2021 MG Astor First Drive Review - Yogesta

Here Is The Review, Price, Features, Performance, Driving Dynamics of 2021 MG Astor

The mid-size premium SUV segment is the hottest in the country right now. No other segment seems to be witnessing as much action. Existing players have been spruced up there’s a whole bunch of new launches happening. MG Motor is keen on taking yet another bite into this lucrative pie. Now MG entered the country with the Hector which is positioned in the very segment but MG is now trying to take its second jab at the midsize premium SUV segment with the all-new Astor. Here Is The first drive review of the 2021 MG Astor.

In India, every car maker worth its salt has to have at least one crossover or SUV in the lineup in order to stay relevant. It’s even better if that model happens to send new market trends and that’s exactly what MG has been doing ever since they launched the Hector in India. After focusing heavily on In-car Internet Connectivity with the Hector and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems with the Gloster, MG is now aiming to utilize the benefits of Artificial Intelligence with the all-new Astor.

Clever AI aside what you are looking at here is basically the petrol-powered version of MG’s ZS EV but there is a twist. The brand has not just replaced the electric drivetrain with a petrol engine and gearbox but also given the car a facelift with all-new body panels, interior, and added equipment. We will get to what’s new on the inside and underneath the Astor.

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Dimesions

The Astor now it’s 4.3 meters in length 1.8 meters in width and it stands fairly tall at 1.6 meters off the ground. Making it longer, taller, and wider than its arch-enemy the Hyundai Creta. Its wheelbase however is around 25 millimeters shorter than the Creta and it’s going to be interesting to see how that translates to interior space as we step inside later on. But before that let us talk you through its exterior design and how it all comes together when it comes to that all-important road presence.

Exterior

At the front, the thing that catches your attention first is this heavily chromed concave grille. It’s a single-piece unit and even though it’s quite large, it doesn’t have that over-the-top look to it and that’s a good thing if you ask us. We also like Astor’s full-LED headlights which come with boomerang-shaped daytime running lights in them.

Towards the side, there isn’t much to differentiate between the Astor and the ZS EV though you do get new 17-inch alloy wheels which again appear really neat with a turbine-shaped dual-tone look. The taillights mimic the ones at the front when it comes to detailing. You can see the same boomerang style main light under which you have tiny segmented light clusters which seem to have been meticulously arranged.

This being an MG model there is no shortage of badges all across the body panels. In fact, the tailgate is home to a large MG logo, the Astor lettering along with ADAS and ZS badges. You also get brick dynamic badging on the sides for certain trim and AI inside written on the front doors irrespective of trim levels.

Interior

Compared to Hector, the Astor offers a big jump in perceived quality and you will notice that as soon as you step inside this cabin. First of all, there’s the red and black theme for the dash, the seats, and the door pads. It all looks extremely nice in the sea of beige and black interiors. If you are not a fan of the sporty upholstery and would rather want something more opulent then you have two other color options including ivory and black to choose from.

Secondly, MG has used softly padded materials all across this dashboard. So, anywhere you touch chances are you’ll come across this nicely embellished texture on all the controls and touchpoints. The 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system sits neatly below the AC vents and its layout is far more conventional than the one found on the Hector. The touch response and UI is also better but it’s still not class-leading when it comes to fluidity and how the graphics appear.

Cabin Functionality

In terms of connectivity, you get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the system also gets embedded Jio E-Sim offering a hold of in-car connectivity features. We will get to the highlight of this car that is the AI assistant and connectivity features in a bit.

Cabin Practicality

There are hardly any issues for somebody like an average adult here at the back. There’s more than enough legroom and the back support is also equally good. What we don’t like though is the high window line and perhaps this seat is lacking a little under-thigh support. On the positive side, you have two USB ports here and the hump on the floor is minimal although we wouldn’t recommend having three people in here.

Because firstly the shoulder room isn’t all that great and secondly the seat back for the middle row passenger is unusually hard. So we suspect whoever sitting here might just end up with a backache over long journeys.

AI Personal Assistant

The Astor’s ultimate party piece and it’s this quirky-looking personal AI assistant as odd as it may sound this active ornament can listen and react to a lot of voice commands that you may have for it. For instance, you can control in-car features like the sunroof by talking to it. You can also ask for updates on the latest news, weather or even tell you a few jokes if you’re feeling blue. It’s a very interactive feature of this and it’s almost bizarre the way it moves its head and looks towards you as it responds to your commands.

You can ask it questions or information as the system is powered by Wikipedia. MG says that besides being an AI assistant the bot can also help a person in curbing boredom. Especially when driving alone and even look emotive thanks to the animations on its screen. The best part is that it recognizes Indian accents really well. The lady behind the voice herself has a very strong Indian accent. So that’s good if a new buyer wants to try it out.

Feature Highlights

In terms of features, you get a full-size sunroof, climate control, rain-sensing wipers, a 7-inch digital instrument cluster, a fully powered driver’s seat, an electronic parking brake, and lots of leather everywhere. There is some stuff missing on the Astor though. It doesn’t get features like cool seats, rear sunblinds, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. These are all feel-good features that MG could have included especially considering how popular they are nowadays.

