Good but can be better
MG made their name locally with good-looking, generously equipped crossover SUVs at an affordable price. That formula by distributor TCCCI (The Covenant Car Company Inc.) has worked wonderfully for them over the last four years, so here they are again with another crossover SUV, the HS.
This one doesn’t differ in form and size from its siblings, although MG categorizes it as a compact SUV, which puts it in the same segment as their RX5. The design and body lines are more contemporary and take after the exterior cues seen in the relatively newer ZS T.
Like all MG crossover SUVs, the body isn’t cutting-edge, nor is it aggressively designed. It is ordinary by all accounts, but various pieces like the chrome trims on the grille, fog lamp housing, daylight openings, and the rocker panel elevate its appeal. Then there are the silver front and rear underbody garnish and roof rails.
I actually like the minimal body cladding on the nose, so I wish they kept it that way around the body. With a small displacement engine, it isn’t really going anywhere but in the city, so it would have been better off more elegant than sporty. It also has a rear spoiler, a shark’s fin antenna, a dual exhaust system, and 18-inch alloy wheels.
While it doesn’t really separate itself from the other MG crossover SUVs, it uses the color and the trims to distinguish itself from the rest. It is easy to tell it’s an MG because it follows the marque’s design philosophy, but the downside is it lacks personality.
The smart key (in my pocket) allowed easy access. Just click the button on the handle, and the system responds quickly to either lock or unlock the vehicle. You’ll be surprised how some models (majority China-made) have a split-second delay. That is irksome if you’re in a hurry or outside parked in the sun.
Inside is where it really steps up and sets itself apart. The layout is also superb, and the cabin is highly appointed. I like how the soft-touch dashboard is flat and slopes down towards the driver. It increases road visibility and creates a clean, minimalist look.
There is a faint but distinct red stitching on the leather upholstery, a brushed aluminum panel on the center console, and chrome frames around the aircon vents. I like that the only controls in the cabin are the toggle switches that use up very little space. It gives off a feeling of spaciousness and calmness you don’t get when bombarded with buttons and knobs in the cabin.
I’m actually glad the expansive 10.1-inch infotainment touchscreen is typical of an MG and runs on the same operating system. People changing from one MG model to the next won’t need a learning curve to use it. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, and 2 USB ports are standard.
Its Chinese heritage shows in the 12.3-inch fully digital instrument display. The font style and size are the same, but MG tries to differentiate it by giving it the same color as the vehicle’s body. At least the graphics are customizable and provides a variety of display options.
The multi-function steering wheel feels great to grip. There are perforated sections and thumb holders on either side, including a Super Sport button and the lower right. More about what that does later.
MG gave this compact SUV sport bucket seats. I like the idea, but it feels like overkill. First, this doesn’t go that fast, and second, the headrests are not adjustable, which makes it hard for smaller people to place the support where it should be. The leather feels brand new (like it needs a break-in), and a bit more bolstering wouldn’t hurt.
In the second row are a couple more USB ports, aircon vents, and a dropdown center armrest with cupholders. But the best bit has to be the panoramic sunroof that extends all the way to the back. It is long and wide and provides a gorgeous view on a starry night.
Clearly, the designers did a great job of making the cabin, and it shows in everything, down to the fine details like the stamped MG logo on the shifter and aluminum pedals. It feels luxurious and modern for the segment, almost like stepping into a European crossover. It even came with weather-proof mats. I don’t know if that’s standard, but if it is, that’s a big plus for buyers.
The engine is where the HS quickly gets old. It has the same one used by the RX5 with just a little less output. It produces 166 PS (down 3 PS compared to the RX5) and the same 250 Nm of torque. Acceleration varies depending on the drive mode.
Eco and Normal don’t have a snappy response, but there is a quick remedy without having to cycle to Sport mode by pressing the red switch on the steering wheel that says Super Sport. That sends the engine to a higher drive mode with increased revs and quicker response. It stayed there until I switched it off. Average fuel consumption in mixed driving conditions is a pedestrian 9.2 km/l.
We wish they fitted the 2.0-liter turbo rated at 220 PS and 350 Nm that we initially had a taste of in China back in 2019, however, that would have made this compact crossover a lot more expensive as it does not enjoy the low import tariff perk.
It uses a seven-speed twin-clutch transmission but doesn’t feel as "logical" as it should be. It sometimes seems to fumble gears; it either skips down when it should upshift or vice-versa. It feels more like a regular automatic transmission than a dual-clutch.
The suspension is firm and has a more SUV feel than a crossover. It is especially noticeable over rough road sections. Noise, vibration, and harshness levels aren’t where they should be yet, but I expect them to get better in the next update.
Handling is one of its better drive features. Its size makes it agile, nimble, and reactive to input. The steering feedback is weighted but just enough to give me a feel of the vehicle. There is a slight hint of body roll, but it stays planted through the turn and has a good amount of mechanical grip.
For PHP 1,308,888, the MG HS Trophy (top-of-the-line variant) undercuts several compact SUV models while offering more value for money with cabin appointments and features, including an automatic power tailgate. The engine performance/efficiency and drive comfort can still improve, but all other aspects are top-notch for a first-gen model.