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MG Motor has introduced its first entrant into the Australian SUV market, with the small-size GS now on sale from $23,990 before on-road costs for the manual-only Vivid range-opener.

Featuring front-wheel drive and seating for five, the entry-level variant shares its lack of autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and rear seatbelt reminders with the rest of the four-tier line-up, resulting in a four-star safety rating from the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP). Most of its small SUV rivals carry a five star rating.

However, all GS models do offer electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, cornering brake control, emergency brake assist, six airbags including full-width curtain head protection, LED daytime driving lights and rear parking sensors.

Starting at $25,990, the mid-spec Core also nets buyers a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, reversing camera, central rear seat air vents, climate control, higher quality sound system, 6.0-inch infotainment touchscreen and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Further upstream is the Soul from $27,990, which adds an 8.0-inch touchscreen, sat nav, leather upholstery, driver's seat lumbar adjustment, front foglights, rain-sensing wipers and 18-inch alloys.

These three variants all employ a General Motors (GM) co-developed 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, which produces 119kW of power and 250Nm of torque.

When paired with the six-speed manual gearbox in the 1420kg Vivid, fuel economy is rated at 7.3 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, and rises by 0.1L/100km in the auto-only Core and Soul which are 40kg heavier.

Sitting at the top of the range is the $34,990 Essence X which gains all-wheel drive, hill descent control, anti rollover technology, paddle shifters, Xenon headlights and a sunroof.

Power is predominately sent to the front wheels despite its AWD setup, yet 50 per cent of torque can be redirected to the rear when traction is limited.

Meanwhile, the flagship GS also upgrades its powerplant to an Opel-tuned 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-potter, which delivers Golf GTI-equalling outputs of 162kW and 350Nm.

A six-speed dual-clutch auto is paired exclusively with the larger unit, with the 1642kg Essence X consuming 9.6L/100km.

Measurements of 4500mm (length), 1855mm (width) and 2650mm (wheelbase) mean the GS straddles between the small and mid-size SUV segments, but these dimensions allow it to provide generous rear seat packaging and a 483-litre luggage capacity.

Suspension-wise the new SUV uses a multi-link system at the rear and a MacPherson strut arrangement up front.

Designed and engineered by the Chinese-owned British brand in England, the GS will be built in Shanghai.

All right-hand-drive production is expected move overseas in the future to a Thai facility which is owned by the MG Motor parent company SAIC Motor Corporation Limited.

The brand's model line-up grows to three locally with the release of the GS, which follows the launch of the MG3 supermini and MG6 mid-size sedan in October last year.

Purchasing could prove difficult for some Aussies, as dealership locations are currently limited to Brisbane's inner north, Coffs Harbour and Sydney's inner west.

However, a Melbourne dealer is on its way by the end of this year, but plans for expansion into other states remain unclear.

MG is offering driveaway pricing across the GS range until the end of May.

Would you consider purchasing the Chinese-made GS ahead of its more established rivals? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Byron Mathioudakis
Contributing Journalist
Byron started his motoring journalism career when he joined John Mellor in 1997 before becoming a freelance motoring writer two years later. He wrote for several motoring publications and was ABC Youth radio Triple J's "all things automotive" correspondent from 2001 to 2003. He rejoined John Mellor in early 2003 and has been with GoAutoMedia as a senior product and industry journalist ever since. With an eye for detail and a vast knowledge base of both new and used cars Byron lives and breathes motoring. His encyclopedic knowledge of cars was acquired from childhood by reading just about every issue of every car magazine ever to hit a newsstand in Australia. The child Byron was the consummate car spotter, devoured and collected anything written about cars that he could lay his hands on and by nine had driven more imaginary miles at the wheel of the family Ford Falcon in the driveway at home than many people drive in a lifetime. The teenage Byron filled in the agonising years leading up to getting his driver's license by reading the words of the leading motoring editors of the country and learning what they look for in a car and how to write it. In short, Byron loves cars and knows pretty much all there is to know about every vehicle released during his lifetime as well as most of the ones that were around before then.
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