2017 MG GS Review – Australian Drive
Alex Rae’s 2017 MG GS Review with specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
IN A NUTSHELL: The best offering from the Chinese-owned MG yet, but it still has some refinement and learning to do before it’s a strong competitor.
2017 MG GS
PRICE from $23,990 (+ORCs) WARRANTY 6 years/unlimited km ENGINE 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol, 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol POWER 119kW, 162kW TORQUE 250Nm, 250Nm TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual, 6-speed DCT, 7-speed DCT DRIVE front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive BODY 4500mm (L); 1855mm (W); 1699mm (H) KERB WEIGHT 1432kg SEATS 5 FUEL TANK 55 litres SPARE space saver THIRST 6.1-9.8 L/100km combined cycle FUEL petrol
MG (MORRIS GARAGES) is a British sports car manufacturer founded in 1924, and although the company has survived for almost 100 years, the current Chinese owned MG Motors company is far from the company it used to be, although it still operates from Birmingham, England.
MG was bought by state-owned Chinese company Nanjing Automobiles in 2005, which then merged with Chinese manufacturer Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation two years later, and is now known simply as SAIC Motors. SAIC is China’s largest volume production car company, and it is tipping hundreds of millions of dollars behind the MG brand globally.
Its first MG production car was the MG6 in 2011, followed by the MG3 in 2013. Both cars were small light passengers cars typical of Chinese car manufacturer (cars like Chery), and weren’t well received due to poor dynamics and low build quality. But SAIC has claimed it has quickly raised the bar with MG’s first SUV offering, the GS.
Such is the proposed quality that MG invited us to drive the new SUV through a series of wet and dry slaloms and closed gravel circuit to test its chassis and brand’s claim of quality European designed and engineered cars to suit drivers from all walks of life.
Backing up that promise is a very good 6-years, unlimited kilometre warranty with 6-years roadside assist to calm any mechanical concerns.
What is it?
The MG GS is a small-mid size SUV and on launch SAIC executive director Joy Zhu claimed its rivals were SUVs like the Nissan QASHQAI and Honda HR-V. But that’s perhaps a little unfair on the QASHQAI who’s 63-litre smaller boot belongs to a car which is dimensionally smaller in every way..
MG GS: 4500mm (L), 1855mm (W), 1699mm (H) with 483 litre boot.
Nissan QASHQAI: 4377mm (L), 1806mm (W), 1595mm (H) with 430 litre boot.
The MG GS is in fact much closer to the Hyundai Tucson and competitors in that space such as the Mazda CX-5 and Kia Sportage. And the
MG GS: 4500mm (L), 1855mm (W), 1699mm (H) with 483 litre boot. Hyundai Tucson: 4475mm (L), 1850mm (W), 1660mm (H), with 488 litre boot. Mazda CX-5: 4540mm (L), 1840mm (W), 1710mm (H) with 442 litre boot
Engineering and design of the GS was done by MG in Birmingham, England, and is perhaps why the car has some sporty and refined appearance on the road compared to most Chinese vehicles. The back looks distinctly sporty when driving behind and the front, at a glance, appears a mix of previous generation Hyundai ix35 and current generation Toyota Rav4.
The GS is assembled in China and exported to Australia but SAIC said it does not want to produce a cheap-to-build cheap-to-sell vehicle, and has approached the Australian market carefully (compared to the previous import of the lower quality MG6) to provide a well thought out product selection.
The GS therefor arrives in four trim levels – base Vivid, Core, Soul and top-spec Essence. The Essence sold in Australia is Essence X, as it is the only four-wheel drive equipped model with all other models front-wheel drive only.
Entry level Vivid gets a six-speed manual transmission only (all other models get either a 6 or 7 speed dual clutch auto) and a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine producing 119kW and 250Nm. Standard features are automatic headlights, electric park brake and 17-inch alloy wheels. The Vivid is priced at $23,990 (+ORCs) and was not available on launch.
Core gets same 1.5-litre engine but with a 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission. It adds LED headlights, 6-inch infotainment with bluetooth and phone mirror link (no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto for any models), rear view camera, climate control (with rear vent), cooled storage box and automatic hold (will stop at traffic lights requiring throttle input to let go). The Core is priced from $25,990 (+ORCs)
Soul has the same 1.5-litre engine and 7-speed DCT but adds fog lights, rain sensing wipers, 18-inch alloys, leather appointed seats, 8-inch infotainment with satellite navigation and multifunction steering wheel. The Soul is priced from $27,990 (+ORCs)
Essence changes driveline to an all-wheel drive layout and has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine producing 162kW and 350Nm. Those power figure claims are some of the best in its class and are in fact near what the Golf GTI offers. It also gets a 6-speed dual clutch transmission with paddle shifters instead of the 7-speed, xenon headlamps, active rollover protection, hill descent control and sunroof. It is four-wheel drive and has a centre diff lock to split power 50:50 front-to-rear. The Essence is priced from $34,990 (+ORCs)
Until the end of May MG Australia has announced introductory driveaway deals for each model: Vivid $22,990; Core $25,990; Soul $28,990; Essence $34,990.
What’s it like inside?
