Holden Trax VS MG HS
- Good spec in each model
- Reasonable packaging
- 1.4 turbo is better than the 1.8
- LTZ is pricey
- Missing AEB
- Driving position
- Good looks
- Impressive value
- Full safety
- Drive experience still needs work
- Some ergonomic issues
- Sub-par software
Holden's plucky little Trax was a bit of a trailblazer (ahem). Not only was it Holden's first compact SUV, it beat most of the manufacturers to the segment by almost 12 months.
Those manufacturers includes Mazda, Nissan, Toyota and Hyundai. Volkswagen is still months away. The Trax range had a small refresh for the 2018 model year, following a pretty big facelift in 2017. It isn't exactly an earth-shattering update but it gave the Trax a more Holden look while sorting out some of the issues of the launch car.
|Engine Type||1.4L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Here in Australia we really are spoiled for choice when it comes to the sheer number of manufacturers on offer.
While prices for the big players like Toyota, Mazda and even Hyundai seem to be ever-increasing, there's apparently no shortage of upcoming challengers like MG, LDV, and Haval to take advantage of the vacuum created at the lower end of the price scale.
Indeed, the results speak for themselves, with Chinese giant SAIC's two brands in our market, LDV and MG, continually putting stellar sales performances on the board. The question many curious consumers will be asking though, is a simple one. Are they better off paying less and driving away in a car like the MG HS today, or should they put their name down on an exceedingly long waiting list for the segment's most popular hero: the Toyota RAV4?
To find out, I've sampled the whole MG HS range for 2021. Read on to see what's what.
|Engine Type||1.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
It's a close-run thing, but the best of the Trax range is the LS auto. There is little in the way of genuine improvement as you climb the range, with just the LTZ's rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring as genuinely useful. The rest is mostly cosmetic.
As a contender in the segment, the Trax struggles when it comes to pricing - a Mazda CX-3 of comparable price is better-equipped and better to drive, with just a tighter rear seat to contend with. Other cars in the segment are newer and (generally) better-packaged for similar or little more money.
The Trax is an individual and Australians seem to like them - we're still buying them at a reasonable rate. In a segment that is grabbing yet more sales and is filling with yet more manufacturers, the Trax is the little engine that could.
Is it the Holden badge, individual looks or price that aTrax (I'm so sorry) you? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The HS is a curious mid-size SUV competitor, entering the Australian market not just as a proposition for budget-conscious buyers who can no longer afford or want to wait for a Toyota RAV4, but also as an unlikely tech leader with the plug-in hybrid.
The range offers big-ticket safety and spec items with attractive looks at an enormously appealing price. It's easy to see why the HS is proving a hit with customers. Just be aware that it's not without its compromises when it comes to handling, ergonomics, and lots of less obvious areas where it's easy to take the polish of its rivals for granted.
Our pick of the range, oddly enough, is the top-spec PHEV, as it is the most competitive with rivals and the highest scoring against our metrics, but there's also no denying the entry-level Core and Vibe are excellent value in a tough marketplace.
The MY17 styling update is carried forward unchanged into the MY18 model year. The Trax is a global car, built in a few locations, but ours come from South Korea. That means we get the Chevy version of the styling (there is also an Opel, which is known as the Mokka).
The newer face is much more contemporary than the old one, with finer detailing and a less chunky look. The deeper front bumper means a fairly bluff front end but with the less blocky headlights, doesn't look as heavy. The overall profile hasn't changed, but the rear has also been cleaned up. A black pack would certainly make the car look even tougher, but it's not on the options list. Some customers have found a nudge bar accessory, but that's not on the official Holden list.
Inside also receieved some attention, with the old bitsy but individual layout turfed out in favour of a more traditional look. The instrument pack used to live in a motorbike-style pad it shared with the Barina. It was kind of cool but looked really cheap, so the pod made way for standard dials-under-a-hood. It's bit more mature but certainly not as cool. Perhaps as consolation, a number of the materials have improved, the awful glove box door is now more substantial-feeling (and it will still fit the owners manual).
If the price wasn't enough to get people into dealerships, the design certainly will be. It's tough to call the HS original, with some clear influence from popular rivals like Mazda in its flashy chrome-embossed grille and bright colour options.
If nothing else , the HS provides a swoopy and curvy solution where many of its Japanese and Korean rivals have turned to sharp angles and squared-off shapes in recent years. Most importantly for MG, as a fledging volume manufacturer, is that its designs are bright and youthful. It's a powerful cocktail made for sales when trendy looks are combined with accessible finance and appealing price-tags.
