers. And, of course, the MG Hector's unique looks have a big role to play too.

All variants of the MG Hector have LED daytime running lamps flanking the bonnet. 
All variants of the MG Hector have LED daytime running lamps flanking the bonnet. 
Photo: The Quint

The Quint was invited by MG Motor India to drive the upcoming MG Hector petrol-hybrid and diesel variants on a 220 Km round trip between Coimbatore and Coonoor in the Nilgiris, offering a good mix of highway, city and twisty hill roads for this review.

The MG Hector will be launched by end of June, while bookings have already started. The big question: What's the price of the MG Hector likely to be? Our recommendation to MG was to pitch it between Rs 12 lakh and Rs 17 lakh ex-showroom, for it to stand a fighting chance. Here's why.

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What We Like About The MG Hector

* It has a solid and reassuring overall build quality
* Great suspension set up with good ride quality over all kinds of surfaces
* Engine choices offer decent performance in both petrol and diesel
* Long feature list even on lower variants will offer good value, some just for bragging rights

What We Don’t Like About The MG Hector

* There’s just too much bling with the use of different plastics and mix and match of colours & textures
* Engine sound intrudes into the cabin, especially in the diesel
* Overall proportions of the vehicle may not be to everyone’s taste

Also Read : MG Hector SUV Officially Unveiled in India, Comes in Four Variants

MG Hector Design

The rear looks quite busy with different plastic tones and fixtures. 
The rear looks quite busy with different plastic tones and fixtures. 
Photo: The Quint

The MG Hector follows the latest trend of SUV design a la the Tata Harrier, Hyundai Venue, Santa Fe and others. The daytime running lamps move to the top, flanking the huge bonnet, while the twin-beam projector headlamps are in the bumper, just above the fog lamps. It gets all LED lighting in the top two variants. It comes in four variants - Style (base), Super, Smart and Sharp.

The Hector is longer than most of the vehicles it competes with such as the Jeep Compass, Tata Harrier, Mahindra XUV500 and even the Hyundai Creta. It has the longest wheelbase too at 2,750 mm, which translates to a very spacious cabin and great legroom. It is spacious enough for five adults and their luggage with a 587-litre boot.

The MG Hector offers 198 mm of ground clearance and has a 2,750 mm wheelbase, enough to clear most rough terrain.
The MG Hector offers 198 mm of ground clearance and has a 2,750 mm wheelbase, enough to clear most rough terrain.
Photo: The Quint

However, it is slightly narrower than the others as well, which makes it a bit disproportionate when viewed from the rear. The visual mass it carries also makes the 17-inch wheels with 215/60 profile tyres look tiny (remember the Toyota Qualis?). While the cuts and curves make it muscular, I just wish MG hadn't gone overboard with the use of plastic, especially with that skid plate at the rear.

That said, it feels TOUGH. The doors are heavy and close with a reassuring thunk! The tailgate is electrically operated, thankfully. The bonnet is heavy too and has plenty of space within – so much so, the engine looks tiny in there. One could easily hide a few stowaways in the engine bay.

MG Hector Features

The interiors feature an all-black lower portion with beige for the roof, making it quite airy.
The interiors feature an all-black lower portion with beige for the roof, making it quite airy.
Photo: The Quint

The talking point, quite literally, is the long list of features that the MG Hector offers. The top two variants come with embedded SIMs (powered by Airtel) making it a "connected car" or as MG likes to call it "Internet Inside" with the badge proudly displayed on the vehicle.

From the large panoramic sunroof to colour selectable ambient lighting it has it all. A 360 degree reverse camera, hill-start assist, push button ignition and cruise control are all there. You even have an app that can remotely control functions of the car. You can remotely open the boot or set a perimeter alarm and stuff like that. It’s similar to what Hyundai has in the Venue.

The 10.4 inch touchscreen infotainment system in the MG Hector is activated by voice commands. This means you have an assistant called, well, MG. It constantly listens of the keyword "Hello MG" following which you can ask it to do stuff like open the sunroof, play radio stations, change climate control settings etc.

It has around a 110 commands – but good luck memorising the syntax. Of course, if you get it wrong, the MG assistant always responds with a polite “Pardon?” Nice party trick, that.

It has all the safety features needed: Six airbags, reverse, side and forward cameras, ABS, traction control, hill hold etc. The speed warning is a bit annoying once you cross 80 kmph because that alert stays on the MID, obscuring everything else.