Both mid- and top-spec cars offer simple but practical interiors and it’s the use of space which excels above the quality of finish. The front seats felt supportive enough but we were only doing short laps and only had a short drive loop. The leather appointed seats were a little slippy on the slalom course but we really wouldn’t expect that sort of aggresive driving in day-to-day driving.
The seats are either electric or manually adjusted depending on model grade and could move into an acceptable driving position, but tilt-and-reach steering wheel adjustment was limited in throw and the seat sat rather high (much like a Ford Escape).
The steering wheel design is simple and works, and the quality feels tight and firm but its small diameter and basic 9 and 3 hand rests ergonomics is basic compared to most other rival’s wheels. Upper spec models get multi-function buttons for volume, track selection and bluetooth call pickup. Markings on the indicator and wiper stalks were a little confusing to decipher, and while the automatic wipers work they were slow to engage and required a manually flick of the stalk during our wet pan test.
The dashboard features a tachometer and speedometer, with no digital speed readout and no heads-up display. A digital centre display shows fuel, temperature and tripmeter information. Metal pedals in the footwell are a bonus although we’re not sure if they come on the base manual equipped Vivid.
The rest of the interior shows restraint in design which works well with the materials used. They’re not the best but they don’t feel too cheap or hard – perhaps some more soft touch materials would elevate the top-spec model. A piano black band which runs horizontally across the dash matches the centre console plastics and ties the interior together. Along with the leather appointed interior the upper spec models feel comfortable but don’t reach the quality from Japanese and Korean rivals, yet. But lower spec models don’t feel too much different even with fabric seats, and there’s some reasonable value offered there.
The infotainment screen looks a bit isolated where it sits but the screen itself is reasonably sharp and the colours accurate. It’s a better system than in some (ahem, Mitsubishi ASX) and the bluetooth worked well. Navigating the settings was easy and there’s even a setup wizard for personalising the system to the user. The top spec model sound system allowed for high volume levels without distortion, but don’t expect high fidelity.
The centre console storage was however cheap looking inside and there’s a USB port and aux connection for the stereo. Only the driver’s windows has automatic up-and-down with all other windows being auto-down only.
The space upfront for two adult passengers was good with reasonable head and arm space. The rear felt as good as most competitors too with the added bonus of adjustable seatback (also available in Ford Escape). All but the basic Vivid have rear air vents.
The boot is perhaps the most impressive with a usable and well dimensioned 483-litre cargo space. It looks good enough to fit large baggage and items like prams, which is something not all SUVs are good at. There’s also a 12v outlet in the boot and a space saver spare under the floor.
What it’s like on the road?
The top spec Essence comes with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine with some very impressive claims of 162kW and 350Nm which is more than most of the competition offer. In real world driving, however, it doesn’t feel up to the spec, but it still gets along well.
The automatic is probably to blame for some of the power loss and it was a little slow to engage gears through the skid pan (the only place we could drive the Essence). There was a bit of power available though and the SUV felt as quick as it needs to be. The brakes were also as they need to be and didn’t feel tired after a few rounds.
The steering is light but accurate, although it remains to be seen how it feels around town. We drove a lower spec model on a short drive loop and the steering felt consistent on the road although it suffers from some severe shake at one point on the gravel test at low speed.
A feature on all models is automatic corner braking which was tested by cornering around a (slippery) gravel corner at 50km/h without any driver brake input. The system worked well and applied an almost unnoticeable but effective amount of braking to help get around the corner.
Only the front-wheel drive GS was available on the gravel loop and the test helped provide some feel for the vehicle’s chassis. It is good, and an improvement on the MG6 and MG3, and if SAIC can continue to develop it as a platform the next generation could start to annoy some rivals. But for now the car lacks the compliance and tuning of others and the rear can feel too light which leads to some axle tramp on rough surfaces. It would be good to see a local tuning program developed but there’s no hint of that yet from senior staff at the launch.
On our short road loop the GS exhibited mostly predictable behaviour and – on the highway – felt mostly compliant. There was some noticeable NVH on coarse chip roads and our Soul test car had an occasional rattle from the front right and rear left. Perhaps something left over from the morning’s test track.
What about the safety features?
The MG GS scored a 4-star ANCAP rating. Standard safety features across all models are ESC, ABS, EBD and automatic corner braking. Autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and lane support systems (LSS) are not available and, as MG claims, the reason for the missing ANCAP star is there are no rear seltbelt reminders.
Why would you buy one?
It’s a young product and is clearly going to benefit from feedback and evolution, but the GS isn’t in the same league as some other failed Chinese imports.
Although the entry model Vivid ($23,990+ORC) wasn’t available we’d probably skip that manual only variant and head for the $25,990+ORC Core or $27,990+ORC Soul with its leather appointed seats. It’s not the sharp pricing expected from most Chinese cars but as far as spec (leather seats, auto wipers and lights, and sat nav) it’s more than offered in most rivals. There is compromise on some points of refinement, however.
The 1.5-litre engine and 7-speed dual-clutch are good enough and the Essence has a bigger engine and AWD but unless it’s really needed the money is better off saved from the $34,990+ORC price tag.
Recommended servicing intervals are every 12 months/10,000kms, which is more frequent km than most, but MG does provide a very good 6 years unlimited warranty with 6 years roadside assist which can put most minds at ease.