Inside the HS initially looks great. Things like its sporty three-spoke steering wheel have a European flair and the HS is certainly set to wow people with its array of big and bright LED screens and soft-touch surfaces, which extend from the dash into the doors. It looks and feels nice, refreshing even, compared to some of its tired rivals.
Look too closely, however, and the façade starts to fade. The seating position is the biggest give-away for me. It feels unnaturally high, and has you not only peering down on the steering wheel and instruments, it also alerts you to how narrow the windscreen actually is. Even the A-Pillar and rear-vision mirror eat into my line of sight with the driver's seat set in the lowest possible position.
The seat material itself also looks plush and chunky, and while it is soft it lacks the support you need when driving for long periods of time.
The screens, too, look nice from a distance, but when you start to interact with them, you'll hit some issues. The stock software is downright ordinary in both its layout and look, and the lacklustre processing power behind it makes it a bit of a laggy mess to use. It can take almost 30 seconds for the digital dash cluster in the PHEV to start up once you press the ignition switch, by which point you could be well out of your driveway and down the road.
So, is it all a bit too good to be true at the price? The look, materials and software all leave a lot to be desired, but if you're coming out of a car which is more than a few years old, there's nothing really sale-breaking here, and it ticks a lot of key boxes, just know the HS is not at the top of the game when it comes to design or ergonomics.
The Trax's small dimensions don't promise much but there's a decent amount of room inside. Front seat passengers are well accommodated and luxuriate with no less than four cupholders, while the rear passengers score two in the rear armrest.
Those rear passengers will feel the pinch if they're approaching 180cm, with marginal knee room but plenty of headroom. The upright seating position does help taller folks and you can get your feet under the front seats.
Boot space is a reasonable if not startling 356 litres. Flip up the seat bases, fold the backs forward and you'll see a useful increase in boot dimenions, the volume almost doubling to 785 litres.
LT and LTZ owners also score an underseat storage tray.
The HS has a large cabin, but again, it's not without its issues, which reveal an automaker new to a mainstream-market position.
As already mentioned, that front seat is spacious enough for me at 182cm tall, although it was tough to find a driving position with the absurdly high seat base and surprisingly narrow windscreen. The seat material and position leave me with the impression of sitting on the car rather than in it, and this remained true from the base Core to the faux-leather-clad Essence PHEV.
Storage in the cabin is good, though, with large bottle holders and bins in the doors, which easily held our largest CarsGuide 500ml demo bottle, similarly sized dual-cupholders in the centre console with a removable divider, a slot that should suit all but the largest smartphones running parallel, and a decently sized centre-console armrest box. On higher grades, this is air conditioned, good for keeping foodstuffs or drinks cooler for longer.
There is also an odd flip-open tray under the function-shortcut buttons. There's no storage space in here, but it houses the 12V and USB ports.
There are no tactile controls for the climate functions, only a button, which takes you to the relevant screen in the multimedia suite. Controlling such functions through a touchscreen is never easy, especially when you're driving, and it's made worse through the slow and laggy software interface.
I consider the rear seat to be a major selling point for the HS. The amount of room on offer is excellent. I have leagues of space for my feet and knees behind my own seating position, and I'm 182cm tall. There is also ample headroom regardless of variant, even when the panoramic sunroof is in place.
Storage options for rear passengers include a large bottle holder in the door, and a drop-down armrest with two large but shallow bottle holders. Higher grades also score a flip-open tray here where objects can be stowed.
The more entry-level cars don't get power outlets or adjustable rear air vents on the back of the centre console, but by the time you get to the top-spec Essence there are two USB outlets and dual adjustable air vents.
Even the plush door trims continue, and the seat backs are able to recline slightly, making the rear outboards the best seats in the house.
Luggage capacity comes in at 451-litres (VDA) regardless of variant, even the top-spec plug-in hybrid. This lands around the middle of the segment. For reference it was able to consume our whole CarsGuide luggage set, but only without the retractable cover and it left no extra room to spare.
Under the floor in petrol variants there is a space-saver spare, but due to the presence of its large lithium battery pack, the PHEV makes do with a repair kit. It's also one of the few cars to feature an underfloor cutaway specifically for the included wall-socket charging cable, a clever inclusion.
Price and features
How much is a Holden Trax? Where is the Holden Trax built? What features and accessories are available? This review will provide you with a price list, all quoted as RRP, or MSRP as the manufacturers prefer to say.
