Browse over 9,000 car reviews

Sorry, there are no cars that match your search

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD vs MG HS PHEV Essence 2WD: We Compare Two of Australia's Most Popular Hybrids


Weighing up whether you should go for a regular hybrid or a plug-in hybrid for your next new car? We’ve got a really good pair of contenders here to help you figure out which is best for you. 

This comparison test sees us put the nation’s most popular SUV and our reigning 2019 CarsGuide Car of the Year, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, up against a newcomer - the MG HS PHEV. One requires you to plug it in to a powerpoint to boost its battery range, while the other has all the onboard smarts to deliver repeatable low fuel consumption.

The all-new Chinese-made plug-in hybrid MG HS PHEV is arguably more technologically advanced than the series-parallel hybrid Toyota RAV4 - but they sit surprisingly close on price, so which is the one you should buy? Let’s take a deep dive together and find out!

Pricing and features

There isn’t a whole lot of competition in this part of the market, with affordable midsize SUVs using hybrid and plug-in hybrid tech currently thin on the ground in Australia.

But one thing is for sure: the aggressive price of the MG HS PHEV might be enough to get people thinking twice about whether a RAV4 Hybrid is right for them.

The MG HS PHEV is priced at $46,990 drive-away, while the Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD lists at $46,415 before on-road costs. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) The MG HS PHEV is priced at $46,990 drive-away, while the Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD lists at $46,415 before on-road costs. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)

The MG HS PHEV is only available in one trim level, Essence, and it is the top-of-the-range variant costing $46,990 drive-away. 

And we went with the top-of-the-range hybrid version of its rival for this test to match them up close on price, with the Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD model listing at $46,415 (MSRP - before on-road costs).

  • The MG wear 18-inch alloy wheels. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) The MG wear 18-inch alloy wheels. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)
  • The RAV4 rides on 18-inch alloy wheels. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) The RAV4 rides on 18-inch alloy wheels. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)

Factor in the on-roads and you’re looking at a straight-up advantage to the MG. We checked drive-away pricing at the time of writing for the RAV4 and for the 2000 postcode in NSW, the on-the-road cost for $50,852. That’s a $3862 price advantage to the MG - but note, you can get a 2WD version of the RAV4 that brings the price down a bit, and would be closer to the MG seen in this test as it’s 2WD only (the price for that spec when we checked was $47,702 - a lot closer to the HS PHEV.

So what about standard equipment? Here’s a rundown to see which justifies its price more.

 

MG HS PHEV Essence

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD

Sat nav

Y

Y

Apple CarPlay / Android Auto

Y

Y

Touch screen size

10.1-inch

8.0-inch

USB ports

4

5

Radio

AM/FM

AM/FM/DAB

CD player

N

N

Sound system speakers

6

9

Wireless phone charging (Qi)

N

Y

Instrument cluster

12.3-inch full digital

7.0-inch part digital

There’s a big screen size advantage to the MG here, but the usability of the media display  leaves a lot to be desired - more on that in the interior section. It is nice to see the MG has a fully digital instrument cluster though, where the Toyota’s is part-digital, part-analogue.

Next, let’s look at some other interior trim elements.

 

 

MG HS PHEV Essence

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD

Interior trim

Leather trim

Leather appointed

Front seat adjustment

Electric (driver and passenger)

Electric (driver only)

Leather steering wheel

Y

Y

Heated front seats

Y

Y

You might have a favourite in terms of the look of these models - we’ll dive deeper in the design sectio below - but here are some of the exterior differentiators.

 

 

MG HS PHEV Essence

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD

Alloy wheels

18-inch

18-inch

Tyres

 

 

Spare wheel

N - tyre repair kit

Space saver alloy

Roof rails

Y

Y

LED headlights

Y

Y

LED daytime running lights

Y

Y

LED fog lights

N

N

Auto headlights

Y

Y

Auto high-beam lights

Y

Y

Auto rain sensing wipers

Y

Y

LED tail-lights

Y

Y

Sequential indicators

Y

N

We will cover off safety specs and technology in the safety section below - but these two are very closely matched there, too.

