What is it?
Why will I buy it?
Rich looks, well-finished, roomy and comfortable cabin
Why will I avoid it?
No diesel-automatic, not exciting to drive
What is it?
MG's first product for the Indian market is this Hector. It is a five-seater mid-size SUV that should go head-to-head against the Tata Harrier and Jeep Compass upon its launch. Morris Garages (MG) is a British automotive brand all-set to start its innings in India with a heavily localised Hector. It will be available in four engine-gearbox setups - petrol manual, automatic, hybrid and a diesel manual. There will be four trims - Style, Super, Smart and the top-spec Sharp which you can see here.
Dimensions-wise, it's a big SUV and for its massive proportions, even 17-inch alloys look small. But then, it ticks the right boxes to suit Indian tastes. Tall stance for street presence, tastefully designed grille and rear with adequate use of chrome, rich looks with all-LED lamps and dynamic side indicators; and even uniform panel gaps for the most part.
How is it on the inside?
Despite being huge and tall, ingress and egress in the Hector is easy. Visibility from inside is good due to the large windows and the six-way electrically adjustable seat means finding the perfect driving position is simple. The layout, although simple and ergonomic, boasts of a huge touch screen infotainment system and colourful MID. There are not many buttons on the dash, which makes the dash clutter-free, but then both the screens look overburdened with tons of information. Some controls, like the ones for ac, still feel best left to hardware switchgear. Sadly, automatic air-con is available only on the top-spec Sharp trim and is not even a dual-zone climate control unit. Also, it takes time to get used to so many buttons on the steering wheel and it would have been a delight to have one touch auto up-and-down on all the windows. Although there are more than four-bottle holders, the rest are only small storage and stowage places like in the door pad, centre console and arm-rest. These are merely good for keeping small and few things. That said, the fit and finish of the cabin is remarkable and the quality of materials give it an up-market feel, particularly the artificial leather with stitching and diffused chrome accents.
We don't think anyone will complain about space as it's there in spades. Our measurements also reveal that the Hector is as spacious as the Harrier and is, in fact, roomier than the Compass. Furthermore, the massive sunroof and off-white colour help in adding to the sense of space inside. This, paired with adequate support from the seats, makes the cabin a comfortable place for five. Despite a flat floorboard and an adjustable reclining backrest, the middle person in the second row wouldn’t be as comfortable as the others with enough space to stretch out their legs. The boot space at 587 litres is by far the largest in its segment. It adds to convenience too with 60:40 split and goes completely flat with seats folded.
Equipment-wise, Hector's top-spec Sharp trim comes with all the bells and whistles. It's generously packed with a big 10.4-inch HD touchscreen, 7.0-inch MID, keyless-go, auto headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, mood lighting, cruise control, sun-roof, fast charging ports and eight speakers. Even, the safety suite boasts of six air-bags, ABS, ESP, all-round discs, hill-hold, cornering lamps and front parking sensors. Phew! Still, if that's not a lot, there are segment-first features like heated ORVMs, powered tailgate, fatigue-reminder, sub-woofer and amplifier paired to eight speakers. Even the passenger seat is four-way electrically adjustable. Heck, the SUV gets all-LED lamps and even the base trim gets halogen projectors.
Apart from these segment-leading features, the Hector's main highlight remains its first-in-class connectivity features enabled through their iSMART next-gen technology. After all they are calling it the internet car. It boasts of SIM connectivity (5G ready) with an aim to provide connectivity on the go. The carmaker has partnered with Gaana, TomTom, AccuWeather, Microsoft, Adobe and many others. The interface offers a seamless experience paired to an Airtel subscription valid for three years. What's more, say 'Hello MG' and the car will respond to audio commands (100-fed already). It can change audio source, search and play a song from the internet, adjust blower speed and even open/close the sunroof! Interestingly, it's not that gimmicky, adds practical value and is the one thing that still stands out from its peers.
How does it drive?
We drove the diesel version of the Hector which is powered by the 2.0-litre diesel engine producing 170bhp and 350Nm of torque. This FCA-sourced turbocharged motor comes mated to a six-speed manual transmission and sends power to the front wheels only. There's no AWD version like the Jeep Compass or drive and terrain response modes like in the Tata Harrier. Start this motor with the push of a button and it settles into a characteristic diesel clatter at idling. Get going and you’ll notice the distinct lag until 1,500rpm, after which the motor comes alive, performing its best from 2,000-3,500rpm. Post this, the engine becomes all the more noisy and at 4,500rpm, feels strained. It's better to make a quick gear change in the mid-range as there’s loads of torque to gain and maintain high speeds. Besides, the gears slot in well, but the shifts still feel notchy. Drivers are also not going to like the heavy clutch action, especially in city traffic. That said, there's a dead pedal and out on the highway cruising is a relaxed affair thanks to lower revs in sixth gear.
Now, manoeuvring the Hector is a task due to its huge size and more than two-and-a-half turns, lock-to-lock. Yet judging while parking isn't difficult as the 360 degree camera comes in handy. Also, the steering isn't heavy but still not the best in terms of responsiveness. Despite being predictable, the Hector's weight hampers it from making quick direction changes. The body roll is quite evident here and in fact, it understeers with the tyres fighting to grip the road.
Clearly, the Hector isn't an SUV that you would want to push around corners, especially with more than four occupants. However, drive it in a sane manner and it impresses in its straight-line stability. The amount of comfort it provides makes it a good long-distance runner. The suspension is tuned slightly on the softer side and with 192mm ground clearance, it takes on uneven surfaces and even broken roads with ease. Yet, it will not flatten whatever comes in it way and sharp edged potholes will send a jolt into the cabin. All the same, the suspension still is nicely damped as it settles well on wavy surfaces without much discomfort.
Should I buy one?
There is no diesel automatic and this can be a deal-breaker for some. Yet, the Hector is big, looks rich, is feature-packed, has set a higher standard for in-car technology, rides well and is a comfortable five-seater. So this should persuade many prospective buyers into looking for a spacious and luxurious diesel SUV. Soon our proper road test and comparison will ascertain if the Hector comes out as a strong competitor to its rivals. But for now, the product seems promising and comes forth as a strong viable option in this segment.
Where does it fit in?
MG Motor India is expected to announce Hector prices soon. These are estimated to be around Rs 15 lakhs for the base trim Style, going to about Rs 20 lakhs for the top-spec Sharp. We still hope this is the on-road pricing and undercuts the Tata Harrier, Jeep Compass and even the XUV500. Things will get more interesting then.
Pictures by Kapil Angane