While China may not be the flavour of the month in Canberra it is now beginning to make a significant impact onto the Australian automotive market.
Leading this charge is MG Motor who, through a combination of attractive styling, sharp pricing, seven-year warranty and long equipment list, now sits inside the top 10 brands for overall motor vehicle sales.
Even more surprising is that this success has been achieved with just three vehicles in its range, one hatchback (MG30) and a pair of SUVs, the compact ZS and mid-sized HS.
To increase the appeal of the HS a first all-wheel drive version with a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine has been added to the range.
Two variants are offered, Excite X and Essence X (our test car) with driveaway prices of $37,990 and $42,990 respectively.
The MG HS has a neat and relatively conservative style with the stand-out feature being the large honeycomb style grille dominated by the iconic MG badge sitting proudly in the centre. The badge also appears on the rear hatch, the centre of the wheels, key fob, steering wheel and, in the Essence, is displayed on a ground via nifty puddle lights on either side.
The door handles and mirrors are finished in body colour (there’s a choice of five) with chrome highlights on the window trims, side sills and fog light surrounds.
Inside, there are satin chrome highlights on the interior handles, air vents and steering wheel with metal trim on the pedals.
Essence X comes with powered and heated leather trimmed front seats as well as a panoramic sunroof that extends almost the entire length of the roof, it has a powered tailgate.
ENGINE / TRANSMISSION
The two AWD HS variants are powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine with outputs of 168kW and 360Nm. The rest of the range, including the new PHEV plug-in hybrid, use a 1.5-litre 119kW / 250Nm turbo-petrol unit.
In contrast the AWD variants are mated to a six-speed dual-clutch transmission while the others get a seven-speed DCT.
The MG HS AWD comes equipped with Eco, Normal, Sports and Custom driving modes to provide options for whatever situation it encounters.
One of the main reasons that the early Chinese entrants into the Australian market struggled was because of poor safety equipment. That’s no longer the case and the MG HS which comes a five-star ANCAP rating courtesy of having its impressive MG Pilot safety package in the entire range.
Features include Adaptive Cruise Control; Forward Collision Warning; Automatic Emergency Braking; Lane Assist System; Traffic Jam Assist; Intelligent Speed Assistance System; Blind Spot Detection; Rear Cross Traffic Alert; and Intelligent Headlamp Control.
All HS models use a high-resolution 10.1-inch tablet-style touch screen for its info display which splits into three large components providing access to audio, satellite navigation and air conditioning settings. Switches below the screen are there as an alternative for audio volume control and aircon fan speeds and temperatures.
Wireless connectivity is provided by Bluetooth while for wired connections and smartphone charging there are four USB ports inputs, two in the front and two in the rear in all models above the single port in the entry-level Core. All models have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
Integrated satellite navigation is standard in the Excite and Essence models.
There’s excellent space in both the front and rear seats with plenty of headroom in both areas despite the large sunroof. The combination of tilted rear seatbacks and tall front seat headrests are likely to annoy occupants.
The 2.0-litre engine in the HS AWD is a welcome addition, boosting both power and torque by around 40 per cent when compared with the 1.5-litre unit in the rest of the range, although that’s partly offset by the extra 180 kg that the AWD carries.
Unfortunately, the bigger engine is let down by the dual-clutch transmission (DCT) which is sluggish off the mark and slow in responding. There are steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters although, oddly enough, they can only be used when the main gear selector is pushed to the right.
Excite and Essence models, both FWD and AWD, also come with a Super Sport mode. Activated through a red button on the steering wheel it tightens the steering feel and sharpens torque response for a noticeably better driving experience.
While the large infotainment looks great, many of the features need a series of taps and have slow response times and so take far too much of the driver’s time taken away from the road ahead.
Worst of all we found a delay of around 8 seconds, between the time that reverse gear was engaged and when the view from the reversing camera was displayed on the touchscreen.
Once out onto the motorway the HS cruised comfortably and, when we switched to the Super Sport mode provided some driving enjoyment over the rural segment of our normal drive route.
Fuel consumption is listed at a fairly high 9.5 litres per 100 kilometres. We averaged in the high 10s during our test.
Due to the Sydney COVID-19 lockdown we spent three weeks testing the MG HS Essence X and fielded plenty of questions about this precocious newcomer brand from potential buyers.
One of the first things that we pointed out is that – unlike most other brands where safety features are added progressively as they step up the spec-range or optional – the comprehensive MG Pilot package comes standard in all HS variants.
So, while we appreciated the extra features and performance of the HS Essence X, it’s hard to justify the extra $13,000 price surcharge over the $29,990 driveaway entry-level Core variant.
As a mid-sized SUV, the MG HS is taking on many of the longest-established nameplates in a larger and competitive market segment. Nevertheless, its combination of price, quality and high equipment levels, most notably safety, certainly makes it worth a test drive. Adding to the value equation is MG’s seven-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.
AT A GLANCE
HS Core 1.5-litre turbo-petrol: $29,990 (driveaway)
HS Vibe 1.5-litre turbo-petrol: $31,990 (driveaway)
HS Excite 1.5-litre turbo-petrol: $34,990 (driveaway)
HS Essence 1.5-litre turbo-petrol: $38,990 (driveaway)
HS Essence Anfield 1.5-litre turbo-petrol: $40,690 (driveaway)
HS Excite X AWD 2.0-litre turbo-petrol: $35,990 (MSRP), $37,990 (driveaway)
HS Essence X AWD 2.0-litre turbo-petrol: $40,990 (MSRP), $42,990 (driveaway)
HS PHEV Essence 1.5-litre turbo-petrol plug-in hybrid: $46,990 (driveaway)
SPECIFICATIONS (MG HS Essence X 2.0-litre turbo-petrol five-door wagon)
Capacity: 1.995 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 168 kW @ 5300 rpm
Maximum Torque: 360 Nm @ 4000 rpm
Fuel Type: 91RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 9.5 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 221 g/km
DRIVELINE: Six-speed automatic
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4574 mm
Wheelbase: 2720 mm
Width: 1876 mm
Height: 1685 mm
Turning Circle: Not supplied
Kerb Mass: 1700 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 55 litres
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Solid disc
Seven years / unlimited kilometres