MG Motor India has been doing its very best to stay relevant in the extremely crowded SUV space, and since the Hector first arrived in 2019, the brand has brought in something new to the Hector’s line-up every year. And every year, since 2019, I’ve referred to the SUV as the ‘Hectorrrr!’ — the extremely memeable line from the 2004 movie Troy. Auto Expo 2023 saw the launch of another update for this large SUV, and initial impressions suggest that this is another minor facelift. The question remains if those minor differences change anything about the MG Hector, from its value for money quotient to its intimidation factor.
One could argue that this update for the MG Hector is its most significant yet. And still, I refer to the SUV as the ‘Hectorrrr!’, as it has the same defining traits as the 2019 model. Yes, the 2023 Hector does look and feel more premium overall. It now sports an even larger front grille with diamond-shaped chrome inserts, and LED light elements that connect the tail-lamps on either end. However, the shape, and most importantly, that size, is still as intimidating as ever. I wish they’d have updated the 18-inch dual-tone alloys though — in fact, I’d wish MG had put in thicker rubber overall, as those 215/55 R18 tyres look a little weedy, in profile and widthwise.
It’s still the ‘Hectorrrr!’ on the inside, too. There’s (figuratively) a hectare’s worth of space, and the SUV will easily fit five passengers, something that’s rare these days. The all-new dashboard suits the expanse, as does the new (and massive) 14-inch infotainment touchscreen that takes centre stage. It may not be as slick as some of its contemporaries, but it’s definitely a major step up from the previous 10.4-inch unit. It’s a bit annoying that some of the climate control settings can only be accessed via the infotainment unit, but the voice commands for the MG Assistant help take away some of that hassle. I also hope that the next update brings a better resolution for the 360-degree camera.
As before, you’ve got one of the most commanding views out — small trucks will feel like they’re being dwarfed by the Hector — though the lumbar support on the powered and ventilated front seats is excessive, and not adjustable. The rear seat experience is definitely the more comfortable one, thanks to the reclining backrest. But what makes the 2023 Hector feel a bit more desirable is that the quality of materials used — from the light beige upholstery and soft touch material on the dash top, to the plastics used for the switchgear, buttons and knobs, most things have seen quite a bit of improvement.
Speaking of improvements, the Hector now boasts of Level 2 autonomous driving technology, including features like adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, lane-keeping assist, autonomous emergency braking, and even a Traffic Jam Assist. Now, I’m a bit biassed against this sort of tech on our roads, seeing how unpredictable they are and that they’ve been getting worse in the two decades that I’ve been driving, but I have to admit, those who’ve grown up with it may feel comfortable enough to use it. All those functions work well enough in test conditions, but I don’t have the strength of mind to try them out on a standard Mumbai road.
One pet peeve I have, is what MG calls intelligent indicators, which start up the indicators when the steering is turned more than 30 degrees. It would be useful for those who forget to indicate (or just refuse to), and has the potential to make our roads marginally safer. However, I found it annoying that it came on in situations I thought were unnecessary, and that in some situations, it was downright useless — after all, an indicator is meant to be given before taking a turn, to state intent of direction, and is next to pointless if only given at the time of turning.
The 2023 MG Hector range has seen some mechanical changes as well. Gone is the mild-hybrid turbo-petrol engine, and the dual-clutch automatic gearbox — let’s be honest, that transmission unit was among the worst of its ilk. The 8-step CVT that was introduced with the 1.5-litre turbo-petrol engine in 2021, continues, and is a decent match. There is noticeable turbo lag, but at low speeds, the CVT manages to compensate for it. Neither the engine, nor the gearbox are meant to be used enthusiastically, and you get the best results from it when driven at half pedal.
Not that that will result in great fuel efficiency (under 10 kpl in the city is pretty standard, while highway runs will deliver about 15 kpl), but this will ensure you make progress in the manner that best suits the Hector. Ride quality is definitely a highlight, and most bad roads are taken care of with aplomb. There is a bounce that sets in at higher speeds, but I expect that will smoothen out when the SUV is loaded with passengers and luggage. Subsequently, the Hector isn’t one to be chucked around corners. There’s too much body roll, the steering feedback is negligible, and the powertrain won’t support you in your endeavours either. On the other hand, braking from the four-disc setup is more than up to scratch.
At the end of the day, the MG Hector is still one of the most value for money products on the market, and will continue to rake in the number for the company. Like its namesake from Troy, it’s intimidating, competent where it needs to be, and it’s able to put passengers at ease, but also like its movie counterpart, it may lose out to the best of the best in the segment. Yes, there have been improvements — of particular note are the enhancements to the NVH levels — but the Hector still has a little way to go to beat the segment’s proverbial Achilles.
AUTODATAMG Hector Petrol Savvy Pro
1451cc, I4, turbo-petrol
141 bhp@5000 rpm
25.49 kgm@1600-3600 rpm
F/R: 215/55 R18
Rs 21.72 lakh (ex-showroom, India)