Its main rival, the Mazda CX-3, has a bewildering number of models whereas the number of Holden Trax models is comparatively skinny, with just three on offer - the LS, LT and LTZ.
Standard on every Trax is Holden's 'MyLink' media system with Apple CarPlay an Android Auto. As a result, you won't see a GPS sat nav in the specs. MyLink powers a six speaker stereo with USB or Bluetooth for smartphone integration and a 7.0-inch touchscreen. A CD player is a thing of the past, so it's missing from Trax.
The LS manual starts the bidding at $23,990. It rolls on 16-inch alloy wheels, has air-conditioning, reversing camera, remote central locking, rear parking sensors, cruise control, automatic headlights, powered heated mirrors, electric windows, cloth trim and a tyre repair kit. Twist your dealer's arm and you might get floor mats thrown in.
The $26,490 LS auto not only picks up a six-speed automatic but also the 1.4-litre turbo engine with the same power but improved torque. You also get four-wheel disc brakes as opposed to the manual's rear drum brakes.
The middle child is the $28,890 LT. Added to the LS specification are 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and start, leather steering wheel, colour instrument screen, fake leather seats, DAB+ digital radio, driver's middle armrest and a sunroof.
The price range is capped with the top of the range LTZ, starting at $30,490. Sharing the turbo engine and automatic transmission with the LT and LS auto, the LTZ's additions include 18-inch alloy wheels, auto wipers, blind spot monitoring and reverse cross traffic alert.
The Trax is available in eight colours. 'Mineral Black', 'Boracay Blue', 'Son of a Gun Grey', 'Burning Hot' (a vivid orange), 'Absolute Red', 'Nitrate' (silver) and 'Abalone White' which all come at a cost of $550. Only 'Summit White' is a freebie.
With prices starting as low as $29,990 drive-away it's easy to see why MGs have been flying off the shelves of late.
When it arrived in late 2020, the HS was MG's most important model, breaking the brand into the most mainstream of segments with a mid-size SUV. Prior to its arrival, MG had played in the cheap and cheerful space with its budget MG3 hatch and ZS small SUV, but the HS came packed from the get-go with a digitised cabin, a suite of active-safety features, and a European-style small-capacity turbocharged engine.
The range has expanded since then to cover even more affordable ground, now kicking off with the base model Core.
The Core wears the aforementioned $29,990 drive away price and comes with a relatively impressive suite of equipment. Standard stuff includes 17-inch alloy wheels, a 10.1-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, a semi-digital dash cluster, halogen headlights with LED DRLs, cloth and plastic interior trim, push-start ignition, and perhaps most impressively, the full active-safety suite, which we'll take a look at later. The Core can only be chosen as a front-wheel drive automatic, with a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
Next up is the lower mid-grade Vibe, which wears a drive-away price tag of $30,990. Available with the same engine choice and largely the same specs, the Vibe adds keyless entry, a leather steering wheel, leather-look seat trim, electrically auto-folding and heated wing mirrors, an air conditioned centre console box, and a set of roof rails.
The upper mid-grade Excite can be chosen in either front drive with the 1.5-litre engine at $34,990, or as a 2.0-litre all-wheel drive at $37,990. The Excite gains 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights with animated LED indicators, interior ambient lighting, built-in sat-nav, alloy pedals, an electric tailgate, and a Sport mode for the engine and transmission.
Finally, the top-spec HS is the Essence. The Essence can be chosen either as a 1.5-litre turbo front-wheel drive at $38,990, a 2.0-litre turbo all-wheel drive at $42,990 or as an interesting front-wheel-drive plug-in hybrid at $46,990.
The Essence gains power adjustable and heated front seats, a puddle light for the driver's door, sportier seat designs, a panoramic sunroof, and a 360-degree parking camera.
The plug-in adds a 12.3-inch digital dash cluster, as well as a completely different transmission to go with its hybrid system, which we'll also take a look at later.
The range is undeniably good value and coupled with the flashy look even on the base Core, it's not hard to see why MG has soared into the top 10 automakers in Australia. Even the top-spec PHEV manages to undercut the long-standing Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV by a decent margin.
When it comes to the raw numbers then, it seems as though MG's HS is off to a good start, especially when you consider a full array of safety equipment and a seven-year warranty.
Engine & trans
The Trax's engine size depends on the specification you choose. The entry-level LS is the lone contender to persist with the 1.8-litre naturally-aspirated engine that launched the Trax four years ago. Developing 103kW/175Nm at 3800rpm. The 1.8 is paired with a six-speed manual transmission.
