MG's cheap and cheerful SUV takes aim at Qashqai
- Clever packaging and above-average rear-seat space
- Prices start at £3,555 less than entry-level Qashqai
- Poor-quality interior
- Fidgety ride
- Primitive power delivery
It was inevitable that MG should add a third car to its model range in the form of an SUV. Boasting 'affordability' and 'fun', the new GS targets the likes of Nissan's ubiquitous Qashqai, the Renault Kadjar and the Mazda CX-5.
However, with a range priced from only £14,995 and just one engine on offer – a 1.5-litre petrol unit that struggles to return 46.3mpg - better value offerings such as the SsangYong Tivoli and Dacia Duster offer more choice, with diesel engines available.
Spacious, with respectable equipment levels
The MG GS’s exterior, sporting a Renault-aping front graphic and something of a BMW about the backside, might best be described as 'mostly harmless'. The interior of this top-specification, £19,495 Exclusive variant, though, while artfully packaged to offer surprisingly spacious rear-seat accommodation and acceptable loadspace, is less wholesome.
Leather upholstery and an ecology-threatening oil spill of dashboard piano black aside, the cabin is over-laden with scratchy plastics. And the media system, though easy enough to use, lacks functions such as Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and, irritatingly, a simple Radio button.
Even entry-level models benefit from respectable standard equipment, though, with such toys as automatic headlights, air-conditioning and cruise control fitted across the range. So bumping the base price up by nigh on four-and-a-half grand in the cause of better infotainment and leather upholstery does little to bolster MG’s boast of affordability.
And as for fun... Well, once you've wrestled the steering wheel rake adjustment as willing as a bush saw wedged in a wet pine log into submission, the driving position's pretty good, though the seat's initial promise of comfort doesn't quite materialise.
Performance doesn't live up to the figures
Mated to a notchy, six-speed manual transmission, the 166hp, 250Nm powerplant driving the front wheels (no four-wheel drive option is available) performs somewhat better on paper than in reality.
It has all the punch of a dandelion clock until the revs climb towards the 3,000rpm mark. Thereafter it becomes somewhat coarse in its efforts to deliver the power promised, further threatening an already lacklustre average fuel consumption figure of 46.3mpg.
And the company's first seven-speed twin-clutch automatic gearbox offers no salvation; its ratio spacing feels ill-judged and its propensity to loiter at high revs until a change is long overdue is both noisy and tiresome. The manual gearbox is a better proposal by far.
While ride quality may be appropriate to MG's sporting pedigree, it hardly suits a family SUV. Firm springs allied to what feels like inadequate shock absorption leaves the bodyshell complaining constantly at low speeds, though it does settle better at higher velocities.
Amidst all the fidgeting, and despite a deal of body roll and a rubber band feel to the nonetheless well-weighted steering, the GS actually handles with modest aplomb, displaying eager turn-in, plenty of mechanical grip and a pleasing aversion to ploughing straight on in tighter corners.
Affordable price isn't the answer
At nearly 20 grand for this 46.3mpg, 139 g/km version, we fear the affordability argument comes under fire to boot, even with MG's compelling five year warranty.
It's all very well bringing an SUV costing some three-and-a-half thousand pounds less than the entry-level Qashqai to market, but, on this somewhat pricier evidence and with no engine range to choose from, it's hard to see many takers for the former over the latter.
Keep an eye out for an in-depth MG GS review coming soon.