The MG just wins this section because of its lower pricing and additional features, but the Toyota remains a value-focused offering in the segment.

MG HS PHEV Essence - 9

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD - 8

Design

It’s not our place to tell you what to think - you’re going to like the look of one of these models more than the other.

We get that, and for you it could come down to colours more than anything else. The eye-catching no-cost Clipper Blue Metallic on the HS caused plenty of discussion among the CarsGuide team (some in favour, some against), but there are only three other options for the MG HS PHEV grade, all of which add $700 to the price - Sterling Silver, New Pearl White Metallic and Phantom Red Metallic.

For the RAV4, the only $0 paint option is the one you see here - Glacier White. Other choices are Crystal Pearl white, Silver Sky, Atomic Rush red, Graphite grey, Saturn Blue, Eclectic Blue and Eclipse Black (add $675 to price). 

  • The Toyota’s sharp front end look is ageing well. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) The Toyota’s sharp front end look is ageing well. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)
  • The RAV4 is 4600mm long. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) The RAV4 is 4600mm long. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)
  • The RAV4's front and rear indicators are halogens. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) The RAV4's front and rear indicators are halogens. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)

Now let’s consider some of the design cues of these two, because they’re vastly different in their respective approaches.

The MG is bubbly, soft in its lines, and arguably more cute and cuddly looking than its rival, if a little derivative and inoffensive. The Toyota looks like it has been working out, with plenty of sharp edges and lines that make it appear more aggressive and masculine.

All attendees on the comparison test between these two cars were drawn to the grille design of the MG, which looks much more concave than it actually is, and clearly draws some inspiration from the diamond-style grilles applied in Mercedes-Benz’s portfolio. It also has some Mazda-esque elements, chiefly the daytime running light finish that looks very similar to the previous-gen CX-5’s look. Gotta love the sequential indicators front and rear, and the lighting around the car is pretty good - though the puddle lights with red MG illumination aren’t terrific, and nor is the fact there’s no light when you open the charge port filler cap.

  • The MG has some Mazda-esque elements. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) The MG has some Mazda-esque elements. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)
  • The MG is 4574mm long. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) The MG is 4574mm long. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)
  • The MG looks bubbly. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) The MG looks bubbly. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)

The Toyota’s sharp front end look is ageing well - after two years on sale, this is still a good looking vehicle with a lot of likeable design cues. We couldn’t help but find ourselves discussing what might change for the facelift model when it arrives (likely 2022 or 2023), but the almost cab-back look gives the Toyota a substantial appearance. I don’t love that the indicators are halogens front and rear, and so are the fog lights for the Toyota and the MG - it cheapens the crisp look of the bright white LED headlamps.

Let’s take a look at the dimensions of these two SUVs.

 

MG HS PHEV Essence

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD

Length

4574mm

4600mm

Wheelbase

2720mm

2690mm

Height

1685mm

1685mm

Width

1875mm

1855mm

The MG is shorter nose to tail and narrower across the flanks too, but the surprising thing is that it has a longer wheelbase, which ideally translates to better cabin room. We’ll cover off the practicality stuff in the next section. 

Let’s next look at the weight and towing capacity ratings for these two midsize SUVs.

 

MG HS PHEV Essence

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD

Towing capacity - unbraked

750kg

750kg

Towing capacity - braked

1500kg

 

1500kg

Kerb weight

1775kg

1755kg

There’s not very much splitting these two for weights - 20kg more for the MG is likely because of its larger battery pack and capacity.

If you’re wondering how these two vehicles cope off road, then we’ve got news for you - neither is a serious off-roader, but they both will be capable enough when it comes to negotiating gravel tracks to campsites, but the RAV4 has considerably better ground clearance - 190mm compared to the HS’s 145mm. Just be careful over the bumps, then?

The case of the RAV4 being available with all-wheel drive (AWD) or front-wheel drive (2WD) furthers its credentials as being a more multipurpose option than the HS PHEV. You can get a cheaper AWD version of the HS - but it’s only available with a petrol engine, not a hybrid or PHEV powertrain.

