When people upgrade cars as they start making and spending more money, they usually go from a lower segment to upper. For instance, a sub-4 metre SUV buyer’s next purchase could be a compact SUV—like from Hyundai Venue to Creta or from Kia Sonet to Seltos. But with the MG Astor, compact SUV buyers have the option to upgrade within the segment. No, this ‘upgrade’ isn’t in terms of extra seats, but in terms of semiautonomous driving technology, which isn’t available in any other five-seater compact SUV (in the Rs 10-20 lakh price range).
What is the Astor?
It is MG’s compact SUV—almost the same size as the Creta and Seltos. It gets two petrol engine options: the VTi-TECH (1498cc; 110PS) and the smaller but more powerful 220 Turbo (1349cc; 140PS). The former gets two gearbox choices: five-speed manual and CVT; the latter comes only with a six-speed automatic gearbox.
There is no diesel engine on offer.
What defines its design?
Unlike some other compact SUVs that have a more SUVish body shape (especially the Seltos), the Astor looks more like a raised, bulbous hatchback. It may not be a head-turner, but isn’t puny-looking either. Top-end variants look premium (as is the case with top-end variants of all compact SUVs).
How is the cabin?
The variant I drove (and in the photos) has a very bright coloured cabin. It looks tacky, to say the least. I assume there would be other, softer coloured dashboard options (like grey and black). The cabin, however, is loaded to the hilt, and looks futuristic (especially that little robot on the dashboard that can ‘talk’ to the occupants—like telling jokes, sharing news, and even helping you with in-car controls). Like all MG models, even the Astor is a connected car. The cabin is spacious for five adults, and feels like a comfortable place to be in.
How does it drive?
I drove only the 220 Turbo variant on the Buddh International Circuit—the Formula 1 track—and even on its expansive curves the Astor didn’t feel underpowered. In fact, it appeared powerful enough to be driven like a race car (well, almost). Because the Astor isn’t very ‘tall’, there is minimal body roll. Also, the steering feedback—mechanical signals that the front tyres send to the steering wheel—is accurate and you will feel most dips on the road through the steering wheel. In this controlled environment, I couldn’t check its fuel-efficiency; even MG hasn’t yet shared fuel-efficiency figures.
With the Astor, MG India has entered what is possibly the most competitive SUV space in India. With the Astor, Indian buyers have the option to upgrade within the segment. However, this ‘upgrade’ shouldn’t be in terms of price, but technology. In case MG is able to price it marginally lower than the competition, the extra features it offers—which will make it a value-for-money proposition—will be enough to get a lot of buyers into the MG fold (especially considering that prospective buyers of certain variants of SUVs such as Creta already have a long waiting period and MG can make them its own).
What sets the Astor apart?
Top-end variants of the Astor will get semiautonomous driving features, including:
Lane-keep assist: It can keep the vehicle in the centre of the lane by controlling the steering;
Rear-drive assist: Cameras and sensors monitor the vehicle’s surroundings to eliminate blind spots;
Adaptive cruise control: It senses a vehicle getting driven ahead and automatically accelerates/decelerates to maintain a safe distance from that vehicle;
Forward collision prevention: It automatically applies brakes if it senses a possible collision.