Gareth Butterfield tests MG’s new ‘sweet spot’ the HS SUV.
EVERY now and again, you step into a car and it surprises you. It might be because of some outlandish new design feature, a clever piece of new tech, or just because it’s much, much nicer than you expected. The MG HS falls into the latter category.
I’ve spent time with all the current MG Motor UK line-up, and cars from its recent past, and I think it’s fair to say they improve with every launch.
But while the last MG I saw launched, the ZS, appears to be very similar to the bigger, newer HS, the newcomer has come on leaps and bounds.
And its most impressive feature, by far, is its plush interior. Step into a ZS, or any of the smaller models, and there’s a distinct feeling that you’re getting what you’re paying for. That’s not to say it’s cheap and nasty, but let’s just say modern MGs have built up a reputation for being cheap and cheerful. Materials are sometimes harsh, technology feels dated or low-grade and overall quality can’t match up with more expensive rivals.
While this hasn’t been a problem, given the generous equipment levels and low pricing of MGs, and while improvements have gradually been made, this completely does not apply to the new HS. The cabin is like no MG that’s gone before it. And I’d go as far as to say it’s better than some cars costing £10,000 more.
For starters, it has a beautiful, curvaceous design. There’s echoes of Audi and Mercedes in there and, while imitation isn’t uncommon among Chinese cars, it’s often easy to spot where the costs were cut.
But that has never been less apparent in the HS. The whole cabin, from the big, comfy, sculpted sports seats, to the large, bright infotainment screen and digital driver display, feels expensive. The HS, in its most expensive “Exclusive” trim, will surprise you, I guarantee it.
The more basic version, the “Excite”, starts at £21,000 – and barring adding seven-speed DCT automatic transmission, you won’t need to worry about a lengthy options list pricing you out of the market.
The Exclusive, meanwhile, tops out at a remarkably reasonable £25,000 once the auto box is bundled in. And it’s astonishingly good value for money, especially when you factor in MG’s seven-year warranty.
Problems? There are a few, if you go and look for them. The only engine available is a petrol-powered 1.5-litre with 162bhp and it’s fine to cruise around in, but will feel stretched if you want to press on at all.
You would think the pay-off would be decent fuel economy, but I managed to get into the high-30s MPG and couldn’t get higher. So there are more economical rivals.
There’s also a very high boot floor, some annoying electronic warning sounds that might or might not eventually drive you mad, and although it looks rugged, there’s no four-wheel drive option.
While I’m being critical, its looks will divide opinion. It’s by no means an unattractive car, but it does have plenty of echoes of its rivals. The Mazda CX-5 has clearly inspired the front section, while there are more than a few Renault Kadjar angles there too.
But that won’t bother everyone. And it doesn’t bother me. It’s rare I give back a car after spending a week testing it and then turn straight to the manufacturer’s website to price up a PCP deal.
With a chunky deposit, I found I could get an Exclusive version for a shade over £250 per month. And that’s a good deal indeed.
Honestly, few cars on the market today this side of £35,000 feel as nice inside. And while there are reminders you’ve got a bargain-basement car dotted around it, you can easily learn to overlook them.
When MG relaunched in the UK I so wanted it to succeed, but the MG6 it brought us for its first attempt was mediocre at best. The cars have been improving ever since but, with the HS, they’re finally starting to hit the sweet spot.
Go and have a look at one. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.