This year marks an important milestone in the rebirth of the MG brand, and without doubt, the 2020 MG HS is the best vehicle the now Chinese-owned company has offered to our local market.
MG product has been getting more accomplished for some time, as our testing has indicated, but the HS is some measure ahead of anything we’ve tested before. In fact, I’d say it’s the best executed Chinese-built vehicle I’ve tested.
As we reported in November last year, pricing for the new MG HS is sharp – the Vibe costs $30,990 drive-away and the range-topping Excite model costs $33,990 drive-away – but following our comprehensive local launch drive, there’s a lot more to like about the HS than simply the price.
Often with contender manufacturers (certainly as they try to cement their place in the market), it’s the small details that ultimately let the product down. It could be a poor safety rating, cheap cabin materials or derivative styling that doesn’t sign a brand signature with any authority.
With the MG HS, though, it’s the small details that ensure it now offers a proper alternative, especially to savvy buyers on a budget. The proof is in the styling, execution, and the driving.
Perhaps the biggest step forward for MG is in terms of market consideration. People are starting to talk about the MG brand – at CarAdvice we’re getting asked quite regularly what we think of the product and whether people should be test-driving it before they settle on a purchase. Until recently, though, the conversation has almost always centred around value and initial cost. That will almost certainly change now with the launch of the HS, thanks to the other areas where it is stronger than previous offerings.
Beyond the price, the HS is attractive – half the battle when buyers are so conscious of image. We know that’s the case in this medium-SUV segment, too, like it or not. The list of standard features is long (check out our pricing and specification guide for full details) and it means you get proper value for money, and it’s backed by a solid warranty – as good as any in the industry really. MG is committing strongly to the Australian market, too, which gives buyers surety that some of the new brands haven’t been able to offer previously.
The medium-SUV segment is no easy win, though – the HS goes into battle against the Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail, Toyota RAV4 and Hyundai Tucson just to focus on a few. So the company knows it has a tough fight on its hands, but that’s not such an issue when you have a product you can genuinely go into battle with.
We tested both the entry-level Vibe and high-spec Excite at launch, and both have their appeal, but for mine, I’d be opting for the range-topper. Especially given the competitive pricepoint. Crucially, though, the suite of safety systems under the ‘MG Pilot’ banner is standard across both model variants. The HS also gets a full five-star safety rating from ANCAP.
Both variants get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard, as well. We tested both smartphone systems at launch, and the 10.1-inch central screen is sharp and responsive. The Excite gets standard satellite navigation, too, but we didn’t need that with smartphone connectivity working nicely.
The driver’s display is also neatly arranged and clear, and we spent some time testing radar cruise control specifically. It worked faultlessly, even in fairly heavy rainstorms at launch. Crucially, it also worked safely down steep hills and through varying speed zones. The stalk mounted on the left side of the steering column is pretty easy to work out once you take a quick look at the functionality.
I think the most compelling piece of the HS puzzle, however, is the execution of the cabin. Both models get comfortable seats, plenty of useful storage and charging provisions, as well as the aforementioned infotainment screen. The Excite also gets a sporty, flat-bottom steering wheel to match the paddle shifters.
It’s not just about what you can see and touch, though. Close the HS's door and the cabin is insulated and quiet, even at highway speeds on coarse-chip. There’s almost no tyre or wind noise entering the cabin, and it has that all-round solid feel like we expect from a European car. I look forward to testing this against the more established competition, like cross-shopping buyers will, to see if the MG is, as I suspect, quieter than some of them.
Part of that feeling of quality comes down to the ride, as well. It’s nicely insulated over bumps and irons most of them out, with the exception of really nasty mid-corner ruts that can unsettle the otherwise composed ride. You have to look for it, though, and you have to push the HS pretty hard to get to that point. If you cruise around sedately, as most buyers will, you’ll never get to the point where you feel the chassis losing any composure.
The steering and brakes feel well sorted, too, and in short, the HS makes for a relaxed, long-distance cruiser. If you’re a family buyer who heads off on road trips with the kids semi-frequently, the HS will certainly do that job nicely.
There’s plenty of room in the second row, competitive luggage space for all your gear, and it’s only the lack of an overhead roof-mounted light in the second row that’s been missed out that I could see. Two USB ports in that second row will keep the kids’ devices charged up and keep them occupied on long trips, too.
If you’re wondering how the power and torque figures translate to real-world performance, there are both positive and negative aspects to report. The engine is smooth, refined and efficient, so that’s all genuinely positive. It certainly plays its part in that sense of insulation I mentioned inside the cabin.
Displacing 1.5 litres, the inline four-cylinder turbo petrol engine makes 119kW at 5600rpm and 250Nm at 4400rpm. It needs to be said, though, that the engine feels a little on the small side for an SUV of this physical size. The seven-speed automatic can sometimes be caught out in the wrong gear, but it shifts snappily enough when that happens to get to work without too much concern. Again, you need to try to find the deficiency rather than it being immediately apparent.
The ADR fuel claim of 7.3L/100km is achievable on the open road, and we saw a live figure of 8.6L/100km after some enthusiastic driving on twisty roads, so it’s hardly thirsty in the overall scheme of things. It revs cleanly out to redline, and even sounds sporty up high in the rev range, but there is an initial period of lag where you need to punch the accelerator a little harder to get off the mark. You get used to it, but it’s initially jarring compared to the rest of the drive experience.
Buyers will get a seven-year warranty along with roadside assistance for the same timeframe, meaning you’re covered for a period that more manufacturers should be looking at.
The MG HS isn’t simply a good SUV, it’s a very good SUV. It’s not the best in the medium-SUV segment, but we weren’t expecting that either. It is, however, a significant step forward for the brand, and one that should help it continue to make inroads in our market.
If you’re on a budget that won’t extend to a new SUV from the established players, you should be considering a new MG HS, there’s no doubt about that. And even if you’re not on a tight budget, if you test-drive an HS and it meets your expectations, I certainly wouldn’t be afraid to recommend you buy one. We’re absolutely looking forward to pitting it against the segment leaders. I think the results might be surprising.