We will give it to MG though for adding a USB port to the side of the internal rearview mirror so that one can connect the dashcam directly. That’s a really nice touch.

Advanced Driver Assistant System

Coming to the ADAS setup, MG claims that the Astor has a Level 2 autonomous system that uses a camera and radar at the front for active safety features such as adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, lane departure prevention and speed assist. What makes the Astor stand out is the fact that it’s the first mainstream car in India to use cameras as well as a radar for all these features.

To give you an idea the much bigger Gloster uses a camera-based system only for its ADAS setup. Now it remains to be seen how well these systems work in the real world with heavy traffic, pedestrians, and smaller road objects. We got a brief experience of Astor’s autonomous functions at the BIC though that was in a relatively controlled environment.

Autonomous Level 2 Functons

  • LANE FUNCTIONS
  • SAS – SPEED ASSIST SYSTEM
  • FCW – FRONT COLLISION WARNING
  • ACC – ADAPTIVE CRUISE CONTROL
  • REAR DRIVE ASSIST
  • INTELLIGENT HEADLAMP CONTROL

As for the rest of the safety features, you get 6 airbags, hill hold function, disc brakes on all four corners, a tire pressure monitoring system, blind-spot detection, a 360-degree camera, and an electronic parking brake.

Performance

Powertrian options

Unlike its closest rivals, the Astor misses out on a diesel powertrain instead you get two petrol engine and gearbox options. There’s the naturally aspirated 1.5-liter motor that makes 108 bhp and 144 Nm and the other option is the one that we have here. It’s the more powerful 1.3-liter turbo petrol engine that makes 138 bhp of power and 220 Nm of torque. This engine can only be had with a six-speed torque converter automatic gearbox.

Our first impressions of the drivetrain are really solid. We know that the Astor isn’t the kind of car you take to BIC and do hot laps in. But for what is basically a family crossover it’s not bad at all. Straight-line performance is strong and because peak power comes in early on in the rev range. This relatively compact 1.3-liter engine delivers good bottom end and mid-range punch. The 6-speed automatic pair to this engine isn’t the most energetic gearbox but then it isn’t an old-school slushbox either.

The engine feels smooth and refined but gets slightly noisy at high revs. Performance is brisk but unhurried and while the acceleration is quick the motor is also quick to convey that it is tuned to feel smooth and relaxed. The torque converter also impresses with its gear changes. But the Astor does not get paddle shifters something you miss while driving the Astor enthusiastically.

Driving Dynamics

We only drove the Astor at the BIC and being a racetrack it is layered with tarmac that is smooth and grippy. This really allowed us to explore the limits of the Astor dynamics. It feels confident at high speeds as we were able to hit over 160 kmph where the Astor felt perfectly stable. The SUV stability is also very impressive and braking hard from high speeds. It also feels very composed around corners as body roll is well controlled and thus overall stability is very impressive.

The upshifts are fairly quick and as you go down the gears it’s all seamless. It’s just that it doesn’t take well to spirited driving and is slow to respond to throttle inputs. You have to pre-plan everything when driving reasonably fast. What’s unique to the Astor is that it gets different modes for steering feel. Now that’s completely new to the segment. BIC is probably the best place to figure out how the steering waves in each and every mode.

Unfortunately, the other downside of driving any family car at the BIC is that you can easily overcome the limits of the tires and comfort biased suspension setup. Naturally, the Astor felt soft and slow to respond when we talk of changing directions and attacking the corners. But for everyday driving, it makes for a reasonably quiet and comfortable family vehicle.

Steering feel & feedback

You can adjust the weighted feel of the steering wheel given that the Astor uses an electrically assisted system. The steering modes on offer do change the way how it feels. But it’s mainly to do with how heavy and light it gets in dynamic and urban respectively. It’s perhaps best to leave it in normal because then it behaves exactly what it says on the box. Our first drive of the aster was limited across the buttery-smooth roads in and around the BIC. So, we couldn’t really test it for ride quality.

Conclusion

The ZS EV may not have any direct rivals but with the Astor, MG India has some big names to contend with. Now we all know that the Hyundai Creta and the Kia Seltos are doing extremely well. Now the Astor also has to deal with Skoda Kushaq and the recently introduced Volkswagen Taigun. Both are equally good in their own right.

Verdict: The Astor also has a lot going for it. It looks smart, it drives well. It has all the new age trendy features considering that MG is targeting a younger set of buyers with this car. What really works in favor of the Astor is that it offers not one but several segment-first genuinely usable features including ADAS and the AI system. The latter may seem gimmicky to some but there is real potential in it. We cannot wait to see how this tech develops and evolves.

What does MG India have to do now?

They have to back up what we think is a solid product with competitive prices. Anything above the Creta or the Seltos would be a difficult proposition to sell. With that in mind, we are expecting the Astor to come in between rupees 9 and 16 lakhs depending on the variant.

Pros

  • Handsome design with high-quality interior
  • Class leading tech and features
  • Advanced safety and driver assistant systems
  • Premium interior and quality materials
  • Peppy turbocharged engine and offers great mid-range performance

Cons

  • Comapritively smaller with its rivals
  • Torque isn’t quick to takle the power from motor
  • Missisng features like ventilated seats, auto dimming inside rear view mirror etc..

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