MG Hector - Honest 3000km Review!
MG Motors entered India with its sales and manufacturing operations in 2019 after its ownership by SAIC (Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation) in 2012 which is Chinese Government Owned Automotive Design and Manufacturing company and has seen quite a lot of popularity amongst Indian consumers ever since with its Hector SUV. The Hector claims to have a lot of stuff for the money you pay for it and the value for money proposition and MG's strong marketing campaigns helped boost sales across the country. The car is loaded to the gills with gizmos and gadgets on board and is substantially sized as well which did catch the eye of the Indian new car buyer from Day 1 of its sale.
I've had the MG Hector in its top of the line trim fitted with a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine mated to a 6-speed DCT gearbox for almost a month and after doing a little over 3000 km a proper honest review beckoned.
The MG Hector boasts massive proportions on paper, a 4.65 m X 1.83 m X 1.76 m (LxWxH) and a 2.75 m wheelbase which is quite substantial in comparison to the cars that fall in its competition. The design is more SUV like than a Cross-over in terms of its silhouette and that is where the design elements start going for a toss.
The visual proportions of the Hector are very odd, 215 / 60 R17 wheel size is pretty small for the massive size of the car and considering the equally smaller wheel well, the design looks very bad in terms of its execution. Considering this car is an 'SUV' the body overhangs both in the front and in the rear are massively long which proportionally look like the car has been designed by a 5-year-old. The same overhangs also cause a lot of trouble while going on a steep downhill or uphill where the bumpers scrape pretty badly. A quarter priced Maruti Suzuki S-Presso has better overhang design than the Hector. The 10-spoke alloy wheels, although 17 inches in size look overly designed for the more flat-looking side profile with blacked-out elements being prominent which in turn make the wheel size appear smaller.
On to the front of the car, the design looks a complete contrast to the other angles of the car, with a good dose of chrome and shiny metal elements, a massive grille to liberate good amount of air into the engine bay and some good looking LED headlamp and DRL design. The DRL and Headlamp housing, however, look very good in terms of their placement but the design has been bluntly copied from the TATA Harrier which came much before the Hector. A prominent MG logo sits in the middle of the front grill and with the honeycomb design, the grill complements the octagonal Morris Garages logo.
Come to the rear and 5-year-old designer loses its shit. The design looks excessively busy with too many elements being thrown in the rather mundane and unaesthetic exterior that exists. The design looks like it has been bluntly copied from the first generation Audi Q7 with swooping tail lamps and boomerang-shaped rear fog-lamp and hazard lamp cluster in the rear bumper. The long reflector bar that connects the tail lamps through the MG logo looks like a cheap after-thought and no, that is not an optional accessory. The silver-painted massive chunk of plastic cladding on the bottom of the rear bumper just ruins the proportions of the car and makes it look like it is trying very hard to be premium and it ended up being a Chinese Knock-Off of some high-end SUV.
The entire country got hooked up to the interiors of the MG Hector. Mostly because of the massive 10.4 inches 'Tesla-Lookalike' central infotainment screen which indeed was something out of the box. The Dashboard design looked premium with good quality soft-touch plastic used in most areas of the dashboard and interior trim. The dashboard sits nice and low and liberates quite a lot of visuals up front while driving.
The steering is unnecessarily large and is angled a bit upwards which in-turn makes you feel like you're driving a commercial truck. Drivers who are horizontally fluffy will find a typical issue with the steering as it does rub against the abdomen while driving. The instrument cluster is quite large but the digital read-out looks and feels low rent with mediocre graphics and a confusing layout and information.
There are no physical buttons for the Automatic Climate Control in the Hector and everything gets controlled via the MASSIVE portrait screen which is quite a cumbersome thing to do when you are driving on the road. Even the volume control is reduced to being a push button which makes it a very uneasy experience. What's the problem with good old knobs? MG says that the voice command system can control a lot of operations on the car but on my usage, it just failed to understand even the simplest commands I or anyone in my family spoke hence making it clumsy as I had to end up finding the options to turn down the Air Conditioning and Music streaming on the screen. The audio controls on the steering wheel however do help in keeping things in control for the music but take their own merry time to react.
The controls for some important functions like ORVM adjustment and folding, instrument panel brightness, headlamp levelling and boot opening are given below the right-hand side AC vents which do make things easier, what doesn't is their placement is too closer to the steering column hence making access a little cumbersome.