The RAV4, then, just gets the edge on its rival here. Now let’s see if that’s the case when it comes to the interior.

MG HS PHEV Essence - 7

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD - 8

Interior and practicality

Wow, how quickly the market moves.

The RAV4 was a real breakthrough moment for Toyota when the all-new model launched in 2019, but since then the midsize SUV space has changed a lot, and the interior of the RAV4 is starting to feel a bit out of date already.

That mainly comes down to the media screen and driver info display, both of which are comparatively small. The 8.0-inch multimedia unit at least has hot keys and knobs down the side for easy control, but the sat nav graphics look like they’re from the early 2000s, and the reverse camera/surround view camera display is grainy and poor quality. The driver info screen is configurable to a degree, but being only a 7.0-inch display with part-analogue elements, it doesn’t feel as high-tech as it could.

  • There's a 7.0-inch display with part-analogue elements. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) There's a 7.0-inch display with part-analogue elements. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)
  • The RAV4 has a 8.0-inch multimedia unit. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) The RAV4 has a 8.0-inch multimedia unit. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)

The MG, on the other hand, scores a pair of much larger screens - but it’s not all flowers and chocolates there, either.

The 10.1-inch touchscreen media system takes a lot of learning, with menus hidden away and no hard buttons or knobs up near the screen to make it easy to jump around. Instead there’s a row of hot keys below, and the lag from the screen can be excruciating at times - like when you start the car and shift to reverse if you’re in a hurry: it mightn’t load in time for the move you’re trying to do (but at least the parking sensors are always on). The fact the climate controls require a button press then interaction with the screen is yet another bugbear, and makes the Toyota’s rubberized controls and simple buttons seem so much more logical.

The 12.3-inch driver info screen is also a bit too laggy. It can take up to 10 seconds to be at the correct screen when you’re starting the car up, so that’s another thing you could get frustrated by. It’s great to have cute loading screens and lovely graphics to take advantage of the displays, but they need to be quicker. No-one’s gaining time in this life.

  • The MG's 12.3-inch driver info screen is a bit too laggy. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) The MG's 12.3-inch driver info screen is a bit too laggy. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)
  • Inside is a 10.1-inch touchscreen media system. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) Inside is a 10.1-inch touchscreen media system. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)

The look and feel of the cabins of these two are distinctly different, with the RAV4 having a rugged and adventurous design and finishes (it goes beyond the rubberised knobs and handles), while the HS has a more contemporary and conventionally consumable appearance, with the proud and large tablet screen and a more minimalist look.

Storage is better in the RAV4, with a lovely shelf that runs the width of the dashboard, bigger storage sections in front of the gear selector and large door pockets all around. There are cup holders between the front seats and in a fold down in the rear middle seat, but it only has one map pocket.

The MG’s storage options aren’t bad, they’re just not quite as good as the Toyota. There’s less usable room between the front seats and annoyingly the media screen USB port doesn’t have a spot nearby to stow your phone easily. It also gets good cup and bottle storage front and rear, and has two map pockets in the back.

  • The RAV4 has a rugged and adventurous design. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) The RAV4 has a rugged and adventurous design. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)
  • The RAV4 offers good room for adults and kids alike. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) The RAV4 offers good room for adults and kids alike. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)

Front seat comfort and adjustment? Well, the Toyota wins that hands down, so long as you’re not a tall front seat occupant because there’s no height adjust for the passenger seat in the RAV4. For the driver, though, you can easily adjust your seat to get the right position, whether you’re tall or not.

For the MG? The driving position is going to be uncomfortable for a lot of people. Everyone one our test found it to be too high a seating position, like you’re sitting on a bar stool when you feel like you’d rather be on the couch. The adjustments aren’t great either.

At the very least, the seats in the MG are very comfortable and supportive - they look like Recaros out of a special edition hot hatch. Compared to the Toyota, the MG’s seats are a lot more special looking, and the highlight stitching front and rear helps break the blackness up, where in the Toyota it’s rather bland look. You can option a “Nutmeg Leather accented” interior if you prefer a lighter look. 

