2019 MG Hector review, road test - carzinfo

2019 MG Hector review, road test

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Car manufacturers love flaunting booking numbers to show how popular their new launches are. However, the true measure of success of any product is how well it can sustain sales after the initial euphoria has died down. Hence, the 10,000 bookings the MG Hector bagged in less than a month since the order books opened was initially met with scepticism by established rivals, but the growing month-on-month sales of this all-new SUV – and that too from an unknown brand – has turned that cynicism into worry and even fear. In fact, once the price was revealed, things only got better for the SAIC-owned British marque because the aggressive introductory prices boosted demand, to a point that it had to stop taking more orders just to clear the backlog.

When we first experienced the Hector on the hills of Coimbatore, we knew it had the makings of a winner. No doubt, the distinctive design, exhaustive features list and a hugely spacious cabin are all strong factors in the success of any SUV, but that brief drive was just a sampler and didn’t include the petrol-automatic variant. This variant is the pick of the lot, accounting for over 50 percent sales, and has a waiting period that can stretch to seven months. Hence, in this very exacting road test, we’ve tested all three powertrain variants to, once and for all, answer the torrent of questions flooding our inbox and to tell you just how good the Hector really is.

You just can’t miss the Hector; its sheer size hits you before you even start focusing on the design details. In fact, it looks half a size bigger than its rivals and that’s a great start for an SUV whose road presence is intrinsic to its appeal.

The massive front grille is lined with chrome and proudly flaunts the MG logo, giving the Hector a strong face that won’t go unnoticed. Also standing out is the striking headlight cluster that gets the full DRL treatment. The design, too, is in sync with the latest trend of  having DRL strips above the headlights, which are located lower down, close to the bumper. And in the Hector’s case, they are flanked by a chunky L-shaped chrome strip.

LED DRLs with LED headlights and fog lamps offer excellent illumination.

It’s from the side that the Hector looks the most gargantuan, with its 4,655mm length easily making it the longest SUV in its class. In fact, the Hector’s length and long overhangs mask its considerable 2,750mm wheelbase, which is again the best in class. Look at it from the side and you can see how the long wheelbase adds to the Hector’s size. These proportions have served to dwarf the 215/60 R17 tyres that don’t quite fill out the wheel wells and look scrawny for such a bulky-looking SUV. This spoils the Hector’s SUV credibility to some extent, as does the fact that this is an SUV designed with no off-road ambitions. However, it not being a serious off-roader won’t be a concern for a majority of buyers, who will be content with the ground clearance of 183mm, which is sufficient for our roads.

17-inch alloy wheel design looks sharp, but feels a size too small.

The rear is simple in comparison to the front, but here too the angular and edgy theme has been carried over and the beefy-looking scuff plate adds to the Hector’s visual bulk. The LED tail-lamps are joined by a reflector strip, and the Audi-esque swiping LED indicators are a premium touch.

There are several other nice touches as well, like the tasteful chrome running board that sits at the bottom of the front and rear doors, with ‘Morris Garages’ prominently engraved on it. The pinched rear glass and the blackened glass surrounding the D-pillar add some style and make the Hector look less boxy.

Now, if all this is a bit too plain for your taste, MG also offer a host of accessories like chrome bits for the door handles, tail-lamps and bumpers to give the Hector even more bling.

Audi-esque swiping LED indicators look upmarket.

The Hector felt a lot more solid than we expected and the doors shut with a nice, reassuring thud. However, build quality is a bit inconsistent, with large panel gaps around the bonnet and tailgate area.

However, the paint quality is top notch, with no orange peel and a deep gloss, which contributes significantly to the Hector’s rich looks.

Spare wheel mounted under the car opens up space in the boot.

 

 

The huge 10.4-inch touchscreen is vibrant and has a good resolution too. And, thanks to some software upgrades by MG, the screen doesn’t hang like before. It, however, is still slow to respond. There is a lot on offer in terms of features. You get an embedded SIM card, access to a premium account of the Gaana app, the TomTom navigation system, TPMS and, of course, Apple and Android Auto connectivity. Then there is the 360-degree camera, which is a boon while parking. However, you will notice the screen’s clarity drops in the dark.

MG’s voice command identifies requests correctly but can take a bit of time to process them.

 

The Hector gets independent MacPherson struts with coil springs at the front and a non-independent torsion beam with coil springs at the rear. The suspension isn’t the strongest point of the Hector, which doesn’t feel as settled as its rivals. The small-diameter wheels and tyres do affect the dynamics and allow sharp edges to permeate into the cabin. Also, the Hector has been setup for comfort and the low-speed ride is actually pretty good. The underlying pliancy of the suspension rounds off small bumps quite nicely to deliver a cushy ride.

