Although Chinese-owned but British-crewed and operated, with more than 500 staff at the Birmingham facility where it completes final assembly from knockdown kits shipped from SAIC in China, MG Motors is one of the greatest self-proclaimed success stories of modern manufacturing in Britain.
The MG GS was the first SUV the Chinese-owned brand made, and it is a big step away from the sports cars that the old MG famously produced for decades. Instead, this budget SUV is a rival for the likes of the Renault Duster, Toyota’s RAV4, Mazda’s CX-5, Kia’s Sportage, Nissan Qashqai and the Hyundai Tucson.
Interior and equipment:
Step inside the GS and you’re quickly reminded of its bargain-basement price. Top-spec models may get leather and piano-black trim, plus a decent-sized touchscreen infotainment system, but they don’t distract you from the feel of the materials employed by MG.
There’s nothing but hard, scratchy plastic on the dashboard, doors and centre console. But will probably prove durable enough. The infotainment system offers a large 8.0in touchscreen, but it looks quite basic compared with rival systems and offers less functionality.
There’s no problem with forward or sideways visibility, but the view out the back could be better, because the rear pillars block a bit of your over-the-shoulder view. Rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera are standard on all but entry-level models, though.
Despite the GS’s quality and ergonomic issues, it’s certainly spacious – much more so than the Duster. Up front, it’s easy to get comfortable in the driver’s seat, and there’s plenty of room for all shapes and sizes. Head and leg room is good in the rear, too, although the floor is higher than you might expect, forcing your knees upwards. Still, long-legged adults can properly stretch out and relax in the back of the GS, and there’s a huge amount of foot space under the front seats. It also gets reclining rear seats as standard – a feature that’s rare in family SUVs, let alone bargain-priced ones.
The boot is practical availing 483L of space – which expands to 1336L with the rear seats folded – is well ahead of competitors.
Engine & Transmission:
The GS is the recipient of a new 2.0 litre, turbocharged four-cylinder engine. At 164bhp and 184lb ft of torque, MG is claiming class-leading figures among its two-wheel drive competition, though class-leading in this instance is only good for a 9.6sec 0-60mph time and 118mph, so the GS won’t thrill on pace alone. As yet, there’s no diesel alternative.
The engine isn’t quite as sweet as some, either – it’s working through quite long, economy-biased gear ratios, and while it may loosen up with miles there’s little joy to be had working it much beyond the mid-range, as acceleration tails off and a tuneless droning pervades the cabin. It hangs onto revs for a while during every shift too, making smooth changes difficult. It’s a very competent motorway cruiser though – quiet and torquey.
Undoubtedly the best post-SAIC MG yet. If that sounds like an odd thing to say of a family crossover, it’s a sign of how quickly MG is getting to grips with developing competitive cars that the GS actually gets down the road quite nicely. The steering is light, but accurate, and not without some sense of feedback on what the front tyres are doing. There’s a fair bit of body roll through quick corners, but the car does at least have plenty of grip.
There’s little in the GS that will have the industry sitting up and taking notice, but with that direct-injection turbocharged engine and dual-clutch transmission, column-mounted electric power steering and multi-link rear suspension, it has all the mechanical attributes now considered a bare minimum for cars of this type.
”It’s still a fair way behind segment leaders like the Volkswagen Tiguan, Ford Focus, Honda CR-V and the Mazda CX-5, but the MG GS is a sign that Chinese cars are heading in the right direction, and could soon challenge the Japanese and Koreans if they continue on this upward path.”