  • The MG scores a pair of much larger screens compared to the Toyota. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) The MG scores a pair of much larger screens compared to the Toyota. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)
  • The seat comfort in the back of the MG is considerably better than the Toyota's. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) The seat comfort in the back of the MG is considerably better than the Toyota's. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)

The MG and Toyota are very close for occupant space in the cabin, with both offering good room for adults and kids alike. Both have relatively flat floor sections, and you can fit three adults across the back row at a pinch in both cars.

For me - 182cm or 6’0” tall, sitting behind my own driving position - I had almost the same amount of space for my knees, toes, head and shoulders in both SUVs. 

But I will say this - the seat comfort in the back of the MG is considerably better, with a cushy backrest and base that make it feel more amenable to longer drives. If you’ve got children, there are dual ISOFIX and three top-tether points, plus rear seat directional air-vents and two USB ports in the back for both SUVs, too.

These two are already pretty different in terms of the passenger compartment, but the cargo areas are also contrasting.

  • Cargo capacity is rated at 451L. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) Cargo capacity is rated at 451L. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)
  • The MG managed to only just squeeze the suitcases in. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) The MG managed to only just squeeze the suitcases in. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)
  • The rear seats have the ability to recline and fold flat. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) The rear seats have the ability to recline and fold flat. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)
  • There’s no spare wheel, but you get a repair kit under the boot floor. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) There’s no spare wheel, but you get a repair kit under the boot floor. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)

The boot capacity test we put these two SUVs through included loading in our CarsGuide suitcases (124L, 95L and 36L) and a pram in the back. 

With some adjustment to the reclining rear seat and the removal of the cargo cover, the MG managed to only just squeeze everything in, though whether you’d want to drive with the smallest suitcase mounted up high will be a matter of personal preference. It couldn’t hide the fact it has a considerably smaller boot space, with 451L of space because it has its battery pack over the rear axle (also means there’s no spare wheel, but you get a repair kit and there’s a storage section for the power cable under the boot floor).

  • With the rear seats in place, boot space is rated at 580 litres. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) With the rear seats in place, boot space is rated at 580 litres. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)
  • The RAV4 managed to fit all the luggage with room to spare. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) The RAV4 managed to fit all the luggage with room to spare. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)
  • The RAV4's rear seats can be folded flat. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) The RAV4's rear seats can be folded flat. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)
  • Underneath the boot floor is a space saver spare. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) Underneath the boot floor is a space saver spare. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)

The Toyota managed to fit all the luggage and the pram with a touch more room to spare, and without adjusting the back seat or removing the cargo cover. With up to 580 litres (VDA) of cargo capacity with the base set at the low floor height (or 542L VDA at the high floor setting), there is a clear advantage here, plus you get a space saver spare wheel as well. 

It’s the Toyota that just pips the MG here.

MG HS PHEV Essence - 7

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD - 8

Under the bonnet - drivetrains

Toyota doesn’t think the market wants or needs a plug-in hybrid version of the RAV4, so instead it persists with a series-hybrid model. That’s no bad thing, but the brand is at risk of being left behind - I mean, you can get a plug-in version of a MG HS, and there are plenty more rivals to come.

Let’s run through the powertrains in a bit more detail. Both have petrol engines as part of their power equations, but there are other considerations for these two, from battery packs to charging.

 

MG HS PHEV Essence

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD

Engine

1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol

2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol

Engine power output

119kW at 5500rpm

152kW at 6600rpm

Engine torque output

250Nm at 4300rpm

243Nm at 4000-5000rpm

Transmission

10-speed automatic (EDU)

Continuously variable transmission (e-CVT) automatic

Drivetrain

Front-wheel drive (2WD)

On-demand all-wheel drive

Electric motor(s)

90kW/230Nm

Two front motor generators (88kW/202Nm), one rear motor (40kW/121Nm)

Battery type and capacity

Lithium-ion (liquid cooled), 16.6kWh

Nickel metal hydride (NiMH), 1.6kWh

Charger type

Type 2 AC plug-in

-

Recharge time

5 hours (7kW home charger),

-

Electric driving range

63km WLTP

-

Combined output

189kW / 370Nm

163kW / Torque not listed

Acceleration 0-100 km/h

6.9 seconds (claimed)

-

The battery pack for the MG HS PHEV is rear mounted, under the boot floor and extending forward under the rear seat. The electric motor is mounted at the front of the car next to the engine. As mentioned, it’s front-wheel drive only. 

