Home / Reviews / First Drive / MG Hector Plus 2.0 Diesel India Test Review

 

We’re all aware of the MG Hector Plus and have seen its pictures and videos when it was showcased at the Auto Expo 2020 and the buzz it created then. A lucky few of us got to drive the six-seater version recently and here’s what’s in store.

Story: Sarmad Kadiri
Photography: Sanjay Raikar

The MG Hector Plus is priced quite well actually, asking a premium of about Rs 80,000 over the standard Hector for the additional seating, comfort and features. To make the Hector an even more compelling package, MG engineers stretched the overall length by 65 mm, without changing the wheelbase of course. And with some clever packaging, they did manage to install a third row of seats and a couple of Captain seat in the middle row. (Also Read: MG ZS EV Electric SUV Review)

Does the Hector Plus look different from the five-seater version?
To give the Plus a more distinct identity, the designers also gave this version some design tweaks. So, in comes a new all-black grille with chrome tips, which are further enhanced with a different front bumper and a new set of snazzy LED daytime running lights. Unlike the standard Hector’s split-type headlamps, the Plus gets a nicer looking single unit with floating indicators. The new face, along with the marginally longer side profile, makes the six-seater version appear a bit more imposing than its sibling. There’s a new rear bumper too, and even the tail-lamps have been restyled and sport dynamic indicators. An impressive feature we noticed: When you have the hazard lights on and you pop open the tail-gate, the smaller lights on the rear bumper start to blink as a safety measure (since the boot-lid mounted tail-lamps will not be visible). It’s a small, but a thoughtful touch. Another very minor change is that the signature ‘Internet Inside’ badge has become a little more compressed than before. To be honest, only very sharp eyes will be able to tell the six-seater and five-seater apart if they fly past you on the road. Unless you notice the obvious ‘Hector Plus’ badge at the back.

What’s new in the cabin of the Hector Plus?
The cabin clearly is very different and there is a visible attempt to make it appear more premium than the standard Hector. You still get the hard plastic on portions of the cabin, but there’s a generous use of upmarket Smoked Sepia brown leather, not just on the seats but also on the door panels and even on the dashboard. The rich colour of the upholstery makes the seats appear more contoured, which anyway are quite large and comfortable. Both the front seats are electrically adjustable, and the driver can alter the seat’s height and adjust the steering for tilt and reach, which help create a near-perfect driving position. The second-row Captain seats, however, need manual labour and offer good support and good personal space. They can slide ahead to make room for the last row. The third row, as mentioned over and over again during the online launch of the six-seater, is good for the younger lot. If an adult is occupying them, pray for the driver to be short, as there’s limited knee room and little under-thigh support. Thankfully, the large windows and a panoramic sunroof make the cabin feel airy. As long as there are four adults and a couple of children, the Hector Plus will give you little opportunity to complain about the space it has to offer.

Any new features worth a look?
Inside the cabin, the long list of features will keep you occupied, if not entertained. As in the regular Hector, there’s a large 10.4-inch touchscreen display but here it gets the latest i-Smart infotainment system with the ‘Chit-Chat’ feature. The idea is to make the car more interactive and personal, unlike earlier voice commands which were more transactional. So, now the company encourages you to have a conversation with your car and ask things like, ‘How am I looking today?’, and it replies with something like ‘Beautiful as always, darling!’ A note of caution – eyebrows will be raised, and you might be branded as self-obsessed.
Like the Hector, the Plus continues to offer all the connected car features like a premium membership of Gaana to stream music on the go, preloaded entertainment content from the MG library, and things like Geo-fencing, Smart Drive information, and even vehicle status on your phone app. A new introduction is a Medklinn sanitising system which sterilises the air and surface of the car’s cabin without using any chemicals and filters. And, of course, the much spoken about Smart Swipe feature, which lets you swipe your foot under the boot lid to pop it open hands-free.
In terms of safety, the Hector Plus continues to get good bits like high strength steel body, hot-stamped B-pillar, thick door panels and six airbags. The driver aid includes 360-degree camera, front sensor, electric parking brake, hill hold and a tyre pressure monitoring system.

Hector Plus Engine and Performance
Nothing much has changed in the underpinnings or powertrain, as the Hector Plus is also offered with a BS6 1.5-litre turbo petrol which continues to produce 143 hp and 250 Nm; and is offered with the option of a six-speed manual transmission or a DCT. But today we’re driving the 2.0-litre turbo diesel which obviously is also BS6 compliant, and still makes 170 hp and 350 Nm of torque. The six-speed manual is currently the only choice of transmission being offered with the oil-burner. This Fiat-sourced unit is also seen on cars like the Jeep Compass and the Tata Harrier and will also be seen on the soon-to-be-introduced Tata Gravitas seven-seater, which will be a direct rival of the Hector Plus. The motor powers the front wheels only, so be cautious not to venture out on challenging road surfaces.
It’s a proven turbo-diesel, and we’ve all been raving about the strong torque it has to offer and how effortlessly it flows in. Power builds up quickly and the manual shifts are smooth with short throws. If you have a heavy right foot, then the short ratios will make you work on the gears more than desired. Past the 3,000 rpm the hum from the diesel motors made me wish for better soundproofing of the cabin. The six-seater is anything but lightweight, yet the massive torque ensures that it’s quick off the feet and hits 100 km/h. And in spite of our aggressive performance runs, the information display flashed an encouraging 10.5 km/l average fuel economy.

How’s the Ride Quality and Handling?
The additional weight did help the Hector Plus remain more planted at three-digit speeds and remain well behaved under hard braking too. Backed by disc brake on all four wheels, ABS, EBD and brake assist, the Plus did manage an 80 km/h to zero brake test time of a decent 2.48 seconds travelling a little over 28 metres. The steering is a little bit heavier than its sibling but like the five-seater, the feedback is just about average. Thankfully, the weight distribution, well-tuned suspension and electronics keep body-roll under check while cruising. At city speeds, even during quick direction changes the MG remains well behaved and fairly responsive. Carrying more speed, the suspension setup feels soft and there’s visible pitching. You also can’t ignore the weight for this six-seater, but the damping manages to keep road undulation at bay offering a comfortable ride quality. A must for every family car and the Hector Plus is squarely aimed to be one.

Price and Conclusion
And with prices starting at Rs 13.48 lakh for the base petrol and Rs 18.53 lakh, our diesel manual top-end Sharp variant (all prices ex-showroom) it’s a heck of a deal for a car with six seats, abundant features and decent driving dynamics. But like MG reminded us several times, the third row is only good for kids and the Hector Plus is not a full-fledged people’s carrier.

(Also Read: Hyundai Creta Seven-seater Spied Testing)

 

About the author: Sarmad Kadiri

 

 

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