Honda HR-V VS MG HS
- RS model added
- Low-speed AEB standard
- Practicality unchanged
- Halogen headlights on base car
- No AWD model
- Full safety pack still only on top-spec
- Improved design
- Frumpy handling
- Inconsistent transmission
- Laggy multimedia
The changes aren't dramatic for the Honda HR-V 2019 model. In fact, you could look at it and not even know this is an updated, facelifted model.
But there are a few nips and tucks here and there that freshen up the appeal of the Japanese brand's small SUV, which first went on sale in Australia back in 2015.
It still has practicality on its side, and the value equation remains reasonably strong, especially on lower-grade models. And now, with some additional range-wide safety gear and a sporty looking RS model, there's arguably more to like than ever before.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
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.
|Engine Type||1.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
There are some positive changes to the updated 2019 Honda HR-V. The city AEB system on all models is a welcome addition, and personally, I'm absolutely sold on the look of the RS model, plus the additional effort that has been put in by Honda for this version makes it the most appealing example.
All in all, the Honda HR-V remains a favourite in the small SUV segment - admittedly one with limited choices in terms of drivetrains, and without all-wheel drive - but it possesses other strengths that make it pretty darn appealing.
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.
Can't tell the differences? There are a few, with new grille and headlight and tail-light finishes across the range, plus a new front bumper design. Elsewhere, it's hard to pick this as a facelifted model.
There is no denying the RS grade looks the best of this bunch, with its bigger 18-inch wheels and darkened chrome exterior styling highlights, along with the piano black body kit around the lower edges of the car and body-colour rear spoiler, all combining to create a cohesive and smart looking little SUV. The design of the exterior is really well considered.
That's not to say the other models don't live up to the RS, but it's certainly the standout. The entry-level VTi still looks like an 'affordable' model, with its yellow halogen lights and less appealing wheel choice.
The VTi-S and VTi-LX are harder to separate, but there are some design highlights to split them: the wheels are the same size (17-inch) but the VTi-S ones look a little tamer, and it gets body-colour door handles; the VTi-LX has chrome handles and a more attractive wheel design.
The exterior size of the HR-V hasn't changed, apart from the RS model, which is a little longer and a little wider due to its body kit. The measurements are: 4348mm long (RS: 4360mm) on a 2610mm wheelbase, 1772mm wide (RS: 1790mm) and 1605mm tall. It's hardly hard to get into, with ground clearance of 170mm, but for the concerned parents out there you can option side steps for the rear doors.
As you can see from the interior photos, the changes haven't been huge inside, and there are no differences to the interior dimensions. But the practicality - whether you choose a low-spec version with cloth trim or a flagship model with leather - is just about as good as you can expect in this segment.
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.
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.
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.
The Honda HR-V has cabin size on its side.
If you've never sat in one, you will probably be surprised when you do. There's a lot of room, both in the front and the back, and with the driver's seat set in my position (I'm 182cm tall), I had enough space to sit behind that spot.
There's good rear legroom and reasonable width to the cabin, but headroom could be a little better, particularly in the range-topping model with the big panoramic sunroof.
Being a Honda, the storage game is on point. There are cup holders up front, door pockets with bottle holders in each of the doors, and decent loose item storage, too.
Honda's 'Magic Seats' - fitted to all HR-V models - allow the rear seat area to double as a storage space. As you can see from the images, the base of the back seat can be flipped up, which allows you access to a huge space to store long items. You can fit pushbikes in there. Trust me. Or you can lower the seat bases down, and then drop the rear seat backs for a huge boot.
The boot space on offer in the HR-V is terrific for the class, with 437 litres of luggage capacity with the rear seats in place, with the boot dimensions expanding to 1462L with the back seats folded flat. The ridiculous floppy mesh cargo cover remains, but you can option a hard tonneau cover for the boot if you want, and there's a cargo liner available, too.
There's a space-saver spare tyre under the boot floor.
Only the VTi model misses out on roof rails, so if you want to fit a roof rack you might need to consider that.
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.
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.
Price and features
So, you want to compare Honda HR-V models? You want to know what you get if you buy the top of the range model vs one of the entry grades? You've come to the right place.
Kicking off the price list is the value-focused VTi, which lists at $24,990 (RRP - that's the price before on-road costs, not a driveaway price). The next model up in the range is the VTi-S, listing at $27,990. Then there's the new RS model, at $31,990. How much is a top-spec HR-V? That'll be the VTi-LX, at $34,590.
Now we're done with the price guide, let's run through what each model is fitted with.
The entry-level VTi model is attractively priced, and scores some points on specifications, too.
Standard features include a 7.0-inch touch screen with in-built satellite navigation system (sat nav, GPS - whatever you want to call it) with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and USB connectivity. Sadly, no model comes with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, so you'll just have to sync your iPhone or other smartphone by USB or Bluetooth.
The media screen doubles as a display for the reversing camera. There's cruise control, single-zone climate control air conditioning, and the VTi has projector halogen headlights with LED daytime running lights. You don't even get HID lights on the base spec, which is disappointing.