To recharge the HS, there’s a flap on the driver’s side behind the back door - the one on the left side of the car is for petrol (and you have to unlock it using a button hidden under the steering column, and it’s motor actuated which means the car must at least be on the Accessories setting for it to work). 

You can open the EV flap when the car is unlocked. There’s a dust protection cap on the receiver, and one on the charge cable that comes with the car - sadly, though, there’s no light in the filling area. Once plugged in, you should see the lights on the charge box illuminate and the driver info screen light up. We had more than one instance of recharging failing to commence on the first attempt, so there might be a knack to it that you learn over time.

The MG's 1.5-litre turbo four-cylinder produces 119kW/250Nm on its own. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) The MG's 1.5-litre turbo four-cylinder produces 119kW/250Nm on its own. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)

And you also need to remember that choosing a PHEV might be perfect for your situation, but if you’re regularly exceeding the EV range capabilities of the car, then it will not be as cost effective. See the fuel use section below for more detail.

During my time with the PHEV, I had several runs on full EV charge including one run where I managed to get 63km, bang on the claimed range, before it switched over to petrol driving. Another instance - when we conducted this test - saw a less than compelling 44km of EV driving only before it switched to petrol, and on that morning (a cool 10 degrees at the start of the drive, car parked outside overnight) the car wouldn’t allow us to choose EV mode initially.

In the RAV4 it’s hardly a simple powertrain. We refer to it as a “regular” hybrid, but technically it’s a series-parallel hybrid system, with a pair of electric motor generators up front, a rear axle electric motor that can kick in when needed, a continuously variable transmission and regenerative braking all working together to jump between EV driving and petrol mode depending on what’s required, also while recharging the battery using the petrol engine and regen braking.

It’s astounding to watch the energy flow illustration on the driver info screen and yet feel as though you still don’t know what’s going to happen and why, but rest assured that while there is an EV button you can push and run the car on battery power, it will only work in some situations, and it’s probably not going to give you the full-fat electric car experience you’re after if you’re thinking it’s this, or a Model X.

The RAV4 has a combined total output of 163kW. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) The RAV4 has a combined total output of 163kW. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)

What is cool about the rear axle motor is that the RAV4 can channel up to 80 per cent of drive torque to the rear (commonly referred to by Toyota as eFour all-wheel drive), and there’s also a Trail mode for off-road specific driving.

Bottom line, the system can drive all four wheels using petrol or electric power, and it regenerates power when braking and without you having to plug it in.

You might be surprised by the high scores for this part of the test, but looking at the segment - which still has its fair share of old-tech, naturally-aspirated, non-hybrid powertrains - these two stand out for their complexity and technology.

MG HS PHEV Essence - 9

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD - 9

Energy consumption

There is a huge difference in terms of the official combined cycle fuel consumption you see here for these two models.

But you need to bear in mind that figure is calculated via a complicated lab test stipulated by ADR 81/02, and in reality your litres per 100km depends on how far you drive after the electric charge is depleted. The further you drive, the more dinosaur juice you'll use. 

Plus, if you are going to exceed the EV range regularly, you’re paying twice - first to fill the battery (see cost calculation above), and also to fill the tank to keep things moving. Here’s a rundown of our findings. 

 

MG HS PHEV Essence

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD

Official combined cycle fuel consumption

1.7L/100km

4.8L/100km

Actual fuel use on test (150.5km)

4.4L/100km petrol
16.6kWh battery depleted - 44km driven
Displayed average consumption: 8.1kWh/100km

5.4L/100km

Difference between claim and actual

2.7L/100km / 159 per cent over

0.6L/100km / 12.5 per cent over

Fuel tank size

 

37L

55L

Theoretical total driving range

840km based on actual fuel use

1018km based on actual fuel use

CO2 emissions Combined

39g/km

109g/km

Again, it’s time to reiterate that the MG HS PHEV is going to have to be a decision based on your lifestyle. If you can drive within the battery pack’s range limitations, it will be a great commuter companion. And if you fall into that category, MG can help you out by connecting you with Jet Charge to set up a home wall box for faster charging than the regular 10-amp three-pin plug (which is included at the time of purchase). The maximum charge input for the system is 7kW on AC using a Type 2 plug - not the Type 2 CCS combination plug, because it doesn't have DC charging available... so there's no point going to a DC fast charger outputting 350kW, because it won't be usable.

