June 14, 2019

Test Drive Review – MG Hector

Words Aninda Sardar

An SUV to suit an increasingly connected lifestyle is what you want? This might just be it

Buttons and switches are yesteryears and touchscreens are from yesterday. Today it’s the age of the voice command. Few can deny this in an age where voice controlled home automation systems and phones aren’t just stuff you read in a tech mag but realities peddled on popular e-comm platforms. Today, if you want something all you need to do is ask. A philosophy to which the brand new MG Hector has zero problems subscribing.

“Hello MG, please show me the sky.” It’s one of those ludicrous things you’d never say to your car, and yet the Hector has no qualms about indulging your petulant demand and opening up the sunroof! And to think, not too long back voice activation would barely recognise our accents. The pace of change of technology aside, enabled more by an all-encompassing Internet and not the Internet Inside badge on the haunch of the Hector I’m in, this new product from MG poses some interesting questions. All of which could make for pretty decent drawing room conversations over the weekend. Certainly a break from the incessant chatter about washed out matches of the World Cup thanks to England’s lousy weather.

Speaking of things English, brand MG – an acronym for Morris Garages of yore – is actually British if you’re going by legacy alone and ignoring its decidedly Chinese ownership. Through the 1940s and ’50s and till about the middle of the ’60s, MG was a popular brand that made fast sporty cars that were affordable. While MG purists might raise their tweed jacketed arms in favour of the MG-A and MG-B, my personal favourite will always remain the TC Midget. A pre-WW II design sports car that could only be produced after the war. Delightful little thing really that was used extensively in the popular English sport of hill climbs. And although MG was (and remains) a well-known brand with a rich heritage to classic car enthusiasts, fact is Morris Garages has not been in India for decades and this is a case not of re-entry but of a fresh entry. Question is will the Hector make a good impression for MG?

Like the Trojan hero it’s named after, the Hector cuts an impressive silhouette at the porch of the Le Meridien in Coimbatore. It’s certainly eye catching if not outright attractive to passersby. More so, because they can’t place that big badge on the gaping grille and get curious. However it works, the end result is you get a lot of attention. At least that will be the case till such time that there are enough Hectors to kill the cat’s curiosity. It seems pretty well built too, in spite of the large-ish but consistent panel gaps. In fact there’s reassurance and irritation in equal measure when you realise how heavy the bloody doors are. Especially if you’ve parked on a hill with an incline where the car is tilted to one side.

Good bit is that you won’t be wanting to get out of the cabin too much. It’s surprisingly spacious and fairly plush inside. But you’ll only notice all of that once you’ve got past the shock of that humungous 10.4-inch touchscreen infotainment. In fact this is the Hector’s trump card, party piece…call it what you want. The “head unit” as the MG blokes call it is connected to the Net and has minor AI capabilities also which are activated by the words ‘Hello MG’. It has a bunch of apps too including the Gaana app that gets you access to the ten latest chartbusters, can accept software updates remotely like your smart phone does, control the climate control system, windows and of course the sunroof. Clever thing really. Fits in very well with a man who likes to be connected, for better or worse. Which is practically everyone these days.

Beyond the tech too the Hector doesn’t disappoint. There’s an air of plushness here, a quality of comfort that may not go so far as to pamper you but will certainly make you feel very very comfortable. In that sense, it’s closer to an American highway cruiser than it is to the British roots that the management is so keen to cash in on. Which is something that makes itself apparent in the way this SUV moves as well. You can choose between a 1.5-litre turbo-petrol or the BS VI compliant 2-litre turbo diesel from FCA that also does duty in the Jeep Compass and the Tata Harrier. In either case there’s decent shove and cruising on open highways or even cutting through the cityscape should be easy. Out on the climb to Coonoor however the petrol feels overwhelmed by a tall gearing so I ended up in second gear almost throughout. Handling too is an all American affair. So if you’re looking for European tautness, sorry, this won’t give you that. What it will give you is a soft around the edges, easygoing and relaxed drive. Now, what’s wrong with that?

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