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MG HS 2021 review: Excite

The MG HS Excite hopes to steal buyers away from the Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV4.

Urban score


MG is gaining popularity at a rock star rate with more and more popping up on our city streets. But what does this mean? Are they any good, or are they just affordable and great looking?

Well, we’ve tested the MG HS, which is the brand’s mid-sized SUV, in the Excite grade which sits high in the range.

Our car also had the less powerful of two engines available – the 1.5-litre four-cylinder with front-wheel drive.

So, is the MG HS Excite a good urban car? Read on to find out.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The MG HS tested here is the Excite grade, found high up in the line-up, and it’s the front-wheel drive version which, at $32,990, is $3000 less than the all-wheel drive Excite X ($35,990).

Is that expensive for an MG HS? Nope, not in a range which starts at $29K and tops out at $46K.

The MG HS tested here is the Excite grade for $32,990. The MG HS tested here is the Excite grade for $32,990.

The Excite grade is the best value in the range, especially this more affordable FWD version.

Coming standard are all of the features from the two grades below it, such as the proximity key, 10.1-inch media screen, adaptive cruise control, leather-look seats, roof rails, leather steering wheel and rear parking sensors.

Then there’s all the Excite level equipment such as LED headlights, sat nav, dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers, power tailgate and 18-inch alloys.

The sat nav, power tailgate, proximity key and rain-sensing wipers are all helpful urban features, but the lack of front parking sensors isn’t ideal.

For about the same price as the MG HS Excite there’s the Mazda CX-5 Maxx, Toyota RAV4 GX, and Hyundai Tucson Active.

The Excite comes with 18-inch alloys. The Excite comes with 18-inch alloys.

In my opinion, the MG HS Excite isn’t priced low enough to tempt buyers away from such superb rivals, but it’s still better value considering the features you’re getting.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

The MG HS's design isn’t exactly unique with some areas, such as the grille and headlights, bearing a close resemblance to the Mazda CX-5's styling.

Lookalike it may be, but the MG HS Excite’s design is stylish and modern. That goes for the interior, too, which has a premium look with high-tech touches such as the big 10.1-inch media touchscreen.

The MG HS Excite’s design is stylish and modern. The MG HS Excite’s design is stylish and modern.

The feel of the cabin materials doesn’t match the high-end look, however, with flimsy plastic switches for fan speed and volume control, for example.

Tactile controls with good feel aren’t just nice, they’re important in urban cars where reaching quickly to turn the volume down or to adjust the fan makes life easier in stressful traffic.

The front seat design doesn’t seem quite right, either. The driver and front passenger seats are too high, even on their lowest setting, but more on this in the driving section.

The MG HS’s dimensions make it good for tight city streets and tiny car spaces. That said, measuring 4574mm end-to-end, 1876mm wide and 1685mm tall, it’s one for the larger medium-sized SUVs on the market.  

How practical is the space inside?

Practicality is one of the MG HS Excite's strong points. There’s plenty of people space up front, and in the second row, where even I (at 191cm/6'3") can sit behind my driving position with ample headroom back there.

  • There’s plenty of people space up front. There’s plenty of people space up front.
  • Practicality is one of the MG HS Excite's strong points. Practicality is one of the MG HS Excite's strong points.
  • There's a fold-down armrest housing another two cupholders in the back. There's a fold-down armrest housing another two cupholders in the back.

Cabin storage is good with a decent-sized centre console box up front, as well as large door pockets, a deep storage tray in front of the gear shifter, and two cupholders.

In the back there's a fold-down armrest housing another two cupholders, plus a built-in container for loose items.

Boot capacity is 463 litres. Boot capacity is 463 litres.

There are directional air vents in the rear, plus two USB ports, while another two USB ports can be found up front.

Boot capacity is 463 litres (to the top of the seat backs), and that was plenty of room for my little family of three.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The Excite features the less powerful of two engines available in the MG HS – a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol making 119kW/250Nm.

Sure, it doesn’t have the grunt of the 2.0-litre but if you’re just looking for something to get you around the place you aren’t going to be super concerned about high-performance.

The Excite has a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine. The Excite has a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine.

Our test car was also the FWD version, which is fine because AWD isn’t necessary in the city.

The seven-speed automatic transmission is a dual-clutch type, prone to jerky shifts in some cars, and the MG HS is one of them. MG needs to improve this transmission for a smoother city drive.

How much fuel does it consume?

In my fuel test of the MG HS I covered 303.2km, a good chunk of which was a freeway trip back from Canberra to Sydney, followed by a day or two of inner city driving.