In terms of electricity recharge costs at home, it’ll depend on what your electricity plan is. If you have solar and a storage capture, it could be free. If you’re like me and have an off-peak plan, you might wish to take advantage of that: for me, the cost is about $0.10/kWh for off-peak, and almost $0.30/kWh during peak times. So if you can remember to plug in at 10pm, you will save yourself money. For instance, to charge on-peak for me would be about $4.50; off-peak would be $1.66. But the thing is, there’s no timer setting to choose when you’d like to charge, and there is no smartphone app to control charge settings, like you get in a Tesla.

The maximum charge input for the system is 7kW on AC using a Type 2 plug. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) The maximum charge input for the system is 7kW on AC using a Type 2 plug. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)

But with the real world consumption and fuss-free electrified driving on offer in the RAV4 - where the drivetrain will do the thinking for you, switching between petrol and electric readily, using the brakes and engine to recharge the battery pack - we can kinda see where Toyota Australia is coming from with its approach that plug-free means a less taxing ownership experience. 

We have spent enough time in RAV4 hybrid models to know that the return we’ve seen here is entirely repeatable, and that just furthers the case that maybe this is the best technology for most people.

A final note here: fleet buyers with strict emissions requirements may be enticed by the sticker figure of the HS, and we can understand why - 39g/km is one of the lowest CO2 ratings for a vehicle with a petrol engine in Australia.

MG HS PHEV Essence - 8

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD - 9

Driving

We drove these two vehicles across the same roads - and we brimmed them both before we set off (the MG’s electric tank and petrol tank were both as full as they could get). 

The idea was to see how these two SUVs compared in terms of driving dynamics, comfort, efficiency and ease of use. We drove these cars individually and three-up to figure out how they compared - here’s what we found.

MG HS PHEV Essence

Taking off in electric mode does offer a level of thrill - there’s an audible warning outside the car that makes you feel like you’re driving something very futuristic, but really it’s just to warn pedestrians of your otherwise silent approach.

But there’s also the thrill of the strong torque from the electric motor, which offers rapid acceleration and response that’s, as you’d expect, instantaneous.

The problem is that, in our experience, you don’t get as much EV range as you might want. And sadly there’s no “recharge mode” button, whereby you could get the engine to help fill up the battery pack - for instance, if you’re on the highway and you know you’re about to drive through a congested city, where EV mode would be perfect. If your batteries are flat, there’s a bit of regenerative braking to add charge back, but it’s unlikely to get you back to half full, or more. And there is no adjustability to the regenerative braking (some competitors offer paddle-shift adjustment to change the ferocity of the regen brakes). We saw only a few kilometres of EV range added during our test thanks to the braking system.

The MG HS PHEV drives fine, but doesn’t change the game. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) The MG HS PHEV drives fine, but doesn’t change the game. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)

When the engine kicked over and petrol power took over, the powertrain was surprisingly quiet at highway pace. You can hear and feel the petrol motor buzzing away when you’re in traffic, and it can be a little hesitant when jumping between EV and petrol modes, as well.

But for what it’s worth, when the petrol engine is running the show, the 10-speed automatic seemingly does a really good job of offering up smooth progress, with little fuss or hesitation as you build speed or slow down.

On the topic of slowing down, the braking performance is okay for the MG - it lacks a bit of bite compared to the very grabby Toyota’s brakes, and might take some getting used to.

