The MG Astor is a car that made a strong first impression in its segment when it was launched with much fanfare back in 2021. Unveiled at a time when the segment was dominated by a few familiar names, MG Motor India introduced a fresh-faced, tech-laden value for money package in the form of Astor, hoping to shake things up a bit. But first impressions only tell so much. We therefore set out to explore a bit more. To know what it is like to live with the Astor in 2023. What are the little details that we’ve come to love, and what left us wanting more? Here are our 17 observations after driving the MG Astor for 1700 kms and living with it for over 20 odd days.
1. Striking Front Fascia: First impressions are often made on face value, and in the case of the Astor, it’s a strong one. We’re not sure if it’s the relative rarity of the car on Indian roads or if it’s MG’s striking and fresh design language, but the Astor stands out on the road like few other cars in the segment and continues to turn heads even two years after being launched, which can’t be said for most of its competitors. The bold ‘celestial’ grille and ‘hawk eye’ LED headlights are some of our favourite design features.
2. Balanced and Proportionate Design: MG has really nailed the balance in Astor’s design, and it is one of the few compact SUVs that have a well proportioned design and a pitch perfect stance. The elegantly sloping roofline and strong shoulder lines, combined with the 17″ alloys, give the Astor a confident and sure-footed road presence. Apart from the ostentatious ‘Brit Dynamic’ badges strewn around the car, there’s not much we’d like to change about Astor’s design.
3. Driving Comfort: After our 1700 kms experience, it was amply clear to us that the Astor is a comfortable car to drive over long distances. The electrically adjustable driver’s seat is well structured with ample support and some useful side bolstering which helps during hard cornering. The front passenger seat has excellent bolstering too, but misses out on electrical adjustment. Sadly, the Astor also misses out on ventilated seats, a feature that is now offered by even more affordable cars like Tata Nexon.
4. Commendable Build Quality: Over time, we’ve really come to appreciate the strong quality and level of materials used in the MG Astor’s cabin. Most surfaces that you’d touch regularly are lined with soft-touch material, and we especially like the brushed aluminium inserts strewn around the interior. The only pain point over a longer term would be the piano black plastic inserts, which scratch quite easily.
5. Backseat Comfort: One of the first things you would notice when you step into the rear of the Astor is the surprising amount of space and airiness. The rear feels roomy and airy, thanks in part to the huge panoramic roof. The seats themselves are comfortable as well, with ample legroom and headroom for all but the tallest passengers. Under thigh support could have been better, but isn’t a major pain point. The rear can seat two adults comfortably, but three adults may find shoulder room to be at a premium.
6. Cabin Storage: MG has equipped the Astor with a tonne of storage space inside the cabin, which includes some extremely roomy door pockets in the front capable of carrying 2-3 large water bottles. Other storage for the front passengers includes a decently sized glove box, a couple of cup holders, some useful storage under the centre armrest, and a place to keep your phone. Door pockets at the rear are spacious as well, and the rear foldable armrest comes with hidden cupholders.
7. Omission of Wireless Charging: MG has made a big deal about the Astor being more technologically advanced than many of its competitors, with a host of tech-enabled segment-first features. Which is why it’s disappointing not to have wireless charging, even for the range topping ZS version.
8. Underutilised Digital Instrument Cluster: The Astor comes with a 7″ digital instrument cluster which features crisp graphics and smooth animations. While we like the layout of the instrument cluster with the unique speed and rev counter at either ends of the display, the rest of the screen space remains underutilised. Much of it is occupied by a graphic which shows your distance to the car in front, whereas part of this space could’ve been used to integrate navigation functions so that the driver can keep their eyes on the road.
9. Segment-Best Infotainment System: We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. MG Astor sets a new benchmark in the segment with its 10.1” infotainment display. The iPad-like feel of the screen never ceases to amaze first-time passengers, and the floating design adds a touch of sophistication. The system’s built-in features, including the navigation, are actually quite usable, although most people would just connect their phone via Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The only let down continues to be the lack of wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which when combined with the addition of a wireless charger, would have upped the overall in-cabin experience by several notches.
10. Constant Beeping: Having driven the Astor over a significant distance, the multitude of beeping sounds that the car constantly makes came out as one of our top pet peeves. The Astor’s Level 2 ADAS features are undoubtedly a brilliant addition to this segment. It is a vital safety feature. However, the Lane Keep Assist with Automatic Steering constantly engages and disengages depending on the condition of the road. This results in continuous beeping that can be distracting if you are in the middle of a conversation, and get a tad annoying over long drives. Additionally, the Astor makes a series of loud beeping sounds every time you change lanes and the Lane Keep Assist disengages, even when the driver indicates a lane change. Ideally, the system should determine if it is a voluntary lane change or an involuntary one and set off the alert accordingly.
11. Bumpy Low-Speed & Stable High-Speed Ride Quality: We noticed the Astor’s low-speed ride quality to be a bit fidgety at times, with the car feeling bouncy over irregular tarmac. The suspension setup starts to get much more pliant and stable as speeds rise, and the Astor’s high speed stability is commendable. The suspension is much better at absorbing bumps and undulations on the road at medium-to-high speeds.
12. Noise Insulation: At low speeds, the Astor does a good job at insulating the cabin and its occupants from road and wind noise. As you speed up, noise and harshness from road irregularities make their way into the cabin, along with a substantial amount of wind noise at higher speeds. Enough to distract from an otherwise premium cabin experience.
13. Average Ground Clearance: At 180mm, MG Astor offers a decent amount of ground clearance, but it’s certainly not the best in its segment. Competitors such as Creta, Taigun and even the more affordable Nexon come with better ground clearance. While it can handle most road conditions well, driving on severely uneven surfaces or rough terrains might require extra caution.
14. Powerful Performance: Our pick of the Astor’s engine lineup has to be the 1.3 litre turbo petrol unit, producing 140 bhp peak power and 220 Nm of torque. The turbo petrol, mated to the 6-speed automatic transmission, provides ample grunt for most real-world cases. There’s a bit of lag, which is to be expected, but push the pedal steadily and you’re greeted with a strong and gradual power delivery which makes accelerating to triple digit speeds a breeze.
15. Lack of Sports Mode: With a peppy engine like the 1.3 litre turbo petrol, we would have loved to see ‘Sport Mode’ as an option, with a more immediate throttle response. We do appreciate the option of altering the steering feel, and the fact that the three different steering modes do significantly change the weight. But it would’ve been nicer to have a single button to put the car into Sport Mode.
16. Useful Safety Features: The Astor’s stellar list of safety features is impressive not just on paper, but during everyday driving as well. The Level 2 ADAS features, ranging from the Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keep Assist to the Rear Drive Assist and Blind Spot Detection, makes driving stress-free and easier every single day. While some features such as Lane Keep Assist can be a tad too enthusiastic in their interventions, the overall combination of safety and tech in the Astor puts it in a unique space.
17. Fuel Efficiency & Running Cost: One of the biggest downer over our 1700 km experience was its rather disappointing fuel efficiency, with the SUV returning an average of 10.5 km/l over a balanced combination of city and highway/ expressway driving. This translates to a fairly high running cost over time (more so, if you live in the suburbs and need to drive to town everyday), and many of the Astor’s competitors do much better on the efficiency numbers.