Picture this: You step into your car and leave for office. As you tell the car to find you the quickest route, the car will download the latest traffic maps. As you are about to reach office, the car will also show you available parking slots (if these are connected to the internet). In the evening, as you leave, your car will suggest you restaurants to hang out on the way back, as also the quickest route.
This isn t science fiction. It s Internet of Things (IoT). And the first internet car is here: MG Motor Hector. We drive is near Coonoor in the Nilgiris of Tamil Nadu.
What is the Hector?
MG Motor is a British carmaker now owned by SAIC Motor of China. The Hector is its first product for the Indian market and the company calls it India s first internet car. You can tell the car to open the sunroof, set cabin temperature, navigate to a new place, play your favourite song, find a restaurant anything.
These things are made possible using a technology called iSMART Next Gen, which has been developed by MG Motor in partnership with Microsoft, Adobe, Unlimit, SAP, Cisco, Gaana, TomTom and Nuance.
The brain of the iSMART Next Gen is housed in a 10.4-inch head unit the screen on the centre of the dashboard. It has a vertical interface replicating a smartphone or Apple iPad allowing the driver to control car systems with a touch or voice command. But while this 10.4-inch screen looks good, it appears like a replica of the one that Volvo Cars uses in its vehicles.
What makes it an internet car?
The Hector gets an embedded Machine-to-Machine SIM the solution has been developed by Unlimit in partnership with Cisco Jasper platform and Airtel. This connectivity enables the user to receive real-time software, entertainment content and app updates.
What defines its design?
At 4.65 metres in length, the Hector is bigger than Tata Harrier (4.6 metres), Jeep Compass (4.39 metres) and Hyundai Tucson (4.47 metres). It also has the longest wheelbase and hence has more cabin space. Boldness is written in bold all over the front and tail are inspired by the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter aircraft s air intake design, the grille is massive, and there are muscular design lines all over the body. However, while the Hector looks bold, this boldness is too much in your face .
How is the cabin?
It s quite luxurious. In the top-end trim I drove, a lot of leather has been used on the seats, on the door, on the dashboard, on the steering wheel, on the armrest. There are five seats and enough space to sit cross-legged on each seat. The feeling is space is enhanced by a massive glass area the entire roof is also made of glass.
There are a lot of convenience features as well, such as rain-sensing wipers, powered tailgate, automatic headlamps, cruise control, and you can choose from eight different colours to light up the cabin at night.
How does it drive?
There are three engine choices: 1451cc petrol hybrid, 1451cc petrol and 1956cc diesel.
Diesel: It s the same Fiat-sourced engine that also powers the Harrier and the Compass. Mated to a 6-speed manual transmission, it has a claimed fuel-efficiency of 17.41kpl. MG Motor has worked on reducing NVH and the Hector diesel s cabin is quite quiet. It s a heavy SUV, at over 1.5 tonnes, and yet the engine appears capable enough to provide a decent acceleration. There s good amount of body roll, as I found driving on hilly roads. On highways and at high speeds, the steering wheel appears too light and disconnected from the road, but in city driving the steering response is good.
Petrol: I drove the hybrid and it s a revelation. It s not a full hybrid vehicle like Toyota Camry, but a mild hybrid like Maruti Suzuki Ciaz. The Hector gets the 48V Hybrid System, which works as a combination of petrol and electric drive. This system, the company says, increases fuel economy by 12% and reduces CO2 emissions by 11%.
How much will it be priced?
Although it s a big and capable SUV, and a connected one at that, MG Motor shouldn t be too adventurous with pricing. It s a new brand, and a large number of Indians haven t even heard of it. To be able to fit into the buying consideration set of the Indian customer, MG Motor has to price the Hector lower than the most value-for-money SUV in this segment, i.e. the Harrier. And this means an ex-showroom starting price of about Rs 12 lakh.