Also Read : Internet-Enabled Cars: Infotainment Systems Aren’t Just For Music

MG Hector Comfort

The front seats are comfortable and are electrically operated in the top variants. 
The front seats are comfortable and are electrically operated in the top variants. 
Photo: The Quint

The Hector is big on the inside. It is as spacious as the Tata Harrier and will easily seat five adults. The front seats are well bolstered and electrically operated (only driver's seat in the hybrid variants and both seats on the diesel variant). There's a good field of view from the cabin with no blind spots to talk of (better than the Tata Harrier in this regard).

The rear has a full flat floor and reclining seats, offering good comfort. 
The rear has a full flat floor and reclining seats, offering good comfort. 
Photo: The Quint

The rear seats have plenty of legroom on offer and even recline to various angles. The floor is pretty high, so under-thigh support for tall passengers isn't quite there, unlike say a Toyota Innova. However, the fully flat floor ensures that legroom isn't compromised at all, even for the middle passenger.

The panoramic sunroof on the top variant ensures a clear view of the sky for all occupants too. There are enough USB charging points and cupholders all around.

The MG Hector comes with a 587 litre boot as well as under-floor storage and rolling parcel tray for privacy.
The MG Hector comes with a 587 litre boot as well as under-floor storage and rolling parcel tray for privacy.
Photo: The Quint

The Hector gets a 587-litre boot that can hold quite a few suitcases. It also has under-floor storage that holds the tool kit, jack and space for a second spare wheel if needed. The actual spare is under the body, behind the bumper.

MG Hector Performance

The MG Hector's engine - both petrol and diesel seem quite tiny in the large engine bay. 
The MG Hector's engine - both petrol and diesel seem quite tiny in the large engine bay. 
Photo: The Quint

How does the MG Hector feel to drive? We drove the petrol-hybrid manual transmission and the diesel manual for this review.

Driving the 1.5-litre petrol hybrid

The MG Hector 1.5 turbo-petrol comes with a six-speed manual transmission. The gear throws are decent, not too long, not too short. It slots in easily and the clutch is light. The 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol motor puts out 143 PS of power and 250 Nm of torque. It has an integrated starter-generator (mild-hybrid system with a start-stop function), which is mated to a 48-volt lithium-ion battery pack that offers additional boost when needed and is supposed to improve fuel economy (MG claims 14 kmpl on this variant, but we couldn't judge that on our short run).

The handling is fairly neutral. Being an SUV there is some body roll, but it is quite sorted. How does it compare to the Tata Harrier? Probably at par. And better than the Mahindra XUV500.

Being a turbo-petrol engine you do have some bit of lag when you are below 1,500 rpm, but nothing that really spoils the fun. Beyond 2,000 rpm, it picks up pretty fast, with the mild-hybrid system doing its job.

For you enthusiasts out there, is this a sporty car? I wouldn’t call it sporty. It does the job, but probably not as sure-footed as the Jeep Compass.

Driving the 2-litre diesel

The diesel MG Hector comes with a 2-litre engine that is pretty familiar. Why? Because it is the same engine that goes into the Jeep Compass and the Tata Harrier. It puts out 170 PS of power and 350 Nm of torque. The feel of the engine is like pretty much what you get in the Jeep Compass, including the feel of the gearbox. It’s got a lot of torque, pulls well from low rpms, but you do hear some engine noise inside the cabin.

If you had to choose between a Jeep Compass and an MG Hector diesel, you are pretty much choosing a body type. While the petrol has a light clutch and is easy to shift, the diesel has a clutch that is harder. Again, if you’ve driven a Jeep Compass, you would know what I’m talking about.

Between the two, I prefer the torque of the diesel, but the petrol is far more refined.

MG Hector: Worth Buying?

The MG Hector could be the cat among the pigeons in the five-seater SUV segment.
The MG Hector could be the cat among the pigeons in the five-seater SUV segment.
Photo: The Quint

So after driving both the petrol and diesel version of the MG Hector one thing I can say is that in this segment the competition is just going to heat up. This vehicle is really capable. It gives you space, it’s got a lot of features. Sure there are some shortcomings, but none that I would say is a deal breaker.

Which of the two would I pick between the petrol and the diesel, but the petrol is surprisingly good too. The Hector has enough packed in to give the Tata Harrier and Mahindra XUV500 a run for their money. Can it dislodge the Hyundai Creta in sales numbers? That's a tough ask.

MG has 120 dealerships now and will touch 250 by the end of the year. However, while initial impressions are promising, it's the after sales service and warranty coverage that will make or break this brand.

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