Think of MG, and the reality is most people’s minds will drift back to the halcyon days of the sixties when the British company’s iconic two-seater sportscars were setting the world alight. But things change over time. MG is now not only owned by Chinese state-owned SAIC, but it’s latest model is an SUV. Yup; this is the MG HS.
Let’s deal with the elephant in the room first: Chinese ownership. Though the current MGs are built in China, clearly taking advantage of the cost savings of being part of SAIC, the cars are actually developed in Longbridge, deep in the heart of England.
And it’s perhaps just worth mentioning that Volvo, now one of the industry’s most pioneering and successful carmakers, plus Lotus, are both owned by Chinese company Geely.
It’s probably fair to say the only link to the past is the big badge on the front of the HS. A sportscar it most definitely is not. What it is though is an SUV which the company believes can go head-to-head with the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, Skoda Karoq, Kia Sportage and — though this might be pushing things just a little too far — the Mazda CX-5.
It is. But MG has taken a sensible approach as it strives to break into what is a highly competitive family crossover sector battled over by much longer-established manufacturers. Having focused its current car range on value for money, it comes as no surprise that the HS is at the centre of what the company calls an ‘affordable quality’ approach.
That’s to be lauded. The HS not only gets a modern touchscreen-based infotainment system as standard, radar and safety camera sensors fitted to the nose of every model in the SUV range, but inside the cabin there’s more soft-touch plastics. So far, so good.
And that interior’s a pretty fine place to be. There’s plenty of space — especially in the rear — with great head and legroom. Ok, the centre seat of the rear bench is best-suited for a child, but it’s rare that you’re seriously going to try and cram three full-sized adults in there.
Cleverly, the designers have also turned the central seatback into an armrest when being used by just two passengers. There’s even a built-in cubbyhole and cupholders. And while we’re in the backseats, there’s also a reading light on each side, USB slots, map pockets built into the front seatbacks and two central air vents.
Behind, the bootspace will swallow 463 litres with the rear seats in place — which is more than a Dacia Duster, and even a Qashqai — increasing to 1,454 litres when you fold them down.
Up front, you can see and feel the improvements in MG’s quality. Most surfaces are covered by soft, squidgy plastics and leather-effect trims, and while some hard plastics remain, they’re generally hidden away or in areas you wouldn’t touch.
There’s something of a minimalist approach to the interior in terms of switchgear; and that’s no bad thing. It certainly streamlines the fascia, and even what’s on show — including the toggle-like switches below the centre vents — not only look smart, but feel good to touch.
Most of the controls are tucked away in the 10.1-inch infotainment system. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of manufacturers hiding basic everyday functions behind a touchscreen, which inevitably becomes covered in smudged fingerprints, but at least MG’s homepage has three large shortcut tiles for audio, nav, and climate menus. And sensibly, each is displayed with bright, colourful graphics.
However, once you start diving deeper into the menus and functions, some of them — perhaps understandably given the price-placing of the HS — can begin to get a bit fiddly compared to the best systems found in some of the MG’s main rivals.
Hmmm …. no. Buyers have the choice of …. one. It’s a four-cylinder, 1.5-litre developing 160bhp and 184lb/ft of torque to the front wheels, and delivers a top speed of 118mph, 0-62mph in 9.9sec, a WLTP fuel consumption of 37.2mpg and CO2 emissions of 148g/km.
However, you do get the choice of five different versions. The entry-level Explore is available only with the manual six-speed gearbox. Step up to the Excite and Exclusive pecs and you can opt for the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Prices start at £17,995, and rise to £20,495 (manual) and £21,995 (auto) for Excite and £22,995 (manual) and £24,495 (auto) for Exclusive.
Standard spec across the range is attractive. Explore gets LED headlights, electric heated/folding door mirrors, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity and 17-inch alloys. Step up to the Excite and you add sat-nav, rain-sensing wipers, a reversing camera and 18-inch wheels. The range-topping Exclusive gets a leather interior, a full-length sunroof, electrically adjustable front seats, front and rear sequential indicators, and eye-catching diamond-cut 18in alloys.
Across the range, MG Pilot — MG’s suite of electronic safety equipment — is also standard. This includes lane keep assist with lane departure warning, blind spot detection, adaptive cruise control, rear cross traffic alert, and automatic emergency braking.
Though there’s a four-wheel drive HS available in other markets, it’s unlikely we’ll see it in the UK. And not surprisingly, there won’t be a diesel version. And while there does remain the possibility we might see a plug-in hybrid, given the success of the electric version of MG’s ZS, it’s more likely a battery version of the HS will arrive in a couple of years.
There’s no denying MG continues to benefit from its Chinese ownership. If you count the petrol and electric ZS as different models, along with the recently-revised MG 3 hatchback, there are four models in the range.
In its modern incarnation, MG is delivering; it’s the UK’s fastest-growing car manufacturer. And with the arrival of the HS SUV — which is a competent rival to the established competition — that growth is only likely to increase further, and more rapidly.
|Model||MG HS Exclusive Manual 6-Speed|
|Powertrain||1490cc 16v turbocharged four-cylinder petrol|
|Power (hp/kw/rpm)||160bhp @ 5500rpm|
|Torque||184lb/ft @ 1500rpm|
|Transmission||6 speed manual|