Step two in HR-V trim levels is the VTi-S, which sees the addition of keyless entry (smart key) and push-button start, auto on/off LED headlights, LED 'optical style' tail-lights, rear parking sensors, 17-inch alloy wheels, and Honda's 'LaneWatch' side camera system. This version gets roof rails, too, which the base grade misses out on.
The interior of the VTi-S model moves up to chrome and piano black finishes, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and leather-bound gear-knob, and the passenger's side vanity mirror is illuminated. Plus you get an extra pair of 12-volt plugs (one in the back seat, one in the rear), and a second map pocket in the back (the VTi has only one).
RS models are the sportiest looking versions in the range, and they get a different steering and suspension tune to live up to the look.
Beyond the stylish model-specific 18-inch alloy wheels, the RS gets piano black exterior trim for its body kit, including a lower front spoiler, side skirts, rear spoiler and wheel arches, plus smoked chrome look front and rear elements. This version also has dark chrome front door handles, auto-tilt passenger side mirror, black mirror covers, and additional sound deadening over the lower grades.
The RS also comes with leather seats (well, leather-appointed seats, as Honda puts it) which have been redesigned in this spec and the model above, plus the front seats are heated. It also adds rear tinted windows, auto wipers, alloy sports pedals, and a "smooth sports leather-wrapped steering wheel" with paddleshifters.
At the upper end of this model comparison is the VTi-LX, which builds on the equipment of the models below, with additions such as electric driver's seat adjustment, a panoramic sunroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, electric folding side mirrors, chrome exterior door handles, auto up/down windows for all doors, LED interior lights, dual-zone climate control, and front parking sensors.
As before, VTi-LX models have the more comprehensive safety suite, including high-speed auto emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning (not active lane assist) and auto high-beam lights (but still no blind spot monitor). We'll run through the rest of the safety technology in the safety section below.
However, the VTi-LX drops back to a 17-inch wheel instead of rolling on 18s like the RS, and it doesn't get the sports leather steering wheel.
While the multimedia system covers off most infotainment needs, there's no DVD player or CD player, and no DAB digital radio, either. The sound system is identical between all four models, with six speakers (no subwoofer).
And if you're wondering about things like a power tailgate or heated steering wheel, the HR-V range doesn't quite go that far in terms of luxury.
Accessories-wise, customers have a range of options to choose from - and it goes well beyond floor mats. There are roof racks, black 18-inch alloy wheels or two-tone silver/chrome rims, a hard tonneau cargo area cover, a ow bar and bike attachment, bonnet protector and even a camping tent. Other ones that might appeal include a rear and front metal-look garnish (the latter is hardly a bull bar or nudge bar - if you want one of those, you might need to shop the aftermarket).
How many seats in the Honda HR-V? Five, and they're very practical!
Oh, what about colours (or colors, depending on where you're reading this!)? Well, there are seven on offer: the new hero colour is 'Phoenix Orange', but there are the usual suspects like 'White Orchid', 'Lunar Silver', 'Modern Steel' (grey), 'Ruse Black', 'Brilliant Sporty Blue', and 'Passion Red'.
Every one of those paint options will cost you $575 more, with only 'Taffeta White' non-metallic paint coming at no cost (RS models aren't available in that colour, but the paint cost is factored in to the list price).
Oh, and this time around there is no purple colour, and the green that looks so appealing on the Japanese market 'Honda Vezel' still isn't offered in Australia.
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.
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).
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.
Engine & trans
There are no changes to the engine specs of the drivetrain on offer in the updated HR-V.
The engine size and specifications go unchanged for the 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, remaining at 105kW of power (at 6500rpm) and 172Nm of torque (at 4300rpm). So, it's no horsepower hero - and there's no turbo engine in sight, which is a shame.
The motor is only available with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) - and there is no manual transmission option, as much as we'd like to see a version with a clutch in the RS spec. The CVT has been updated with 'stepped ratios' to "enhance the sporty feel" and provide "more responsive acceleration".
The HR-V sold in Australia remains a 4x2 (front-wheel drive) model only - there are some markets that get an AWD / 4x4 model, but we miss out. Likewise, there's no diesel version, and you can rule out LPG, too.
Does fuel tank size matter to you? The fuel tank capacity of the HR-V is 50 litres. And if you're curious about the kerb weight, the number for the VTi is 1269kg, the VTi-S is 1274kg, the RS is 1294kg and the VTi-LX is 1319kg.
You may want to reconsider fitting a towbar, because the towing capacity ratings of the HR-V are minuscule: 500kg for an un-braked trailer, 800kg for a braked trailer.
You may want to check out our Honda HR-V problems page if you have concerns about automatic gearbox problems and suspension issues, and be sure to consult your owner's manual for information on oil type, capacity and consumption and the correct battery you'll need. Timing belt or chain? It's a chain.
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.
Sounds as cutting edge as any European rival, but there are some issues which we’ll explore in the driving section.
Fuel economy for the models in the range is dependent on which variant you choose.
