Nissan Qashqai VS MG HS
- Impressive rear legroom
- Big boot
- Good to drive
- A bit pricey
- Acceleration feels sluggish
- Small display screen
- Good looks
- Impressive value
- Full safety
- Drive experience still needs work
- Some ergonomic issues
- Sub-par software
It’s lucky cars aren’t as bad as the names they’re given because the Qashqai would be a shocker. Fortunately, the Qashqai is a good small SUV and this latest update has made it even better... and safer.
So, what’s so new about the 2020 Qashqai? What’s good about it and what could still be improved. Finally, there’s something else you should know, and it might make you want to wait longer before you do buy a Qashqai.
|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|
The Qashqai is one of Nissan’s best SUVs for the space it offers in such a small package. A good driving experience is short of being great thanks to the CVT auto, and the value could be better.
Now, here’s a spanner in the works for you. A new generation Qashqai isn’t far away, it’s probably about 12 months off and it will have a new look inside and out, have the latest technology, plus we’ll almost certainly see a hybrid version.
If you can hold on, do it, because what’s likely to be an even better Qashqai should be worth the wait. But if you are in market right now, the ST+ is definitely the pick of the bunch. The update has seen it pick up an excellent array of advanced safety equipment.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
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.
Another strength of the Qashqai is its good looks – tough, yet pretty, with a rounded snub nose and muscular rear haunches.
No changes to the styling for this 2020 update inside or out, which is a shame because the cabin is beginning to date with the small screen and dash design. Still the interior is stylish with well laid out controls.
As you’d expect, the Ti’s interior is the plushest, with quilted leather seats and the huge sunroof, but even the entry grade ST with the leather clad steering wheel has a premium feel.
How big is the Qashqai? It’s a big-small SUV in that at 4394mm end-to-end it’s 10cm longer than a Honda HR-V and about 2.0cm longer that a Kia Seltos, but about the same width and height as both at 1806mm across and 1595mm tall.
All Qashqai’s come standard with alloy wheels, so no hubcaps here like you’ll see on the entry-grade Seltos.
Telling each Qashqai grade apart is easy once you know the ST doesn’t have foglights, while the ST+ does but doesn’t get the roof rails you’ll see on the ST-L or its 18-inch alloys. The TI can be spotted in the wild by its big 19-inch rims and the sunroof. See? Easy… sort of.
There are seven colours to choose from including 'Magnetic Red' and 'Pearl Black', but only the 'Vivid Blue' (the colour of my car in the video) is the only no-cost hue. The other premium paint colours are $595.
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.
Space and usability are two of the Qashqai’s strengths. For an SUV that is only 4.4m long, and for me at 191cm tall to be able to sit behind my driving position with room to spare is excellent. Headroom back there is good, too, even in the Ti which has a sunroof which eats into the ceiling.
Cabin storage up front is pretty darn good with a large and deep centre console bin, big door pockets and two cup holders; while the rear seats have door bottle holders and a tray in the rear of the front console. The ST-L and Ti come with a fold-down centre armrest in the back with two cupholders.
The 430L boot is one of the largest in the class (Seltos has a 433L cargo capacity). There’s also another large storage level under the boot floor in the Ti.
Getting in and out of the Qashqai is helped by a raised ride height and large doors that open wide.
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
The entry-point into the Qashqai range is now $27,990 (an increase of $500 over the previous car) and that will get you into the ST with a manual gearbox, while the auto (CVT) is $29,990.
That ST is the only grade which comes with a manual, the rest are all autos with the ST+ listing for $31,990, then the ST-L for $34,000 and at the top-of-the-range is the Ti for $38,490.
A limited-edition N-Sport version sits between the ST-L and Ti and lists for $35,000, but there are only 600 being made.
As for what’s new, that’s simple – Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility is now standard across the range. The ST+ also now has rain sensing wipers and auto headlights. The rest of the new features are safety items which we’ll cover in that section below.
Along with the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, standard features on the ST include a 7.0-inch screen with rear view camera, front and rear parking sensors, six-speaker stereo, cruise control, cloth seats, push-button start, LED running lights, halogen headlights and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Step up to the ST+ and you’ll gain all the ST’s features plus sat nav, privacy glass, fog lights, and power- folding heated wing mirrors.
The ST-L has all of this, but adds leather and cloth seats, heated front seats, roof rails, and 18-inch alloy wheels.
At the top-of-the-range is the Ti and this grade unlocks more features on top of the ST-L’s including 19-inch alloys, adaptive LED headlights, panoramic sunroof, dual-zone climate control, power adjustable driver and front passenger seat, adaptive cruise control, and leather seats.
The 2020 update also saw a special edition N Sport Qashqai released for a list price of $35,000. The N Sport has all the ST-L's features and adds 19-inch alloys, body-coloured front and rear bumpers with a matt silver trim, side skirts, body-coloured wheelarches, silver mirror caps, black headliner and an N-Sport badge to make sure everybody knows.
Is it good value? Well you can get into an entry-grade Kia Seltos with all the advanced safety features in the Ti for $25,990 drive-away. A Honda HR-V is also more affordable with a start price of $24,990.
I’m afraid the answer to that initial question then is, no. The Qashqai is not good value in comparison to the Seltos or Honda HR-V.
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
All Qashqais have the same engine – it’s a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol which makes a reasonable 106kW of power and 200Nm of torque.
As I mentioned in the driving section the engine isn’t at all gutless, I’ve driven SUVs and cars with the same torque and less power with better acceleration. It’s the continuously variable transmission (CVT) in the Qashqai which causes the lackluster acceleration.
You’ll notice this lack of oomph particularly on hills and when you need to overtake. Some carmakers are now producing CVTs which do provide better acceleration, but Nissan’s isn’t one of them.
On the plus side CVTs are good for fuel economy, which is what we’re about to discuss.
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.
Nissan says the Qashqai with its four-cylinder petrol engine and CVT auto will use 6.9L/100km over a combination of open and urban roads. That’s pretty good and better than the ST with its manual gearbox which officially does a best of 7.7L/100km.
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.
Here’s why. The ride is comfortable and composed, the steering is accurate and has good feel to it and the handling (for a small affordable SUV) is great.
You’ll like the extra security the height gives you along with the good visibility, and you’ll like the size in terms of ease of parking, too.
What you might notice is that acceleration feels a bit disappointing and you might think the engine is ‘gutless’ for want of a better word. It’s not the engine, it’s something else. Read on to find out.
All Qashqais are front-wheel drive, but a decent 188mm ground clearance means they’ll handle gravel roads without fear of damaging the underside.
The launch of this updated version had us driving on about 50km of gravel and dirt roads, and sure, if the Qashqai had all-wheel drive it would have kept the car from sliding around on the loose rocky surface a bit, but we had no problems with clearance.
The Qashqai's braked towing capacity is 1200kg.
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 Qashqai was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2017.
The ST+ has come out well in this update, not only did it score Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but the amount of standard advanced safety equipment increased, including blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert.
While all Qashqais come with AEB as standard the top-of-the-range Ti ALSO picked up AEB with pedestrian detection in the update.
Forward collision warning and lane departure warning ARE also standard on all Qashqais.
For child seats you’ll find two ISOFIX points and three top tether anchor mounts.
A space saver spare wheel in under the boot floor.
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.
The Qashqai is covered by Nissan’s five-year,/unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Servicing is recommended annually or every 10,000km and is capped at $226 for the first service, $309 for the second, $236 for the third, $435 for the fourth and $245 for the fifth.
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.