The LS auto, LT and LTZ all run the 1.4-litre turbo four cylinder paired with a six-speed automatic. The turbo engine develops an identical-to-the-1.8 103kW but brings another 25Nm to the party for a total of 200Nm developed at a more city-friendly 1850rpm.
The Trax's weight isn't particularly low, hovering around 1400kg tare, a bit of a heavyweight in the segment.
Towing capacity is rated at 500kg unbraked and 1200kg braked and a towbar is optional.
The MG HS is available with three drivetrain options across its four-variant range. The base two cars, the Core and the Vibe, can only be chosen with a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, producing 119kW/250Nm, which drives the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
The Excite and top-spec Essence can also be chosen in this layout, or as an all-wheel drive with a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine producing 168kW/360Nm. This combination still has a dual-clutch automatic, but with only six speeds.
Meanwhile the halo variant of the HS range is the Essence plug-in hybrid. This car pairs the 1.5-litre turbo from the more affordable variants with a relatively powerful 90kW/230Nm electric motor, also on the front axle. These combine to drive the front wheels via a 10-speed traditional torque-converter automatic.
The electric motor is backed by a 16.6kWh lithium-ion battery pack, which can be charged at a maximum rate of 7.2kW via a European-standard Type 2 AC charging port located in a flap opposite the fuel filler.
The power figures on offer here are pretty good across the board, and the technology is contemporary and geared for low emissions. The dual-clutch automatic transmissions raise an eyebrow, but more on that in the driving section of this review.
According to the official figures, the 1.8 manual will consume 91RON at the rate of 7.1L/100km while emitting 165g/km of CO2.
Step up to the 1.4-litre turbo also means switching to premium unleaded, which it will drink at the rate of 6.7L/100km and emit 155g/km.
Real world fuel economy is somewhat different. We've measure fuel consumption in the 1.4-litre turbo well over 10.0L/100km. The fuel tank size is 53 litres. With that kind of fuel capacity, you'll cover just 500km in normal driving in either the 1.8 or 1.4.
For a mid-size SUV, the HS has impressive official/combined consumption figures.
The 1.5-litre turbocharged front-wheel-drive variants have a combined official figure of 7.3L/100km, against which the base Core I drove for a week returned a figure of 9.5L/100km. A little off the official number, but it's impressive to get below 10.0L/100km in the real world in an SUV this size.
The 2.0L all-wheel drive cars miss the mark by a little more, scoring a real-world figure of ?? L/100km in Richard Berry's week-long test, against an official 9.5L/100km.
Finally, the plug-in hybrid has an absurdly low fuel-consumption figure, thanks to its large battery and capable electric motor, but assumes the owner will drive it in ideal circumstances only. I was still impressed to find my test week in the PHEV returning a figure of 3.7L/100km, especially given I managed to run the battery completely dead for at least a day and a half of driving.
All HS engines require the use of mid-grade 95RON unleaded petrol.
The view out of the Trax is impressive for such a small car. It feels high even though it isn't - pop the bonnet and you'll notice it's a long reach down to the engine, even the battery is kept low. The driving position is high and commanding but boy, is it awkward. The pedals are very close to the seat and despite a tilt and reach adjustable steering column, the taller you are, the harder it is to get away from a weird man-spreading arrangemnt for your legs.
The limited ground clearance of 158mm - a leftover from its Barina underpinnings - means the Trax isn't much of an off-roader despite its hill descent control inclusion and very camper-like addition of a 230V power supply in the rear seat. The front bumper is a scraper as it extends much lower than you would expect in an SUV, mostly to protect its low-riding underbits.
The sole 1.8 in the range is best avoided. The engine is a buzzing, vocal unit that needs to be worked hard to keep up with traffic. While the power and torque figures are fairly standard for the market segment, the power band is not easy to reach.
Step up to the LS auto and the change to the 1.4-litre turbo is stark. While there are the same number of kilowatts and torque is up by about 15 percent, it's a far smoother, quieter unit. It will never be a quiet car, it just doesn't have the engineering for that (the Barina platform is cheap and old). The turbo does reduce the din but also exposes the Trax's taste for road and suspension noise.
Overall, the Trax is comfortable and a bit of fun to drive if you don't mind the body roll or you're on a bumpy country road where it all gets a bit lumpy messy. As a city car it's quite a good proposition but long trips will be tiring.
