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MG HS 2020 review

The new MG HS mid-size SUV is here to take on the established players.
EXPERT RATING
7.1
MG has launched the new HS model in one of the busiest parts of the Australian new car market. Competing with big-name players, the all-new MG HS model will need to offer more than just good value for buyers to consider it. So, how does it stack up?

If you plugged a computer into Australia’s car market and had it design a car, I’m fairly sure it would come up with something like the MG HS.

Does it compete in one of the hottest-selling segments in Australia? Yep, it’s a mid-size SUV. Does it compete on price? Yep, it’s impressively cheap when compared to segment favourites. Is it well specified? Yep, it ticks pretty much every box there is to tick when it comes to gear. Does it look good? Yep, it borrows key styling elements from successful rivals.

Now the tricky one: Is there more to the story? Yep, turns out there is.

See, while MG has made impressive progress with its colour-by-numbers approach to car design, selling increasingly large numbers of its MG3 hatch and ZS small SUV, it’s still had a lot of catching up to do to be considered serious competition for Australian consumers.

So, should you be wooed by the HS SUV? Does it represent true progress for a fledging competitor brand? We went to its Australian launch to find out.

MG HS 2020: VIBE
Safety rating
Engine Type1.5L turbo
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.3L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$29,990

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

The HS looks pretty good, don’t you think? And, I know what you’re thinking – It looks a bit like a CX-5 with the glitzy grille and curvy shape – and you’d be right. It’s nothing if not derivative.

That doesn’t take away from those looks, and when MG has a dealership filled with just three cars that are all consistently styled, it’s bound to draw people in.

A nice design language and consistent styling across the range will please buyers. A nice design language and consistent styling across the range will please buyers.

The glitz is upped by the standard LED DRLs, progressive indicators, fog lights, and silver diffusers front and rear.

Possibly the best part for prospective base-model buyers is that you can barely tell the difference between the base and top on looks alone. The only giveaway is larger wheels, and full LED front lighting.

Inside was better than expected. While its smaller ZS sibling looked good, the material choices were less than impressive. In the HS though, the trim quality has been upped significantly, and so has the fit and finish.

The cabin materials have come up a significant notch from the smaller ZS. The cabin materials have come up a significant notch from the smaller ZS.

Again, there’s a lot of parts here that are derivative of other automakers but the turbine vents, an Alfa-Romeo-esque steering wheel, soft-touch surfaces, and faux-leather trims lift the ambiance to a competitive level.

Not everything is great. I wasn’t sure about some of the buttons, and plastic inserts in the centre console and door trims was as chintzy as ever. It’s probably not going to bother anyone getting out of an older vehicle, but there are more consistent trims to be had from more mainstream players.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

The HS is as you’d expect from most mid-sizers with no major red flags thrown up. Visibility is pretty good out the front and rear thanks to large wing mirrors and window apertures. Adjustability for the driver is decent, too. You’ll miss out on electric driver’s seat adjustment but you do score a telescopically adjustable steering column.

The seating position is high, and the comfort from the seats was middling. Neither good nor particularly bad.

The faux-leather trim on the seats, dash and doors is simple and will be easy to clean, but did seem a bit thin in places.

An annoyance is only being able to control the air conditioning through the screen. There are no physical buttons. It’s especially clumsy and slow to operate while you’re driving.

Storage-wise front passengers get a bottle holders and trenches in the doors, two big cupholders in the centre console with a trench for phones or keys, an adjustable length armrest console which is air-conditioned, and a small tray with two USB ports and a 12-volt power outlet.

Rear passengers score decent space. I’d say it’s about on par with Kia’s Sportage from my recent test of it. I’m 182cm tall and I had airspace for my head and legs behind my own driving position. The seats can be reclined slightly, and the trim is the same as it is in the front seats.

Amenity-wise rear seat passengers get dual adjustable air vents and two USB ports, so certainly not forgotten.

Boot space is decent, but nothing special for the segment (international variant shown). Boot space is decent, but nothing special for the segment (international variant shown).

The boot is 463 litres (VDA) which is almost identical to the Kia Sportage (466L) and on-par but not remarkable for this segment. The boot floor is high, making for easy access for light items but hard access for heavy ones. The Excite gets an electric tailgate - it’s a bit slow but a nice feature to have.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

This is what’s going to ultimately get customers into HS over anything else. This mid-size SUV is incredibly cheap for the segment.

MG has the HS stickered with drive-away prices of $30,990 for the entry-level Vibe or $34,490 for the top-spec (for now) Excite.

There’s not much between them, and generally the specification ticks off almost every box on our checklist.

Both specs get the impressive 10.1-inch touchscreen and semi-digital dash cluster which looks genuinely impressive, although you can tell where the corners have been cut. The processor for the multimedia software is painfully slow, and the screen quality is average, presenting with both glare and ghosting. The Excite gets built-in nav, but you won’t miss it. It’s extremely slow.

The media screen looks flashy and has all the expected features, but is a bit slow and clunky to use while driving. The media screen looks flashy and has all the expected features, but is a bit slow and clunky to use while driving.

Both specs also get the faux leather trim everywhere, digital radio, LED DRLs, reversing camera with guiding lines, and the full safety suite (skip down to safety to see what that’s all about).

All of that for the price of a base model RAV4, Sportage, or Hyundai Tucson is undeniably good value, no matter which way you cut it.

