Since the turn of the last century we have been trying to talk to machines—the 1920 Czech play R.U.R. portrayed robots talking to humans—but it’s only in the last few years that there have been noticeable advances. Today, you can order groceries speaking into an Amazon Alexa device, or even start your car remotely by speaking into an app. The new HectorPlus, the SUV by MG Motor goes a step further—it chit chats with anyone inside the cabin, via the i-SMART artificial intelligence interface. For example, if you ask ‘How am I looking today?’ it will reply ‘you look amazing.’ Gimmicky as best, and may get boring after a while; after all, would you really want to talk to a car if humans aren’t around? However, where the Hector Plus scores over the Hectoris in real estate terms, i.e. price per usable square feet. For Rs 65,000 extra, you get two extra seats (which can be folded to create boot space almost similar to the Hector’s), many technological and design updates, and 65mm of extra length (achieved by redesigning the bumpers).
To be specific, the changes are: dual tone sepia brown interiors, new headlamp, chrome-studded front grille, redesigned front and rear bumpers, redesigned taillights and skid plates, chit-chat feature, and smart swipe (you can swipe your foot under the rear door to open it). As far as competition is concerned, the Hector Plus (4.72 metres in length) is bigger than Tata Harrier (4.6 metres), Jeep Compass (4.39 metres) and even the far more expensive Hyundai Tucson (4.48 metres). It also has the longest wheelbase and hence more cabin space.
We drove the top-end variant, whose cabin is luxurious. The dual-tone sepia brown leather looks rich, and a lot of it has been used—on seats, on doors, on the dashboard, on the steering wheel, on the armrest. There are many convenience features also, such as rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlamps, cruise control, etc. In addition, a reason the 10.4-inch screen of the i-SMART looks good—and is so convenient to use—is that it appears to have
been heavily inspired by the one Volvo Cars uses in its vehicles, and Volvo does put in a lot of thought inside its vehicles.
Engines are the same—1956cc diesel, 1451cc petrol and 1451cc petrol hybrid.
Diesel: It’s the same Fiat-sourced engine that powers the Harrier and the Compass. Mated to 6-speed manual transmission, it has a claimed fuel efficiency of 17.41kpl.
Petrol: I drove the DCT petrol, and while the power (143PS) appears decent, it’s a tall SUV and so there is good amount of body roll. On highways and at high speeds, the steering wheel appears too light, but in city driving the steering response is good. Claimed fuel efficiency is 14.16kpl; I got about 12kpl (in sparse Delhi traffic).
Ex-showroom, the Hector Plus is priced starting Rs 13.48 lakh to Rs 18.53 lakh (for this review we used the petrol DCT Sharp variant priced Rs 18.2 lakh).
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