The HS is a bit of a mixed experience from behind the wheel. It's brave for a manufacturer as recently rebooted as MG to have a complex emissions-beating small-capacity turbocharged engine mated to a dual-clutch automatic. There's a lot in this combination that can go awry.
I said at the launch of this car that the transmission was pretty ordinary. It was reluctant, got caught in the wrong gear frequently, and was just an all-round unpleasant experience to drive. The brand informed us that there has been a significant software update to the transmission to coincide with the arrival of the other HS variants, and credit where credit is due, there has genuinely been a change.
The seven-speed dual clutch is now much more compliant, shifting more predictably through its gears, and when decision-making is asked of it in the corners it's now a smoother experience, where previously it would shudder and skip gears.
However, lingering issues still remain. It can be reluctant to take off from a full stop (a common dual-clutch trait) and it seems to particularly dislike steep inclines. Even my driveway would have it choking between first and second gear, with a distinct loss of power if it made the wrong decision.
The ride of the HS is comfort tuned, which is a breath of fresh air from many sportier mid-size SUVs. It deals with bumps, potholes, and undulations around town remarkably well, and the abundance of noise filtering from the engine bay keeps the cabin nice and quiet. It's easy to take the handling prowess of its Japanese and Korean rivals for granted, however.
The HS feels frumpy in the corners, with a tall centre of gravity and a ride that is particularly prone to body-roll. It's a topsy-turvy experience if your suburb is full of roundabouts for example, and hardly inspires confidence when cornering. Even little calibration things like the slow steering rack and pedals, which lack feel, show areas where this car could be improved.
I only had a brief time behind the wheel of a 2.0-litre turbo all-wheel-drive variant. Make sure to read Richard Berry's variant review for his thoughts, but that car had more of the same issues, but with a slightly better ride and handling thanks to improved traction and more weight.
The most interesting HS variant is the PHEV. This car is by far the best to drive thanks to its smooth, powerful, and instantaneous electric torque. Even when the engine is on in this car it's far smoother, as it trades away the messy dual-clutch automatic for a 10-speed torque converter, which slushes through the gears with ease.
The best way to drive it, though, is as a pure EV, where the HS PHEV shines. Not only can it drive entirely on electric power alone (as in, the engine won't turn on, even at speeds up to 80km/h), but the ride and handling are improved by the weight of its batteries, too.
While there's still significant room for improvement in the HS range, it's impressive how far the brand has come in the short time since this mid-size SUV arrived in Australia.
The fact that the PHEV by far the best to drive bodes well for the future of the brand.
The Trax has six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, reversing camera, three top-tether anchorages and brake assist.
The little Holden scored a five star ANCAP safety rating in August 2013.
It is impressive that MG has managed to pack the entire active-safety suite into every HS, especially the base Core.
Branded 'MG Pilot' the suite's active features include freeway speed auto emergency braking (detects pedestrians and cyclists at up to 64km/h, vehicles at up to 150km/h), lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, auto high beams, traffic-sign recognition, and adaptive cruise control with traffic-jam assist.
Sure, some automakers might pack some extra features in like driver attention alert and rear AEB, but to have the whole suite on even the entry-level variant is impressive, nonetheless. Since this car's launch, software updates have even significantly improved the lane keep and forward collision warning sensitivity significantly (they are less extreme now).
Six airbags come standard on every HS alongside the expected brake, stability, and traction controls. The HS scored a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating to the 2019 standards, scoring decently across all categories, although the PHEV variant is different enough to miss out this time around.
In the latter half of 2017, the Trax came with a seven-year/175,000km warranty, a big jump from the usual three-year/100,000km. The standard offer returns on January 1, 2018 unless Holden changes its mind.
Roadside assist is offered for an initial twelve months and then extended at every service performed at a Holden dealer.
Servicing intervals for the Trax are nine months/15,000km. Lifetime capped price servicing applies, starting at $249 for the first two, jumping to $429 for the third service and then bouncing around between $249 and $399 until the seventh service.
MG takes a leaf out of Kia's book by offering an impressive seven-year and unlimited-kilometre warranty on every HS variant aside from the PHEV.
Instead, the PHEV comes with an industry-standard five-year and unlimited-kilometre warranty, and separate eight-year and 160,000km lithium battery warranty. The brand justifies this by saying the hybrid game is “a different business” to its petrol range.
Capped-price servicing had not yet been locked in at the time of writing, but the brand promises us a schedule is on the way. We'd be surprised if it was expensive, but keep in mind brands like Kia have used higher service pricing in the past to cover a longer than average warranty.