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in 2019, but since then the midsize SUV space has changed a lot, and the interior of the RAV4 is starting to feel a bit out of date already.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.
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 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.
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 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.
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).
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