MG’s latest entrant in the Indian market is a Hyundai Creta-rivalling, midsize SUV christened Astor. In essence, the Astor is a petrol-equivalent of the MG ZS EV, which made its India debut in 2020. Not only does it look sharper than the EV, it is also offered with a variety of engines and transmissions — a 1.5-litre petrol engine with a 5-speed manual or CVT automatic, and a 1.3-litre turbo-petrol with a 6-speed automatic — and it packs in some in-vogue features. But does MG’s newest midsize SUV have the right ingredients to entice buyers? We test the spicy 1.3-litre turbo-petrol version and evaluate its Advance Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) to find the answer.
What makes a positive first impression is the 1,349cc aluminium engine’s refinement, which, for a three-cylinder unit, is quite silent at idle and cruising speeds, and does not get too vocal or thrummy when spun faster. On the topic of refinement, passengers are nicely isolated from road and tyre noise, which is well contained, except on really coarse surfaces.
This turbo-petrol unit delivers performance in a linear manner, and if you want rapid progress, this motor obliges with impressive acceleration. For reference, it sprints to 100kph from a standstill in a respectable 10.23sec and tops out at 183kph (as measured by our GPS kit). So, while it is reasonably quick, it does not ‘feel’ fast due to its relaxed power delivery, and with revs maxxing out at 5,600rpm, it does not quite sporty either.
Complementing this motor is a 6-speed Aisin-sourced torque converter transmission that feels seamless on the upshifts and is almost like a CVT, so you barely notice the transition between ratios. It is nice and responsive while driving with a light foot, however, you will catch the transmission by surprise when you put your foot down for a quick overtake, as downshifts take a while to execute. It is at these occasions that you miss steering-mounted paddle shifters for manual intervention.
With a focus on comfort, the MG’s soft suspension set-up impresses due to its bump absorption ability. It absorbs road shocks and rounds off road imperfections like a much more premium car. On the flipside, the Astor does not feel quite as settled on the highway like its competitors, as there is some vertical movement. Due to its soft suspension, it rolls a fair bit around bends. To add a touch of sportiness, MG has equipped the Astor with steering modes that enhance the electric power steering’s weight, and while there is a noticeable difference in terms of weight between the three modes, there is no change in the amount of feel and feedback from the rather benign steering.
The Astor’s brake pedal feel is progressive and easy to get accustomed to, but even with discs at all four corners, under panic braking scenarios from 80-0kph, it stops in a distance of 26.24m, which is par for the course.
One of the Astor’s talking points is its Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), which make this MG the only car in its segment to be equipped with Autonomous Level 2 features. Out of the 14 features, we managed to test a few in real-world driving scenarios.
Adaptive cruise control is similar to cruise control, where you can set a speed and the car will maintain it, however, this feature goes a step further and takes care of acceleration and braking too. It will automatically slow down or even come to a halt while maintaining a preset distance with the vehicle ahead, and also accelerates automatically to the set speed once the road is clear. With a vehicle driving at a slower speed (than what you have set), you will find this system remains ‘on guard’, so with any change in the pre-set speed, the slow-shifting transmission makes it difficult for the Astor to maintain a consistent distance with the vehicle ahead.
Another useful feature is cross-traffic alert, where the car will warn you of an approaching vehicle (from either side) and while reversing out of a perpendicular parking spot. It displays a warning triangle on the touchscreen as it detects a vehicle approaching. While this feature is handy, the camera-display quality, however, leaves a lot to be desired.
It also gets blind-spot warnings in the form of small LEDs embedded in the outside mirrors, which glow orange and caution the driver of an object that is not in their field of vision. Lane keeping assist works nicely on a well-marked road surface, but on partially marked surfaces, it performs erratically.
Frontal-collision warning alerts the driver of a vehicle or pedestrian too close ahead, and thanks to the autonomous emergency braking, it brings the Astor down to a complete standstill, if it detects an impending collision.
The speed-assist system reads road signs, warns you of speeding cameras and in its ‘intelligent’ mode, it will automatically drop the speed to match the legal speed limit.
There is also an intelligent high-beam control, which, when driving on high beams on a poorly lit road, will automatically dip the headlamp beam when it detects an oncoming vehicle.
MG’s ‘celestial’ chrome grille with its outward radiating pattern is certainly one of the Astor’s most eye-catching design features. Its smart-looking LED headlamps and 17-inch alloys also do their bit to spice up its design, while the red brake calipers (front and rear) and fake dual-exhaust housings in the rear bumper add a touch of sportiness. On the whole, despite being larger in dimensions than the Hyundai Creta, the Astor comes across more like a crossover in appearance and lacks the butch road presence that SUV buyers typically want.
With a genuine premium feel, the Astor’s cabin is likely to bowl you over. Quality of material used is good and everything that falls to hand has a soft feel to it. Fit and finish levels are high, and you find some design similarities, such as the steering and rotary air vents, with some Volkswagen-group models. Accentuating the cabin’s premium quotient further is the tasteful ‘Sangria Red’ colour theme, with the massive panoramic sunroof that floods the cabin with light.
The front seats are broad, and the cushioning is soft. Tall adults seated at the rear will be quite comfortable, with adequate head and legroom on offer. A low central hump and a dedicated adjustable head restraint for the middle passenger, with a proper three-point seat belt, are welcome additions. However, the cabin’s narrow width makes accommodating three adults at the rear a bit of a squeeze.
MG has stuffed the Astor with segment-first features and some artificial intelligence (AI) kit in the shape of a cutesy robot sitting atop the dashboard. In addition to the welcome and goodbye messages, the robot performs certain voice commands, like adjusting the cabin temperature, answering questions with the help of Wikipedia, and even humouring you with a joke. Some users might find this feature a bit gimmicky, but others, especially children, are likely to take a liking to this little robot.
There are also some in-vogue features on offer such as a panoramic sunroof, digital dials and connected car features including pre-loaded apps, and remote vehicle controls, among others. There is also a 360-degree parking camera to speak of, and while the display quality could have been better, the 2D view will even show you whether your lights and indicators are on. An electrically adjustable driver’s seat, electric parking brake with auto hold, hill-descent control and automatic lights and wipers also make it to the equipment list.
The Astor, however, misses out on some kit that rivals offer, such as auto-dimming inside mirror, wireless charging, cooled front seats and paddle shifters, to name a few.
With a sub-₹ 10 lakh price, the base 1.5-litre petrol-manual variant spells phenomenal value for money for the equipment it packs in. The 1.5-litre CVT (automatic) variants command a premium of ₹1 lakh-1.50 lakh over the corresponding manuals, and the turbocharged automatic is ₹ 1.5 lakh-1.70 lakh pricier than similar CVTs.
The MG Astor is a refined and comfortable midsize SUV with a calm and congenial persona. Buyers who want a relaxed drive will gravitate towards this Creta rival, thanks to its light controls, likeable engine and smooth gearbox. The Astor’s laid-back character will not appeal to driving enthusiasts and the design, which is more crossover than SUV, does not give the road presence that a typical SUV buyer seeks.
The turbo-automatic’s price of ₹ 16.18 lakh-17.73 lakh is on par with rivals, but considering the segment-first ADAS features it packs in, and its top-class interiors, it comes across as a value proposition; and these are the reasons why the MG Astor deserves to be on your shortlist.