The Hector also comes with a 360-degree parking camera which is a welcome addition in this segment and does help to make parking this mammoth a breeze. What isn't really good is the quality of the image from the camera which looks late 2000s VGA camera grade. The inclusion of front and rear parking sensors is a standard feature in the segment but it does intrude every now and then in traffic driving even when the other vehicle is relatively farther away.
The Hector also gets an 8-speaker Infinity sound system as standard on the top trim bundled with an amplifier and subwoofer which looks quite a great addition on paper but the sound quality is average and nothing like you get on the Korean twins, the Seltos and Creta with the Bose setup or the TATA Harrier which gets a top grade JBL Harman sound setup.
The area where the Hector takes away the cake, the cherries and the party poppers too, is the back seat situation. The 2nd-row seat is wide and has tonnes of headroom and knee room on offer. Because of a Box shape front to rear profile, it has packaged in a lot of shoulder room which can easily accommodate 3 adults of average size. The well-shaped scoops behind the front seats help accommodate people with long legs. What also helps accommodate long legs in the central transmission tunnel which is almost flat frees up space for the feet of the passenger sitting in the middle. The seatback in the middle row is reclined quite a lot too which does make doing the longer distance in the Hector an easy affair.
The Hector in this top of the line SHARP trim gets a massive panoramic sunroof as well which lets in a lot of light into the rather dark shaded interior. But unfortunately, the owners end up using this sunroof to poke their and their kids head out while driving which is a stupid thing to do and is very unsafe, more so because the anti-pinch function in the sunroof does not work properly and there have been instances where we testing getting our hand in between and got the fingers crushed.
The 1.5-litre Turbocharged Petrol engine produces a healthy 143 bhp and 250 Nm of torque on paper with the 6-speed DCT gearbox, but in reality, it struggles to put down the power to the ground smoothly. The engine has a crude whine and the gearbox gets overworked all the time in the city. The absence of good NVH in the cabin and the engine bay makes it an even worse experience as you hear everything filtering inside quite prominently. The MG Hector is nowhere as a relaxing car to drive as the TATA Harrier or the Korean twins (Seltos and Creta). The calibration of the engine and this DCT gearbox is the worst engineered of all the cars we've ever tested, the character of the DCT shifting is missing massively and it does end up feeling more like a CVT gearbox which is quite a shame. The 0-100 km/h sprint also crossed the 15 seconds mark which is worse than my 10-year-old Hyundai i20 with a 1.2-litre N/A engine. What also makes me furious is the fuel economy from this engine and gearbox setup. In the city, I was able to manage 7.8 km/l and on the highway, I never saw the meter rise above the 10km/l mark which is worse than a 2.5 tonne 5 litre Supercharged V8 powered Range Rover Sport SVR which makes 550 bhp!
On the road is where you realise the badly engineered character of the MG Hector. It wobbles massively on highway speeds and does make doing long highway journeys a very cumbersome experience. The steering is dead and vaguely servoed and feels like it has been picked up from a Maruti Suzuki Eeco in behaviour. On the corners is where the handling goes for a toss, the ESC intrudes boldly when doing small angled turns on the highway and the car understeers badly with the inclusion of a head heavy structure playing a prominent part in killing your confidence. The tyres are equally crude providing next to no grip and intruding into a safer driving experience. The Hector is good at slower speeds, 70-80 kmph on the highway is where the Hector is at its best. Increase the pace and it becomes a compromise. And considering the car has a very bad crash-test record it just inflates the chance of being an unsafe automobile running on the road.
The MG Hector is loaded to the gills with features on papers, half of which are useless things and should be discounted from the list as they malfunction or break apart over the period of time. We saw the rear electric tail-gate and door lock system malfunctioning in our test car which is a safety hazard for which we had to spend long hours with MG technicians to get it fixed. It is a great gadget sitting on 4 wheels and nice sofa at back to ferry passengers, a character we associate with boats. It isn't a good car as it drives badly, is dynamically unbalanced and economically worse than cars 15 times more expensive. Also, MG's after-sales service history has been in a questionable space since the company started operations in India with so many customers sharing grievances on the internet which were muted by the strong management of MG in India and that speaks volumes about MG's intent to sell a car with a 'Jo dhikhta hai woh bikta hai' (What you show, will sell) attitude. But in the end, it's the buyer's decision to fall for the marketing campaigns or the reality under the skin.