The Excite only adds LED headlights, 1-inch larger alloy wheels (18-inch), a sport drive mode, the electric tailgate, auto wipers, the laggy nav system, and an ambient lighting package. Nothing necessary there, but the small jump in price doesn’t break the value equation either.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

The HS ticks boxes here, too. It’s only available with one engine, and it looks good on paper.

It’s a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder producing 119kW/250Nm. It drives the front-wheels only (there’s no all-wheel drive model for now) via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

MG ticks boxes under the hood too but there's a catch or two when it comes to driving... MG ticks boxes under the hood too but there's a catch or two when it comes to driving...

Sounds as cutting edge as any European rival, but there are some issues which we’ll explore in the driving section.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

MG says the HS will consume 7.3 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle. Our drive day was not a fair representation, and we drove multiple cars so we can’t give you a real-world figure just yet.

With the small capacity engine and abundance of ratios, we hope it can at least undercut thrashy old 2.0-litre non-turbo rivals.

The HS has a 55-litre fuel tank and requires mid-grade 95RON premium unleaded petrol.

What's it like to drive?   5/10

The HS unfortunately proves how easy it is to take the cumulative decades of driving refinement built-in to Japanese and Korean rivals for granted.

Things seem good initially with the visibility and nice steering wheel, but it quickly falls apart from there.

The first thing I noticed on my drive loop was the distinct lack of feedback I received from the car. The steering provided seemingly no feel from the front wheels at all and was inconsistently weighted at different speeds. Most low-speed city drivers won’t mind its lightness, but could notice its lack of confidence at speed.

The 1.5-litre engine doesn’t lack power, but it’s extracting it that becomes a problem. Unlike rival small capacity turbo engines from the likes of Honda, peak torque doesn’t arrive until 4400rpm, and you do notice the delay as you wait for power to arrive a full second after pressing the go pedal.

The transmission is also inconsistent. It’s a dual-clutch, so at times can be quick and gives that nice stepped feel as you work your way through the gears, but it’s easy to catch out.

It grabs the wrong gear often, and at other times will shudder when shifting down, sometimes for seemingly no reason at all. It’s also slow to kick down gears when you press the accelerator.

The HS doesn't quite have the driving finesse of its Japanese and Korean rivals. The HS doesn't quite have the driving finesse of its Japanese and Korean rivals.

A lot of this can be put down to calibration. It’s as though MG has all the parts to give the HS a modern drivetrain, but hasn’t taken the time to get them to play nicely together.

The ride is a mixed bag. It’s incredibly soft, which makes for a comfort tune over larger bumps and a very quiet cabin, even on coarser-chip roads, but it proved to somehow be unsettled and jiggly over smaller bumps.

The softness is its downfall over undulations though, with the rebound launching the car into the air. This means on roads with lots of elevation changes, you’re constantly bouncing around.

Handling suffers as a result of a combination of these factors, the vague steering, soft suspension and mid-size SUV bulk making this hardly a fun vehicle to pilot on back roads.

I will say that the HS made a decent companion on the freeway part of our drive though, with the active cruise control and spongey ride making it easy to live with for long distances.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

7 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

No matter which spec you choose, the HS gets a fully-fledged active safety suite. It’s a big step up from the smaller ZS,  which was light on safety when it launched in Australia and only scored four ANCAP safety stars. 

This time around though, things are much improved, with the HS scoring a maximum five star ANCAP rating, courtesy of standard auto emergency braking (AEB – detects pedestrians and cyclists up to 64km/h and moving objects up to 150km/h), lane keep assist with lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, active cruise control, and traffic sign recognition.

It’s an impressive suite, and you can turn each feature off individually in the media system if it’s annoying you.

The active cruise kept a safe distance and behaved well during our test drive, too. The only thing to note is that it seems to harass you with beeps constantly and the lane keep assist switches the digital dash to the safety screen if you drift toward the edge of the lane and doesn’t return it to whatever screen you were on before. Annoying.

Six airbags come standard and LED headlights on the Excite are welcome for dark country roads. The HS has three top tether and two ISOFIX child seat mounting points across the rear seats.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

MG covers its cars with the tried and true Kia success strategy of offering the seven-year warranty that pencil pushers at mainstream brand’s won’t.

It has unlimited kilometre coverage for the seven years and includes roadside assist for the entire period.

Servicing is required once a year or every 10,000km whichever occurs first. MG hasn't yet announced capped price servicing, but promises it will be released imminently.

Verdict

MG has built the HS to tick as many feature boxes as it possibly can at an incredibly compelling price.

It’s definitely rough around the edges when it comes to the drive experience, suggesting that the brand hasn’t taken the time to make all those parts work together nicely, but ultimately this won’t chase potential customers who already love its styling and features out of dealerships.

If nothing else, the HS represents a clear progression for MG from the ZS, but it remains to be seen if the brand can convert that progress to taking sales away from its major rivals.

Pricing guides

$31,490
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$29,990
Highest Price
$32,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
EXCITE 1.5L, ULP, 7 SP AUTO $32,990 2020 MG HS 2020 EXCITE Pricing and Specs
VIBE 1.5L, ULP, 7 SP AUTO $29,990 2020 MG HS 2020 VIBE Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.1
Design7
Practicality7
Price and features8
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption7
Driving5
Safety8
Ownership8
Tom White
Journalist

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