Up the pace, and the lack of body control is quite evident in the way the Hector pitches and floats on an uneven road. Though the SUV is controllable at high speeds, the body movement and a steering that feels disconnected rob you of a certain surefootedness you expect from it. It is more stable with passengers and luggage, but you still wish it had that flat and consistent ride seen on its peers. On a twisty road, body roll is evident and, when pushed hard, the narrow front tyres run out of grip quickly and it’s easy to make them squeal in protest.

Soft and supple ride soaks up bumps well, but stability on the highway isn’t as good.

Drive the Hector in a more sedate fashion and it will reward you with effortless manoeuvrability. The
light steering doesn’t give you confidence on the highway, but it is something you’ll swear by in the city. You can twirl it with one finger, which makes city driving and parking so easy and convenient.

The Hector also excels at braking. All four disc brakes are good enough to bring the SUV to a complete halt from 80kph in just 26.70m, and there is a strong and confident bite each time you jump on the brake pedal.

The Hector’s exhaustive features list is one of its strongest points and a key reason why orders for this car keep coming in. The most talked about feature is, well, how you can talk to your Hector. Pressing the voice command button on the steering activates the system, and by saying ‘Hello MG’ you get a prompt for instructions – you have a 100 to choose from and the car does it for you. It’s a bit gimmicky though and, unless you are concentrating hard with both hands on the wheel (a likely situation if you are driving the Hector fast), it easier to do the job yourself manually.

Massive panoramic sunroof is a huge draw, and lifts the ambience of the cabin.

The other big talking point is the connectivity you get from a dedicated SIM card that’s embedded in the infotainment system. This allows your phone to communicate with MG’s iSMART app, which gives you control of a host of functions remotely. The app, available on both Apple and Android platforms, lets you set driver alerts, check the overall health of the car, and find your car in a parking spot by flashing the headlights and activating the horn. And if you’ve parked far off, the app will also guide you to your spot by mapping the route. Then there is the geofencing functionality, which means you can set a perimeter (of up to 100km) for your Hector, and should it go beyond that, it would send you alerts on your smartphone. It also tells you the driving style, speed, and alerts medical services and preset contacts in the unfortunate event of an accident where airbags have been deployed.

Infinity sound system with a sub-woofer sounds fantastic.

There are also other cool features like remote car lock-unlock, opening and closing of the sunroof and tailgate. You can remotely switch on the engine and air conditioning, too, but that’s only available in the automatic variant. Needless to say, for all this to function, your smartphone and the embedded SIM, both need to have connectivity.

360-degree camera with multiple viewing angles a huge plus while parking this big SUV.

The 10.4-inch touchscreen has its share of functionality, too, with a premium account of the ‘Gaana’ music streaming app, TomTom navigation system with live traffic updates, and a tyre pressure monitoring system. For safety, you have six airbags on the top-spec trims, ABS with EBD, brake assist, traction control, front and rear parking sensors with a 360-degree camera and multiple angle options, and ISOFIX points for child seats.

Geofencing feature allows you to set a perimeter for your car up to 100km for added security.

 

The MG Hector is incredible value, right from the word go. Its sheer size, long list of features, and massive cabin and boot allow it to punch not one but two segments above its weight. Yes, you do miss some features found in other rivals and there’s no all-wheel-drive option to give it true SUV credibility, but features like the touchscreen and sunroof – the biggest available on any car – are constant reminders that you’re getting your money’s worth.

The Hector’s loose highway manners are its main weakness and it also doesn’t have the same rugged feel of its more hardcore rivals. The strong, refined and efficient Fiat-sourced 2.0-litre diesel engine goes a long way to establish the Hector as a long-distance cruiser, and this variant is the one to choose if you are constantly on the highway. But the fact is that the Hector feels most comfortable within urban environs, where its light steering, good outside visibility and easy manoeuvrability give it an edge over others. For city use, the refined and capable 1.5 turbo-petrols make the most sense,
even if they are not the most efficient (especially the automatic variant)

Any doubts about the long-term reliability of what is still an unknown product are taken care of by a five-year warranty and a brand-new dealer network. Sure, only time will tell how good or durable the Hector is in the long term, but for now, it’s a compelling buy. And if a spacious and comfortable cabin is your main priority then, quite frankly, the Hector is the best option for the money.



from Autocar India - Car Reviews
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