The marketing and communications team at MG Motor deserves a special mention. Without having an actual product or a showroom in India, they managed to remain in the limelight in the past year. Morris Garages’ heritage and brand understanding, technology prowess, exciting teasers and a lot more, motoring enthusiasts were served the right doses since the beginning of 2018 to create a huge, positive recall.
So when the official name for their first offering for the Indian car market came up, it was natural for us to keep our expectations high. But MG decided to keep us waiting. The concept of “Internet Inside” was revealed and then a few weeks later, the car itself. But no, we weren’t allowed to drive it yet. All this while, I was beginning to get curious, very curious. So when I flew all the way down to Coimbatore to finally get my hands on the made-in-India version, I had more than a handful of questions in my head. Would these be answered the right way? You can either click on the video below (its a detailed one in Hindi, runs for over 23 minutes) or continue to read the article.
The design first
The Hector competes in a segment that offers different styling options. From the bold and muscular Tata Harrier to the old school Jeep Compass. This one though manages to create its own identity and that’s largely got to do with the front and rear design theme. I have to agree here, the Hector does look very striking and ends up getting more attention than what you bargained for. The sharp LED DRLs are fast becoming a norm among SUVs and no, just because the Harrier and Venue got launched here first does not mean MG ended up copying the design. The Hector has been on sale under various names in the international market for a while now.
The DRLs are stacked on either side of the huge grille that gets chrome surround, something we Indians seem to love a lot. The main headlamps are positioned lower in the bumper, and so are the fog lamps. Do note, the Hector gets complete LED treatment all around, including at the rear. The front bumper has a nice design to it and the number plate is positioned in a way that it does not hide the ever important design elements.
The side profile is not that interesting though. The alloy wheels look good but could do with a larger size. The shoulder line runs flat and does not rise towards the rear but that has a positive angle as far as cabin is concerned – more on this later. The wheel arches too around round but have a squarish profile.
The rear is what gets me interested. During the convoy drive, I had ample opportunities to drive behind other Hectors and it does look premium. The horizontal red glass insert connects both the tail lamps and looks fab. The lamps, all around, get German-ish kind of indicators and they look oh so cool! The bumper is another element here that needs your attention. Designers have managed to give it a dual exhaust treatment but only the left one has the actual outlet. That said, on the move, the rear profile definitely looks bling.
In terms of dimensions, the Hector is the longest car in the segment. Even the 7 seater XUV500 falls short by 70 mm in this area. Its also wider than the Compass and taller than the Harrier. In terms of road presence then, the Hector does not have to try too hard!
Interiors match up?
If a word, yes! Thanks to generous dimensions, the first thing that strikes you is the sense of space on the inside. The Hector will take in five well-built adults easily without any of the occupants feeling uneasy. Up front, this combined with excellent visibility fools you into believing this new MG is larger than what it is. Ingress and egress are sorted too and it doesn’t take too long for you to get into a comfortable driving posture. Talking of which, both the front seats get power function and the seats themselves have adequate under-thigh support and excellent back support. I was inside the driver’s seat from 7 in the morning till about 4 in the evening and had no issues whatsoever.
The cabin has an overly black theme that is broken well by silver inserts at places. I seem to like the design, much better than say the XUV500 and in terms of quality, better than the Harrier’s. The Compass though has the benchmark set in terms of quality and touch & feel of panels. This is where I want to highlight the upper part of the fascia and the hard plastics behind the gear lever. But this aside, Hector’s cabin pampers you a lot. It is a feature loaded SUV and a lot has already been discussed about this in the past few months. That said, I will be a critic here. Why not get in wireless charging and ventilated seats too, MG?
As a car owner, once you start living with it, voice commands will definitely come handy. Even though I was with the Hector for a few hours, getting the i-Smart to carry out functions was rather easy. Definitely a good way to impress your friends. This also gets me to the audio interface. Not only does the Hector offer you a screen that’s bigger than your personal tablet, but the amount of information on offer is also immense. Pre-loaded Gaana app, navigation via tomtom maps and a display for the 360-degree view camera, the Hector will keep tech fans happy. To top it up, the audio quality is far superior to anything we have seen in the segment before. Even the purest of audiophile will not see a reason to upgrade. It is that good!
Moving onto the 2nd row of seats, getting in and out is easy and your mum will not be complaining in this area. And once she’s seated, the expanse will impress here. There is simply too much of leg and knee room in here. MG, why not push the 2nd row forward by a couple of inches and drop in the 3rd row of seats for bragging rights, eh? Jokes aside, even with the driver’s seat positioned for my 6-foot frame, I had space enough to cross my legs at the back. The 60:40 seat split allows you to recline your part of the row as per your own requirement. And the flat floorboard means all six feet (three pax) will have their own space on the move. In terms of features, you get rear air-vents, pockets at the back of the front seats, rear arm-rest with cup holders (though the size is a bit small), fast charging outlet and a panoramic sunroof that fills in the cabin with ample natural light.
