2020 MG HS Essence review in Australia, including price, specs, interior, ride and handling, safety and score.

MG, a British car maker once famed for sports cars and now a Chinese-owned brand making SUVs. It’s obvious the times have changed and volume sales in the SUV class are key to success in the eyes of its new owners. And that’s no bad thing for consumers if cars like this HS deliver value for money.

And indeed, it does. 

While we know some will be sceptical at the idea of a Chinese-built SUV, and that’s no thanks than to less than stellar attempts in the past from other manufacturers, this re-envisioned MG has a huge amount of cash behind it, and it’s all going into design, research and development, and manufacturing. 

What does it cost?

And on the showroom floor, MG is finding a groove. This HS looks better than previous designs, which were bland and drab, and with an interior fit-out that felt cheap. There is just one engine and a few trim options to choose from, and a long warranty.

The base model MG HS Vibe costs $30,990 drive-away, the mid-spec Excite we’re in is $33,990, and the new top-spec Essence $36,990.

But this is more than just a cheap deal on wheels because it’s genuinely a good car.

At a three grand premium over the entry model, the Excite variant we’re in certainly seems like value over the cheaper option. Some of the standard features include 18-inch alloys, keyless entry and start, LED headlights with automatic highbeams, reversing camera, electric opening tailgate, 10.1-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 7.0-inch digital screen in the driver’s cluster, leather trim seats and climate control. 

A key feature is MG Pilot, which brings many active safety assist systems such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning with steering assist, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, AEB, speed sign recognition and lane change assist. All of the safety gear helped the HS score a five-star ANCAP rating.

Backing it up is a seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. But all of these features aren’t much good unless the cabin is nice.

What’s it like?

There has been a considerable improvement from MG with the overall design and construction of the HS compared to the previous mid-size GS. In fact, it’s night and day. For a start, the cabin feels properly put together and there are some nice touches, like supple leather on the flat-bottom steering wheel, round air vents on a mutli-level dash, metal-look switches in the centre console and some contrasting stitching on the leather elements. 

The seats are also rather comfortable. The adjustment is good, with a wide range of elevation and sliding movement and the steering wheel matches that with good tilt-and-reach. There’s lumbar support control for the driver too. In the back, there’s also good legroom, enough headroom for adults, and supportive seats that have some padding underneath them. Plus, there are air vents for the second row. Behind the second row is a 463-litre boot space that’s a good size for the segment and fits a stroller pram easily.

For a family, the HS cabin is a practical yet nice place to be seated.

On the technology front, there are two USB ports and buttons for controlling things like the safety assist features and climate control. In all, it’s a good screen and connectivity such as Apple CarPlay is consistent with the better units in this segment, particularly with the HS screen measuring a wide 10.1-inches. It’s big. But there are some niggles.

Firstly, the climate control is set through the infotainment system. While not a problem normally, we found that when talking via CarPlay the climate couldn’t be changed until the call was over. It can also be a touch lazy to load the next screen when trying to flick through menus – it’s not the prettiest, but then again, CarPlay and Auto fix that.

There’s also a 7.0-inch screen in the dash which is quite good and shows details for adaptive cruise control and car settings. In all, there’s a lot of good equipment fitted to the cabin.

Underneath the bonnet is just one engine option, a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol, matched to a seven-speed dual-clutch auto and producing 124kW and 250Nm. It not a big motor but it’s actually rather vibrant and willing with plenty of zip for getting about town and lugging a few passengers up hills. There is a torque hole down low, but it’s not terribly noticeable.

The dual-clutch automatic isn’t bad either, though it suffers from the lag of some other units in that when you roll into traffic to almost a stop and want to get going again, it takes a second to engage the gear. It’s also confident rather than quick to engage the next cog, though is a little more fiesty with the ‘Super Sport’ mode button engaged on the steering wheel. You won’t miss it, as it looks like it came out of the Ferrari parts bin.

Before we get onto ride and handling, we’ll point out that the MG Pilot safety assist system is a highlight. Adaptive cruise control – where radar sensors monitor traffic and keep the car at a set distance – works very well. It is consistent and predictable when driving in traffic, and keeps right on the set limit. Land keeping assist is equally as good, with a strong servo able to steer around long corners and maintaining a centre of the road position.

The trouble is that there are plenty of bings and bongs from MG Pilot when you begin to depart your lane, and even when you change lane with the indicator on. These sounds can be turned off, but that turns off steering assist, so really, steering assist is best on highways when you don’t plan to swap lanes and can keep a position away from line-markings. It’s a pity, and hopefully an upgrade via firmware, as the lane-keeping assist rivals or bests any other competitor in this segment.

On the road, the HS is a pretty confident steer. The feel through the wheel is direct and accurate and there’s plenty of safe grip underneath despite being a front-wheel-drive only. Around the burbs and parking, it feels easy and light through the wheel, which is popular with many.

What you might not notice straight away is that it’s a well-insulated cabin and road noise is minimum. For long trips, it isn’t tiresome and feels relaxed, and the ride is good on highway bitumen. On bumpy surfaces, the dampening reveals a firmer response and there’s some jostle through the cabin. It’s not at home on corrugations but feels ironed out on most sealed roads.

MG claims 7.3L/100km from the 1.5-litre engine and we ran consistently about 8.5L/100km during one-week of testing on hilly roads.

And a week with this new MG had us also realising that MG’s revived lineup will be a force if it continues to evolve at this rate. The HS is a good SUV with plenty to like. It has a spacious cabin, mod cons like rear air vents and the latest connectivity, and good safety technology. The drivetrain is good but lacks polish, and the ride is suited to urban driving. With a leading seven-year warranty and roadside assist it is doing a lot to appeal to new buyers considering the brand.


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About Author

Alex Rae

Alex Rae brings almost two decades’ experience, previously working at publications including Wheels, WhichCar, Drive/Fairfax, Carsales.com.au, AMC, Just Cars, and more.


  1. Fred, why not tell everybody what car you have and I am sure anyone can pick it apart .

    Do you know MG ( no I don’t have one ) have outsold Volvo, Skoda, Land Rover, Jeep and not far behind Renault.

    I suggest it will double in sales in 12 months and its fellow competitors will drop by 30 to 40 pct.
    PS. In the last 10 years my predictions have never been wrong.

    Must be so many that have no idea whats a good , economical , comfy car.!


  2. I have just bought a new HS Essence .. my last 3 cars were BMW 320 series … I couldn’t be happier with this car !!! I needed to get higher for health reasons and after trying a million suv I chose the MG .. many people (mostly men) tried to talk me out if it … but it it just great .. like all cars there a little things I might change but overall extremely happy .. would have been more happy had they come in grey !! But white it is !!!

  3. Wonderful information, thanks a lot for sharing kind of content with us. I wonder if we can gather such practical information about 2020 mg hs essence review, a great post definitely to come across.

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