The Excite used 24.1 litres, which translates to 7.9L/100km. Not far off the 7.3L/100km MG says you should get after a combination of open and urban roads.

If you never leave the city, your fuel usage will climb. MG says the 1.5-litre engine will use 9.2L/100km in pure urban driving.

That figure alone is too high for me to call our test car a great urban vehicle.

There is a plug-in hybrid version of the HS, which is much closer to the ideal variant for urban dwellers.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The MG HS scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating under 2019 testing rules.

The safety tech list looks impressive with good city-focused features such as an AEB system that can detect cyclists and pedestrians (up to 64km/h) and vehicles (up to 150km/h), along with lane keeping assistance, traffic jam assistance, blind spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert.

But I received a stark reminder that AEB systems aren’t perfect while travelling at about 30km/h approximately 40m behind two cyclists on a city street.

The MG HS Excite braked hard for no apparent reason. Forcefully enough to throw everybody in the car forward, straining the seat belts.

The cyclists hadn’t stopped or slowed down, and I couldn’t see any no other obstructions which would have caused the pretty violent stop.

Luckily, there were no injuries in our car, and it was fortunate there wasn’t a car close behind which may have impacted us.

We know of AEB ‘misfires’ like this across other brands, but it's still a concerning behaviour.

It tells me not all safety systems are created equal and ‘advanced’ tech still has a long way to go before it is truly advanced.

Along with six airbags, there are two ISOFIX points and three top tether anchor points for child seats across the back seat.

A space saver spare wheel is under the boot floor.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

The HS Excite is covered by MG’s seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is two years more than most carmakers offer.

Servicing is recommended every 12 months or 10,000km. Here are the costs: 10,000km ($279.04); 20,000km ($382.44), 30,000km ($330.23); 40,000km ($437.54); 50,000km ($279.04); 60,000km ($800.66) and 70,000km ($279.04).

That's an annual average of $398.28 for the first seven years.

What's it like to drive around town?

Can we talk about the driver’s seat first? The design of the front seats means the driver and co-pilot sit overly high, even on the lowest setting.

That really bugged me to begin with as an ideal position has the driver sitting lower so they can look over the steering wheel and up the road ahead, rather than down onto it.

Compounding the frustration is the fact that this height means the rearview mirror obstructs vision through the windscreen.

After a few days driving the MG HS Excite I became used to the elevated driving position, and I’m sure you will, too. But I believe the design is a bad one and not something an owner should have to work around.

The design of the front seats means the driver and co-pilot sit overly high. The design of the front seats means the driver and co-pilot sit overly high.

Okay, enough about the seats. This isn’t Let’s talk about the engine and how the 1.5-litre four cylinder doesn’t have the pep and acceleration of the 2.0-litre AWD model, but is perfectly fine for the city.

Besides, that larger engine's a bit manic just driving around town. There’s more than enough oomph from the 1.5-litre in the city, and even my motorway trip to Canberra (in gale force winds) was as uneventful as any Hume Highway trip should be.

What’s not noticeable on the freeway, but pronounced in the city, is the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission's lack of refinement. Jerkiness, sometimes on hills and when taking off from stand still.

Now, the ride. The news isn’t good here. either, I’m afraid. Our test car was comfortable enough on a smooth road, but throw speed humps, potholes and all the normal Aussie urban road imperfections at it and this SUV struggles to maintain composure.

A tendency to lean in roundabouts compounds a below average driving experience.

Finally, look at the steering wheel in the images. There’s a red button on it, just like you’ll find on the steering wheel of a Ferrari.

Only this button says, ‘Super Sport’ and when I pushed it nothing appeared to happen. It’s a setting that’s supposed to activate a performance driving mode, but there was nothing ‘super’ or ‘sport’ about it.

There’s a red button on the steering wheel, just like you’ll find on a Ferrari. There’s a red button on the steering wheel, just like you’ll find on a Ferrari.

The MG HS Excite has beautiful styling with a premium look. It’s loaded with advanced safety tech and is better value than rivals such as the Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV4 (which demand more money for similar equipment).

There are weaknesses. The driving experience isn’t as good as those rivals and the quality in-car feel of these competitors exceeds that of the MG.

The HS Excite is a good choice for an urban car. It’s not too big, but offers excellent practicality, and there’s great city safety tech, even if the AEB in my test car got a bit confused.

Only the jerky transmission and the fuel economy stops it from being a great urban car.

There is a plug-in hybrid version of the HS. Sure, it’s more expensive, but it’s one of the most affordable electric vehicles in Australia, and my colleague Tom White covers it in his range review.


Based on new car retail price


Urban score

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