MG Astor test drive: A robot in the form of an SUV

Until recently, we have been used to seeing petrol and diesel vehicles getting an electric makeover. From Tata Nexon to Tigor and even electric autorickshaws belong to this category of vehicles. However, MG Astor is different. In its previous avatar it was MG ZS electric and in its second coming as a petrol car it is better than its electric version.

Petrol and electric
It is the brilliance in design that helps the Astor to transform from an electric car into a petrol one quite seamlessly. For standard petrol cars, the conversion to an electric variant is a bit tricky. It needs to undergo substantial changes, including those to accommodate the battery. Hence, what the Astor has achieved is quite unique. The basic design is done in such a way that it could easily be converted into an electric vehicle. Soo, the design is undoubtedly most modern.

Artificial intelligence
The conventional 'Internet Inside' badging has given way to 'AI Inside'. So, what does the AI technology offer?

Plenty. There is a small robot on the dashboard that will work as your personal assistant. The robot is not just a screen. It displays human emotions in the form of emoticons and responds in the voice of a woman. On demand, it can sing you a song, crack a joke, clear your doubts by referring to Wikipedia, read out news and also keep a tab on the health of the car. If you need to open the sunroof, tell the robot. The Astor gets around 80 connected car features, including navigation, using internet connectivity through a 4G Jio SIM.

'Key' Aspect
Another import feature is the digital key. If you forget the key, don't worry, you can use your phone as the key. If you activate the digital key, you can not only open and close the car, but also drive it. But MG advises its customers not to use this feature regularly because it could lead to the draining of phone battery that could leave you stranded on the way.

9457_Astor Brochure Digital_A4 Lowres

'Next level'
The MG Astor is loaded with features. Apart from artificial intelligence-aided features, it comes with Level 2 Advance Driver Assist System that is usually seen in luxury cars and makes the journey safer. Other features include advanced cruise control, forward collision warning, auto emergency braking, lane keep assist, lane departure prevention, blind spot detection system and speed assist among 14 autonomous features.

The advanced cruise control system not only determines the speed, it uses a radar to maintain a specific distance from the vehicle in front. Moreover, it can increase or decrease the speed according to the movement of the vehicle ahead. The forward collision warning system will warn the driver ahead in case of a possible accident and if necessary, applies the brake too. The lane keep assist will warn you if you have moved out of your lane and brings the vehicle back to your track.

9457_Astor Brochure Digital_A4 Lowres

When you are reversing the vehicle from parking, the driver may not see a vehicle due to the blind spot. The Astor has a feature to prevent such accidents. When reversing, if vehicles are coming from the sides, the blind spot detection system would alert the driver. Other features include six air bags, hill hold, hill descent, disc brakes on all four wheels, 360-degree camera, cornering assist fog lamp and electric park brake.

9457_Astor Brochure Digital_A4 Lowres

Not a sub-4m SUV
The Astor does not belong to the sub-4m segment. It is 4,323 mm long, 1,809mm wide and 1,650mm tall. It gets a sporty 'celestial' grille, small LED headlamps, which have nine crystal diamond elements, turbine-inspired 17-inch dual-tone alloys and small tail lamps. The MG logo doubles up as the boot lid handle.

Premium interiors
The Astor gets the most premium interior for a vehicle in the segment. The interior colour themes include red and black, beige and black and all-black. The Astor is also equipped with a 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The settings of the Level 2 ADAS can also be done on the touchscreen. MG has partnered with MapMyIndia for maps and navigation services. The Jio SIM comes with Jio Saavan app to listen to songs. There is also a fully-digital seven-inch instrument cluster.

Modes For Steering
The steering gets three modes - normal, urban and dynamic. According to your selection, the modes will alter the steering response to provide better feel and feedback. The Astor also has a panoramic sunroof, heated wing mirrors, automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers, and 6-way electrically adjustable driver seat. Rear seat ride comfort is good.

Petrol engines
The Astor has a choice of two petrol engines. The 1.5-litre engine churns out 120 bhp of power and 150 Nm of torque, while the 1.3-litre turbo-charged unit produces 163 bhp of power and 203 Nm of torque. The 1.5-litre engine gets a manual gearbox and eight-step CVT automatic transmission. The turbo engine comes mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Both the engines are powerful.

Though Hyundai Creta, Kia Seltos, Nissan Kicks, Renault Duster, Skoda Kushaq and Volkswagen Taigun are its rivals, the Astor is leagues ahead of them in terms of features and quality.

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