Let’s face it, plug-in hybrid vehicles don’t get a whole lot of love in Australia, do they? It seems we either want a hybrid (which is mostly just code for a Toyota ), or a true electric car. But a car that can do both? Not really on our radar.
Tesla is storming the sales charts, Hyundai and Kia can’t get enough examples of the Ioniq 5 and EV6 to satisfy the demand, and just about every Toyota hybrid model now commands a wait list that stretches months and months.
And that’s a bit of a head-scratcher, to be honest, because — on paper, at least — a PHEV does seem to play both roles pretty well. In the city or for shorter hops, it can operate as a pure-electric vehicle. Run out of battery and you can simply refuel with petrol and drive for as long as you’d like.
That’s the marketing pitch, at least. Which is why I’m genuinely excited to be living with the MG HS PHEV (or what the brand — in a stroke of utter marketing genius, in my opinion — refers to as as the MG HS + EV) to see if the dream holds up in reality.
We’ve go three months to figure it out, and I’m going to try to use the vehicle a little differently for each of them.
For the first four weeks, I’m going to do what I suspect a lot of PHEV owners do - plug it once to fill the batteries, and then forget to plug it in again, instead just driving it like a regular car to see what kind of fuel use I get. Next, I’ll still use it as a hybrid, but I’ll religiously plug it in at night, but still let the car figure out which of its power sources it wants to draw from. And finally, I’ll try using it as a pure EV as much as I possibly can.
But first, the car. Our MG HS + EV arrives in the Essence trim level, and it’s yours for $52,690 drive-away. You can get a cheaper one, the Excite, which is $49,690 drive-away, too.
Inside is a 10.1-inch central touchscreen. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)
Spring for the Essence and you’ll want for almost nothing, with the Chinese SUV arriving predictably feature packed without you having to trouble a costly option list.
But the Essence adds some extra cool kit, like a panoramic sunroof, welcome lights that shine a bright red MG logo onto the road when you open the doors, full LED head and taillights (the Excite gets halogens up front), an auto-opening boot and bigger 18-inch alloys.
The Essence wears 18-inch alloy wheels. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)
It also adds a 360-degree camera to the safety kit, which already includes the MG PILOT safety suit, including intelligent speed limit assist, traffic jam assist, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, AEB, lane keep assist, auto high beams and blind-spot detection. All that stuff joins the six airbags and the ANCAP five-star safety rating issued to the HS back in 2019.
So what about the plug-in hybrid stuff? Well, the MG gets a 1.5-litre turbo-petrol engine which, on its own, will generate 119kW and 250Nm. And when you run out of battery, it’s this that you’ll be relying upon.
Speaking of batteries, the MG gets a 16.6kWh liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery which feeds a 90kW and 230Nm electric motor. You can’t just add the petrol outputs and electric outputs together, though, as not all power is available all at once. Instead, MG says you can expect 189kW and 370Nm as a total system figure.
The battery will deliver a claimed 63km on a single charge, and MG says plugging into a 7kW wall box (the kind of thing most EV owners install) will deliver a full charge in around five hours. Using MG’s home charger — the kind that just plugs into a regular socket — will take longer, with our testing returning more than nine hours.
At the rear, the HS Essence has full LED taillights. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)
Apart from all that clever stuff, you’re staring down the barrel of a pretty straight-forward mid-size SUV here. There are five pretty comfort seats, lots of cabin and baggage room, and that easy hip height entry and exit so beloved by SUV owners.
Right, so does owning a MG HS + EV make financial sense in terms of fuel savings. Well it really depends on how you use it, and how dedicated you are to plugging in.
Our first month we simply ran the battery flat and drove it as normal - and to be fair to MG, that is NOT how plug-in hybrids are meant to be used - and returned fuel use that wouldn’t look out of place in any mid-size SUV.
Over the first 700-or-so kilometres we averaged bang on 9.0L/100km, and 1.6kWh per 100km from the motor and battery. That’s miles above MG’s claim of 1.7L/100km, but there is real dark magic afoot in the way any plug-in hybrid calculates that claimed figure. Short answer? Disregard it.
After driving over 700km we averaged 9.0L/100km. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)
The other interesting thing about the plug-in hybrid versus a non-plug hybrid is that once the battery is depleted, you’re done. Sure, you might recoup a little every now and again through regenerative braking, but not enough to make any real difference.
It took me a day or two to drain the battery, and for the weeks that followed it largely stayed that way, impacting fuel use, too.
Again, there’s an important disclaimer that needs to be attached here, and that is that I — on purpose — used the MG in exactly the way it’s not supposed to be used (but in the way I suspect lots of people do actually use it), so the next report is going to be the really interesting update.
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