For instance, the VTi model has claimed consumption of 6.6 litres per 100km (so, the fuel consumption km/L figure is 15.1). The RS model claims 6.7L/100km (14.9km/L), while the VTi-S and VTi-LX models claim 6.9L/100km (14.5km/L).
So you can expect fuel mileage to vary slightly between models, but all versions have an 'econ mode' if you want to keep the consumption down. The HR-V can run on 91RON regular unleaded petrol.
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.
The majority of my launch drive time was spent in the RS model, which is - understandably - the version Honda wanted to show off most.
It's a new nameplate for the HR-V line-up, and it has the most visual differentiation compared to the other versions. But it's also the best to drive, with a more fun-focused edge to it.
In truth, the HR-V has never been that much fun to drive. The RS model changes that - to a degree - with a different steering system to the rest of the range. The new variable ratio set-up feels a bit more like real steering in your hand, as opposed to the standard electric system in the other models, which doesn't feel as natural or progressive.
The RS's unique steering requires less effort at higher speeds, but there's a slight downside: in combination with the bigger 18-inch wheels (with wider tyres than any other model in the range), the RS model has a bigger turning circle (11.0m vs 10.6m - or a radius of 5.5, vs 5.3m).
The suspension of the RS model has also been tweaked - the set-up remains a MacPherson strut front suspension and torsion beam rear suspension, although the RS gets a specific tune to the dampers which Honda claims "deliver a more rewarding drive with flatter cornering, greater control and a more stable ride".
It's a decent improvement, with more agility and control to the vehicle over bumps. We drove the RS and VTi-LX, and in comparing those two models it was clear the RS was the better tune in terms of body control and overall compliance, even if it offered a minor penalty to pay over sharp edges at lower speeds. But the RS's suspension never felt too harsh - which is important for a vehicle like this.
The real question is - why didn't Honda just do the RS suspension tune for all HR-V models? Presumably that suspension set-up would be even more impressive on a smaller wheel with a bigger tyre sidewall...
The performance from the 1.8-litre engine isn't terrific, but it definitely gets the job done. You're not going to win many acceleration races, and it doesn't gather speed with as much urgency as some of its competitors that roll with turbocharged engines.
But the revisions to the CVT have been worthwhile - it feels a little more willing when you plant your foot, and there's less droning from the transmission. Plus RS and VTi-LX models gain additional sound deadening to try and reduce road noise, and these versions get different seats to the lower grade versions, too. They feel a bit more plush, then, and not just because of the leather seat trim.
There is no off road review to be done here. While the numbers suggest the HR-V could cope with some rough terrain, (ground clearance mm: 170mm), the off road capability is limited by the fact it is front-wheel drive only.
Sure, you might be able to fit a set of off-road tyres to the alloy wheels, and yes, that would look pretty cool. But I wouldn't go testing the wading depth in my HR-V, if I were you.
That's fine, though - this is a city-focused SUV, and it nails that task.
Cabin design and practicality is where the HR-V still shines brightest, even if it isn't as up-to-date as it could be. There are little things, like the fact that every model is fitted with a space-saving electronic parking brake, and those 'Magic Seats' that are fitted to all variants, that add to the smartness of the space. Admittedly, to be even more enticing, things like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto would be added, plus a digital speedometer.
But all in all, the updated HR-V is an improvement on what was already a very good small SUV.
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.
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.
The safety rating of the Honda HR-V remains a maximum five-star ANCAP score, which it was originally awarded in 2015.
The safety features list has been improved for this facelifted model, with the addition of a low-speed auto emergency braking (AEB) system, known as 'City-Brake Active'. It will warn the driver and apply brake force at speeds from five-32km/h.
The best safety package is still reserved for the range-topping model, which gets full forward collision warning and AEB, plus lane departure warning and auto high-beam. You can't option that tech on the other models, either, which is kind of disappointing. Unlike some rivals, you can't get blind-spot monitoring, or rear cross-traffic alert, or adaptive cruise control. So the high-spec model's kit is good, but not great.
There's a reverse camera on all grades, and Honda's 'LaneWatch' camera on the top three specs. The base model can be optioned with rear parking sensors, and those are fitted to the three higher specs as standard, with the top spec model gaining front park assist sensors.
If you need to fit a baby seat, you'll be pleased to know there are two ISOFIX anchor points in the outboard rear seats, plus three top-tether attachments.
All HR-V models have six airbags.
A lot of people search "where is the Honda HRV built?" Well, firstly, it's the HR-V - hyphens are important. And secondly, you might be surprised to learn the answer is not Japan, it's Thailand.
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.
Honda has a strong ownership plan compared to some of its small SUV rivals.
With a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, it's among the best in the class. No need to worry about an extended warranty, like you might if you bought a Toyota C-HR or Suzuki Vitara. No model in this segment has anything better than the warranty that Honda offers.
As for capped price servicing, the plan spans up to 10 years or 100,000km - meaning service intervals of 12 months/10,000km, whichever occurs first. The service costs are pretty well under control, too, with the average capped price service costing $296, before additional consumables.
See our Honda HR-V problems page for issues, complaints, common faults and defects. It should be able to help you gauge the reliability rating of the car.
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.