MG Hector Plus Review: The value-for-money six-seater
We first caught wind of the MG Hector Plus at Auto Expo, and knew what was coming — a version of the Hector with an extra row of seats. And that is the big talking point for the Hector Plus, because everything else pretty much remains the same, apart from a few minor changes here and there. Styling gets a few tweaks, the dashboard remains largely the same while the biggest difference inside is the addition of the third row. There is some additional equipment as well, and we will get to it. But first, let us start with how the Hector Plus looks.
The Hector Plus looks rather similar to the regular 5-seater Hector, and may even pass of as one to the untrained eye. But there are a few tweaks to the styling, and in my opinion, this makes the Hector look better than it did before. The front end is less busy — the chrome strip around the grille has been deleted while the elements that make up the grille are new too. The bumpers have been reworked and the area around the headlamps and fog-lamps have been given quite a drastic styling change. The LED DRLs, headlights and fog lamps are new as well. The front end looks much cleaner and more sophisticated than before. In profile, the Hector Plus looks pretty much the same, running on identical 17-inch wheels. Meanwhile, the rear end has been given a nip and tuck too. The red strip between the tail lamps that looked quite plastic-y has been given a miss and there’s a new design for the tail lamps and floating turn indicators. The skid plate at the bottom of the bumper has been given a more subtle restyle as well with the exhaust cut away on both sides of the bumper being plugged to look symmetrical and the exhaust exiting at the bottom of the bumper on the left.
There’s a large Hector Plus badge, and the Internet Inside badge remains despite connected cars becoming an increasingly common occurrence. In terms of length, the Hector Plus is 65mm longer than the 5-seater. Wheelbase remains the same though, so the increase in length is in the overhangs. Overall, the tweaks are minor but they come together to make the Hector Plus look more aesthetically pleasing than before. The imposing stance and typical SUV shape hasn’t changed and this will be a good things what with how popular SUVs are over MPVs.
The interiors of the MG Hector Plus is where the real changes are. Not so much in terms of the dash — that pretty much remains the same — but in terms of the seats and upholstery. The all-black interiors of the Hector have given way to a brown and black dual-tone interior in the Hector Plus. There is a soft-touch brown insert on the dashboard, the door handles are finished in brown and so are the seats’ upholstery. Whether you like this or not is entirely up to your sensibilities — many prefer an all-black interior while many prefer this since it lightens up the cabin. Quality of materials and good — just like we noted when we first drove the Hector last year. There are soft touch materials and the large touchscreen is a real highlight. Like I said, not much has changed in the front.
The real changes are in the second row, where the bench has been replaced with captain seats. Space is ample, and the seats are wide and comfortable. Carpet area isn’t something the Hector is short of and that car really be experienced from the second row, plus there’s a flat floor. The seats are manually adjustable and you have more than enough room to pull it a few clicks in front to free up some room for the third row. As with the Hector, the glass area — the windows and the panoramic sunroof — are massive and the cabin feels very airy.
Now coming to the third row. Ingress and egress are fairly easy if you’re slim enough to squeeze between the captain seats — the lack of a driveshaft tunnel aiding in that respect. In terms of space, it is a little cramped. If the middle seat is set to a reasonably comfortable position for its passenger, I could squeeze in to the third row with my knees riding up against the backrest in front of me. The second row could be moved further forward, but that would be at the expense of comfort to the person seated there. Another issue I found with the second row is that the seat is very close to the floor, this leaving your legs in a rather uncomfortable knees-pointing-to-the-roof position. The middle row is best suited to children and MG insists the Hector Plus is for 4 adults and 2 children. That aside, the headrests are supportive and there are blowers with adjustability specific to the third row. There is also an abundance of cup-holders (a total of three, for the two people that can sit there) and a USB charging socket.
Obviously, the addition of a third row has eaten in to the boot space. With the third row up, it can hold a few small duffel bags and maybe a small suitcase that qualifies as hand-luggage. However, you can fold down the third row very easily and free up a lot more room in the back. One new feature that the Plus gets is a tailgate that can be opened with a swipe of the foot under the rear bumper.
The long features list that makes the Hector such an attractive proposition continues here — electrically-adjustable front seats, heated ORVMs, automatic headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, Infinity 8-speaker sound system with a subwoofer and amplifier, 360 degree camera and 55 connected car features.
On the go
In terms of the driving experience, the Hector Plus doesn’t stray too far away from the Hector. We were driving the diesel — with the FCA-sourced engine. The engine and its delivery is familiar, it is punchy and you can get the Hector up to good speeds rather easily. If it is the numbers you care about, it makes 168bhp and 350Nm. NVH is improved with the BS6 update as well. The diesel comes mated to a manual transmission and there’s no automatic on offer at the moment. The manual gearbox has long-ish throws and a sharp clutch bite point that takes time to get used to. The driving position is commanding and you have a good view of the road ahead of you. You are well aware of how far the Hector Plus stretches out behind you when you are in the driver’s seat, but it doesn’t feel any more than the regular Hector.
Ride quality, as it was before, is soft. At low to medium speeds it is really cushy, soaking up bad patches and occasional bumps without breaking in to a sweat. However, demand a lot from the suspension and it will start to show its weaknesses. It gets floaty at speed and this can be a bit unnerving, and the nose does dive down if you hit a speed breaker faster than intended. Handling is nothing to write home about — there is a fair bit of body roll and the steering is lifeless. The Hector’s chassis isn’t one that you want to be demanding a lot from.
When it comes to the backseat, pushing the Hector Plus too hard in corners or over undulating roads can leave the passengers uneasy as well. However, when you aren’t being too demanding of the SUV, the second row is actually a very comfortable place to be. The seats hold you well, armrests are positioned nicely and you have a good view out of the front. View out of the third row isn’t great since you’re seated so low down, but the panoramic sunroof and the small glass panels don’t allow you to feel claustrophobic.
The verdict of the Hector Plus doesn’t sit too far away from what we said about the Hector last year. The Hector Plus is a comfortable SUV if you’re looking to be chauffeured around in and you prioritise the features list and space. Yes, it has the added convenience of the third row, but I don’t see this being the only reason why someone should consider it. If you’re someone who is going to be spending a lot of time in the second row, the captain seat feels like a much nicer place than the bench it replaces. If you do need the third row, long journeys may not be the most comfortable in them but it will suffice for shorter distances without a doubt.
What really makes the Hector Plus an attractive proposition is the pricing. It starts at Rs 13.49 lakh for the petrol manual — sure it may miss out on the features list, but you’re still getting the space and comfort at that price. This top-of-the-line diesel variant I am driving is Rs 18.53 lakh (ex-showroom) and it is Rs 65,000 more than the 5-seater and it still represents good value. It is a fair bit more expensive than an Innova Crysta, and the only real rival around right now is the 7-seater Mahindra XUV500. I can also see buyers who are looking at a Maruti Suzuki XL6 or Mahindra Marazzo paying a little more and getting themselves a Hector Plus.