By Jonathan Crouch
HS here doesn't designate a super-fast rail route but MG's largest SUV, which in 2019 replaced the GS in the company's crossover line-up. It's one of the most spacious mid-sized SUVs you could choose, yet it retails for thousands less than you'd pay for comparably-shaped rivals. The usual MG formula in other words, which was backed up by the normal lengthy brand warranty.
MG is one of the market's fastest growing brands, with many of its sales currently being of its compact ZS SUV. Back in 2019, this HS model slotted in above that car, enabling the brand to hold on to family buyers who might have out-grown its smaller models. And to target new customers who previously would never have considered MG in this segment.
These people are going to want a higher standard of luxury and sophistication and the HS range set out to provide just that. A Plug-in Hybrid version arrived in 2020. And the range was lightly facelifted in mid-2023. It's the pre-facelift 2019-2023 models we look at here.
What You Get
You expect plenty of metal for your money from an MG and you'll not be disappointed here. Don't be put off by the fact that an HS isn't much cheaper than, say, a Nissan Qashqai; it's quite a lot bigger than one of those - though there are still only five seats. The styling's pretty straightforward, taking the family look lately established with the compact ZS and applying it to a wider, squarer shape. It's all rather smart - even a little Mercedes GLC-like from some angles.
There's an almost-Mercedes-like feel inside too - or at least there is in the top 'Exclusive' variant anyway. Across the range, HS cabins are marked out by a high quality dash with welcome little touches like piano black finishing and satin chrome trim, as well as knurled-effect piano key switchgear and turbine-style air vents. MG is really getting the hang of cabin design and this car was a big step forward in this respect from anything the brand had previously offered. The seats could be a little more supportive, the indicator stalks feel a bit plasticky and there are a few too many bings and bongs for our liking; that's about it on the debit side. There aren't many buttons, most features re-located to a large 10.1-inch centre-dash infotainment touchscreen compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Interior space is class-leading, something you'll especially notice in the rear where there's vastly more room than you'd get in a Qashqai or an Ateca. It's almost possible to fit three adults comfortably in the back, which is unusual in this class. Headroom's good too - even with the panoramic sunroof fitted. The central seatback doubles as an armrest, with built-in storage and twin cupholders. Rear passengers get two central air vents and USB ports, plus a reading light on each side.
Out back, there's a decently-sized 450-litre boot - that capacity measured up to the window line. The retractable luggage cover feels a little cheap but otherwise, the strong feeling of quality remains. Fold the 60:40-split rear bench and capacity rises to 1,454-litres.
What to Look For
There aren't many major issues here, other than a few electrical and software issues; go thoroughly over all the powered and infotainment functions of the car you're looking at. Even if there were, all cars will obviously be covered by MG's warranty, a fully-transferrable 7 year/80,000 mile package. We've heard of issues with the automatic wipers being inaccurate. And a few reports of sunroofs leaking with water dripping down onto the sun visors. On a few 2022 models, owners have said that in hot weather, some body control modules can cause problems, resulting windows not going down or up; and mirrors not folding. There are a few occasional quality issues come up: things like plastic clips braking and panels not lining up perfectly. And some owners have reported that the car occasionally doesn't recognise the key fob. Otherwise, it's just the usual things; look out for stone chips and alloy wheel scratches. And insist on a fully stamped-up service history.
MG parts prices are pretty affordable but you'll probably need to source them through an MG dealer. This being an EV, you'll save on a lot of the usual service items - you obviously won't need things like an oil filter and so on. And the brake pads will last a lot longer - possibly the life of the car.
On the Road
Only one engine was offered from launch, a 162PS 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol unit that only drives through the front wheels. It's a reasonably willing thing, capable of 0-62 miles per hour in 9.9 seconds, reaching a top speed of 118mph. Customers have the choice of either a six-speed manual or seven-speed DCT dual-clutch auto gearbox, which on top versions can also be manually controlled using the steering-wheel-mounted paddles. DCT versions feature smooth shifts and also feature a series of drive modes including Eco, Normal, Sport and a driver customisable option. A steering wheel-mounted 'Super Sport' button allows the driver to quickly engage Sport mode and it also illuminates the interior's red ambient lighting. In 2021, a Plug-in Hybrid version was added to the range, featuring the same 1.5-litre petrol engine allied to a 16.6kWh battery pack and auto transmission. EV range was rated at up to 32 miles.
We'll be frank - with both versions, there's nothing very memorable about driving an HS, but then you won't be expecting the ride and handling of this Chinese SUV to be cutting-edge. We think that typical family buyers will probably be quite satisfied though. True, body control through the turns isn't as well sorted as it is in, say, a Qashqai or an Ateca, but the steering's quite well weighted and the car turns in accurately.
You might worry about a petrol engine's relative lack of torque being insufficient for towing duties. This MG's unit develops 250Nm of pulling power, enough to allow it to tug along a braked trailer of up to 1,750kgs in weight - which should be enough for owners to haul medium-sized trailers, caravans, or boats. Because this is a front driven-only model, you shouldn't expect to be able to engage in any serious off road shenanigans - the relatively restricted ground clearance doesn't allow for that anyway.
If you've previously looked at the kind of spacious mid-to-large-sized SUV your family needs, then looked away when you've seen the asking prices, then this MG HS is for you. It's certainly the case that the cabin finishing isn't quite of the standard you'd find with more established brands. And the same is true of the efficiency figures and the handling. But there's not as much in it as you might think and the potential list price savings here are substantial.
If that matters, then we think you'll find plenty to like about this HS. It's practical, well equipped and even quite nice to look at. You'll just have to get used to explaining to your neighbours what it is...