Off lately, the usual trend is for petrol-powered cars to turn into EVs. We saw it with the Nexon EV and with the Tigor EV as well, and globally, this has been happening for a while. However, MG has done the exact opposite and introduced the all-new Astor, which is the petrol-powered version of the ZS EV. Is it a case of one step forward, two steps back? Not really.
You see, the Astor might have the ZS EVs silhouette and even the shape to an extent. But apart from that, the similarities are hard to point out. The design overall has been updated and is a lot more modern now. The Astor is based on the facelifted version of the ZS that is available globally, and the changes are good proof of that. Gone are the London Eye DRLs, and instead, the new headlamps are sharp and feature a hawk-like design. The new boomerang DRLs and nine crystal elements in the headlamp cluster give it a lot more detail and premium appeal. Then is the grille, which again is similar to the ZS, but instead of the honeycomb treatment, you have chrome studded elements. MG calls it the ‘Celestial’ grille, and that is a fitting name. Low down, you have sharper bumpers and black elements to add depth.
Over to the side, there has been no change dimensionally, so the length and wheelbase are identical; however, the Astor has gained a bit more height and even ground clearance as it doesn’t have to house a massive battery pack under it anymore. That said, the diamond-cut alloys look sharp, and the red brake callipers also add a bit of sportiness.
The rear is rather busy with a healthy dose of chrome and plenty of badging. The LED taillamps are crisp, and the bumpers come with faux exhaust tips and a blacked-out skidplate. Not a lot of cladding on the Astor, but it doesn’t take away the fact that it is an out and out SUV.
Getting inside the Astor can be done in two ways. You can either use the traditional key fob or even turn your smartphone into a key. The digital key is exclusively available on the Astor and works with the cars bluetooth function. You can also control the lock/unlock, horn and lights from the digital key if you misplace it in a parking lot and even turn on the air conditioning for pre-cooling. Once you get in, though, the cabin quality is impressive, to say the least. The dashboard layout is simple but stylish, and there is a good amount of leather all around. You also get double stitching and soft-touch materials on the top of the dash, but the highlight has to be the Sangria Red upholstery that makes the cabin pop. It isn’t cheap by any means, and if anything, it only uplifts the cabin ambience that much more.
The Astor also gets a new 10.1-inch touchscreen that is smooth and high resolution, along with a fully digital instrument cluster that has a 7-inch LCD display. That said, the interior star is the AI system placed on top of the dashboard. It is intuitive and very easy to use. All you need to do is say, “Hello Astor”, and follow it with a command. It can shut the sunroof, adjust the HVAC settings. Still, more importantly, it can also connect you to the outside world with live score updates, Wikipedia information and even jokes when you are bored sitting in traffic. It also has two receptors which means it tilts itself towards the driver or passenger as they speak. It all adds a personal touch, and in some ways, you will never get lonely in the Astor. The other equipment updates include a 360-degree camera, panoramic sunroof, blind-spot detection, PM 2.5 filter, a jio e-sim, along with a barrage of applications that you can subscribe to and make full use of.
That said, the ADAS is Astor’s main USP. The autonomous level 2 features are a big jump ahead of its rivals and will surely impress the buyers. Among the 14 features on offer, some important ones are adaptive cruise control, lane mitigation, lane departure, pedestrian emergency braking, speed assist alerts, headlamp control, and even rear assist blindspot. How they actually work is something we will find out soon, but it all looks very promising.
Practicality wise, the Astor has a good amount of room in the cabin; the seats up front are comfy and broad and get electric adjust. You also have a good amount of space in the rear with AC vents and five USB ports throughout the car. The boot is sizeable too, and overall, it’s got all the typical SUV traits.
Powering the Astor will be two petrol engines and multiple gearbox options. A 1.5-litre naturally aspirated engine will make 110bhp and be mated to either an 8-step CVT or a 6-speed manual. But for the enthusiasts, there is also a 1.3-litre turbo-petrol engine with 140bhp mated to a 6-speed automatic gearbox. To find out how it works on the road, you guys will have to wait a bit longer and even the pricing is still anyone’s guess. But if MGs history of launching SUVs is anything to go by, the pricing will be aggressive and the Creta and Seltos will have to watch their back with this one.