There’s the thrill of strong torque from the electric motor. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) There’s the thrill of strong torque from the electric motor. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)

The suspension is okay, too - not amazing at keeping the car feeling tight in bends or over bumps, as it seemingly prioritises a cushy ride over body control. The result is a bit more side-to-side wobble when you change direction, and a less confident ride over some lumps and bumps.

And the steering? Fellow tester, CarsGuide editor Mal Flynn, summed it up nicely - the steering feels a bit like a volume knob on a stereo, in that it operates as it should but doesn’t really have any feel or feedback to the driver’s hands, and nor does it offer any real excitement. Some buyers will love the hefty weight of it, but it’s a bit slow to react at lower speeds.

The braking performance is okay for the MG. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) The braking performance is okay for the MG. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)

All told, the MG HS PHEV drives fine, but doesn’t change the game in any particular way. If you’re trading up from a 10-year-old SUV - as we suspect many customers will be - this is still going to feel life-changing.

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD

The Toyota RAV4 feels a much more focused car as soon as you drive it. It’s more focused on feeling fun to drive, with a completely different character to the MG. 

The suspension is firmer and feels considerably more surefooted, with less wobble and roll through corners, and a more tenaciously grippy chassis for corner carving or just negotiating roundabouts. Some might wish for a little less firmness from the suspension, but our testers - in the front and the back - found its ride to be reassuring in its control.

The RAV4 suffers from more road noise than the MG. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) The RAV4 suffers from more road noise than the MG. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)

And when it comes to corners, the steering of the RAV4 is on another level. It has a lighter and more precise action, with a more direct response tuned into it as well. Think you need to go left? You already have. It just feels natural, and we love that. 

Then there’s the powertrain, which is noisier when the petrol engine kicks in, but smooth in the way it switches between powerplants, be it at speed or in urban driving. You can tell the tech used in the RAV4 is the result of 20 years of Prius development, and as a result it feels more mature in its application.  

The RAV4 remains one of the best SUVs in its class. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) The RAV4 remains one of the best SUVs in its class. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)

Its response in EV mode is often short lived, with the engine kicking in to either assist or take over proceedings pretty readily in most situations. But it does so smoothly and without you needing to think about it, which just adds to the ease of operation in the RAV4.

One thing we still don’t love in Toyota’s hybrid products is the brake feel and action - there’s a grabby nature to the brakes, and then a squelchy metallic feel as you go down the pedal. It’s weirdly artificial feeling. Certainly not ineffective, however.

The steering of the RAV4 is on another level. (image credit: Rob Cameriere) The steering of the RAV4 is on another level. (image credit: Rob Cameriere)

Another consideration - already referenced to some extent - is the noise of the RAV4. It suffers more road noise than the MG, and the petrol engine is comparatively loud at urban speeds as well. 

Those two minor criticisms can’t take away from the fact the RAV4 remains one of the best SUVs in its class to drive.

MG HS PHEV Essence - 7

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD - 9

Safety

Advanced safety technology is the norm in this part of the market, but not long ago, challenger brands like MG didn’t offer the same level of safety tech as their mainstream rivals. That’s no longer the case, with these two offering up every similar setups.

Both the MG HS and Toyota RAV4 have the maximum five-star ANCAP safety crash test rating against 2019 criteria - but for the MG, it’s only applicable to the regular petrol models, not the PHEV. ANCAP says there is no plan to test the PHEV version.

Here’s a rundown of the inclusions for both models.

 

MG HS PHEV Essence

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD

Reversing camera

Y - 360 degree surround view

Y - 360 degree surround view

Front parking sensors

Y

Y

Rear parking sensors

Y

Y

Airbags

6 - dual front, front side, curtain

7 - dual front, driver’s knee, front side, curtain

Auto emergency braking (AEB)

Y - 4km/h to 150km/h

Y - 10km/h to 180km/h

Pedestrian detection

Y - 4km/h to 64km/h

Y - 10km/h to 80km/h

Cyclist detection

-

Daytime

Auto high-beam lights

Y

Y

Adaptive cruise control

Y

Y

Lane departure warning

Y

Y

Active lane keep assist

Y - over 60km/h

Y - 50km/h-180km/h

Blind spot monitoring)

Y

Y

Rear cross traffic alert

Y

Y

Speed sign recognition with adaptive cruise adjust

Y

Y

ANCAP safety rating (year tested)

PHEV not tested - regular HS range: 5 stars (2019)

5 stars (2019)

The Toyota has daytime cyclist detection, where the MG doesn’t have cyclist detection - but the MG’s safety systems do operate from a lower speed, which is commendable. The MG’s reverse camera is excellent compared to the Toyota’s, which looks pixelated and dark.