The boot is another highlight here. At almost 600 litres of usable space, you can fit in enough luggage for a week-long road trip. The tailgate is powered and can be operated from the key fob, button on the boot itself, from inside the cabin and even via the phone app! The spare wheel though sits under the boot, like typical other MPVs.
The performance part
Hybrid! That’s one word that is fast gaining popularity in the Indian car market. An increasing number of manufacturers are lining up their own versions of Hybrids for the Indian market but MG gets a first mover advantage in the mass segment. The petrol Hector gets a 48V mild-hybrid option that helps aid the powertrain with upto 20 Nm of extra torque while increasing the fuel economy by 12% and lowering emissions by 11%. Unfortunately, the hybrid model does not get an optional DCT (dual-clutch auto transmission) that the non-hybrid petrol gets. Nevertheless, my stint with the vehicle proved how good it was to drive on both state highways and uphill twisties leading to the tea estates.
The 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol motor is good for an impressive 143 PS of power and a peak torque of 250 Nm. If you are looking for immediate thrills, the engine will disappoint you. Instead, the linear power delivery and lack of turbo lag are what will be appreciated by most owners. Don’t get me wrong – pedal to the metal, the engine does respond and rev hard before hitting the limiter at 5,900 rpm. In the process, it does 49 in the first gear and 85 in the second. A small capacity turbo engine is prone to lack of punch under 1500rpm but this is where Hector’s motor keeps you happy. Pottering around in traffic and closing in on gaps is easy and out on open roads, at an indicated 80 km/h, the motor literally sleeps at just 1750 rpm. The 6-speed’ box does aid efficiency on highways and is also a joy to use in terms of shift quality and a light clutch. The certified economy stands at almost 16 kmpl which is as good a diesel XUV500! Also, if you watch the video above, you will clearly get to hear the mild hybrid’s ‘electric’ whizz along with the petrol engine’s engine note. Sounds difference, no?
The diesel Hector comes with a tried and tested 2.0 motor that is sourced from the FCA group. We have seen this motor in the Compass and the Harrier and here it puts out 170 PS of power and 350 Nm of torque. I am a big fan of diesel engines and this one did send me back with good memories. The torque flow of example is linear and there is no sudden rush of power coming in. And when you want to get going fast, the power comes to the rescue, allowing you to go faster than expected. The diesel too gets a 6-speed manual gearbox (no auto as of now) and the tall sixth gear allows the engine to spin at just 1500 rpm at an indicated 80 km/h.
But what impressed me is the engine’s tractability nature in city traffic. There is ample dose of torque lower down in the rev range and part throttle response is impressive. That said, while I loved the hybrid’s gear shift quality, the diesel one didn’t have the same smoothness levels. There is a rough edge to it and even the clutch is on the heavier side of my liking. But its a small pay off for an otherwise great motor.
Another area where MG Motor seems to have perfected the game is in the NVH or the noise vibration harshness levels. A lot of effort has gone into sound absorbing and vibration dampening materials and this ensures the cabin remains a peaceful place to be. Yes, the diesel clatter filters in but without the vibes attached. Even when you rev hard, the steering, floorboard and the gear level remain free from jerks. Impressive stuff there guys.
Ride and handling
The MG Hector aims to target consumers who will end up using the vehicle for both city runs and weekend trips. Happy to report that in this scenario, the Hector earns brownie points as far as comfort goes. The 17-inch wheels have ample sidewalls and the suspension is clearly geared towards keeping occupants cosy and happy and not cater to an enthusiast. Broken roads are dismissed off well and even riding over speed breakers at good speeds does not throw you around much.
We took a 10 km four-lane route back to our hotel and did manage to push the vehicle to speeds high enough to put me into legal trouble. Though the Hector remains composed and encouraging in a straight line, changing lanes is where you notice the steering set-up. While it is relatively light and easy to use at city speeds and even in crawling traffic, at higher speeds, you do feel a disconnect. Again, don’t get me wrong here. The Compass is dynamically better but the Hector still fares better than say the XUV500.
Going up to Coonoor and then back down to Coimbatore gave ma lot of time to understand the Hector. It does have body roll but that’s well controlled. Get used to the size and weight and you can chew up miles rapidly. Its just that you need to be extra careful with the steering inputs. And the brakes need a special mention. Disc brakes at all ends offer impressive bite and help you shed speeds very fast. Full marks here.
I am impressed with the Hector. There you go, I said it! As a Mahindra XUV500 customer, the Hector does tick a lot of right boxes. Turning heads is not a problem, the cabin is super spacious with decently good quality of materials, the feature list is endless and it drives in a rather comfortable manner. While I do agree the lack of an automatic with both the petrol (hybrid) and diesel engines will be a deal breaker for some, for most consumers, MG seems to have done their homework right.
Pricing will be announced in a few days time and deliveries will start by the end of this month. Can MG position this neck to neck with the Harrier? I think so! Watch this space for more…