Neither car has any form of rear autonomous emergency braking (AEB), however, which means both are falling behind already, and neither has front centre airbag protection, nor rear occupant alert or safe exit assist.

Oh and if you’re wondering “Where is the Toyota RAV4 made?”, the answer is Japan. Asking “Where is the MG HS made?”, the answer is China.

MG HS PHEV Essence - 8

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD - 8

Ownership

Your choice between these two could be decided by what ownership experience you think you’ll have. We can’t speak to the long term reliability of either of these cars, but we can give you an idea of the peace of mind each brand offers its customers. 

 

MG HS PHEV Essence

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD

Service interval

12 months/10,000km

12 months/15,000km

Annual service cost (avg over five years)

N/A

$215

Capped price servicing plan

N

Five years/75,000km

Prepay servicing available?

N

N

Vehicle warranty cover

Five years/unlimited km

Five years/unlimited km

Extendable warranty conditions

N/A

Seven years/unlimited km for powertrain if logbook servicing maintained

Battery warranty

Eight years/160,000 km

10 years/unlimited km if checked annually after five years

Roadside assist included?

Five years included

N

As you can see, the lack of a capped price servicing plan (though we believe one is coming) and that inability to forecast the cost of ownership really does count against the MG HS - plus having to service it every 10,000km is going to be a pain if you do a lot of distance.

Toyota’s offering is more comprehensive and impressive, including a longer potential powertrain warranty and better battery warranty provided you have it checked annually (which we assume you’d do when you service the car).

Toyota’s only shortfall is a lack of included roadside assist, but for about a hundred bucks a year for motoring club membership, we reckon it still has the MG covered for ownership prospects.

Are you worried about issues, reliability, problems with engine, transmission, battery, electrics, suspension or any other concerns or common complaints? Check out our MG HS problems page and our Toyota RAV4 problems page to keep up to date with any known issues with these cars.

MG HS PHEV Essence - 7

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD - 8

Ultimately the scores might not matter to you in this comparison. You might have just been after some context as to whether you should choose to plug in, or aim for the plug-free life.

And it will come down to your circumstances. The MG HS PHEV Essence will be suitable for buyers who know they won’t be pushing the limits of the EV range all the time - so if you home-work-home commute, or your home-school drop-home commute is, say, 50km a day, then it could be the ideal companion for your life. 

There’s nothing really to suggest it isn’t worthy of consideration. Sure, the seating position won’t be for all people, and the screens can be slow, and the boot isn’t as generous as the Toyota - but if you’re just after an affordable family SUV with plug-in hybrid tech credentials and good safety to back it up, the MG HS PHEV is a strong contender.

But for us, against the CarsGuide criteria, the Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD is worth the extra money, even if you don’t get the flexibility and feel-good eco points of the plug-in tech. It is a more competent and comfortable car to live with, has a more practical cabin design and better ownership promise all in its favour. The fact you can get the hybrid petrol-electric tech in lower grade versions (for as little as $37,070 for the GX 2WD) just furthers the case that this is a truly compelling vehicle in the midsize SUV segment.

Agree? Disagree? You can hit us up with your thoughts in the comments section, and be sure to tell us if you’d choose either of these, or something completely different. Here’s a breakdown of the entire score card.

 

MG HS PHEV Essence

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD

Pricing and specs

9

8

Design

7

8

Interior and practicality

7

8

Under the bonnet - drivetrains

9

9

Energy consumption

8

9

Driving

7

9

Safety

8

8

Ownership

7

8

Overall (average of the above)

7.8/10

8.4/10

MG HS PHEV Essence - 7.8

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD - 8.4

$45,990 - $46,415

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.