£17,595 - £21,095 Price range
45 - 46 MPG
The MG GS is the brand’s first SUV, built to rival the Nissan Qashqai, Renault Kadjar and Vauxhall Mokka X. The MG costs less than all those models and is also a little bigger so, in terms of value for money, it’s off to a flying start.
Things start going downhill, however, as soon as you open the door and are greeted by swathes of scratchy plastic and a mess of buttons. Passenger space, at least, is good but the boot is smaller than rivals by quite some margin.
Providing power to the GS is a 1.5-litre petrol that’s decently powerful, but is less fuel efficient than equivalent engines in rivals. There is also currently no diesel option and no four-wheel drive.
Driving the GS is a pleasant surprise, though, because the direct steering makes it easy to place on the road and the firm suspension means it resist body roll well. However, at motorway speeds, the GS seems unsettled and you constantly need to make small corrections to keep it straight.
The MG’s strongest selling point is its equipment levels and asking price, with basic models coming with must-haves including air-con and cruise control from the factory.
This is a very cheap SUV so don’t expect the build quality of a Volkswagen Tiguan or the stylish touches found in an Audi Q2. What you get is fairly durable but incredibly low-rent plastics and an unimaginative design. Top-of-the-range models get some piano black plastic here and there and some leather upholstery, too, but it only serves to highlight the cheaper trim around it.
As standard, you get an infotainment system with a six-inch touchscreen that’s larger than the five-inch system found in a Nissan Qashqai. However, as you might have guessed by the confusing brace of buttons on the dashboard, the MG’s infotainment isn’t the last word in functionality – it can control some basic smartphone functions and the car’s stereo, but that’s about it.
Go for the top-spec model and the infotainment screen size increases by an inch and you get MirrorLink, which let’s you display the screen of your compatible Android phone on the car’s screen. Apple iPhone users, sadly, aren’t catered for because there’s no CarPlay.
MG GS passenger space
The main reason you buy an on-road-focused SUV such as the GS over a hatchback is the increased passenger space and easier cabin access. The MG ticks those two boxes because it offers plenty of room for four adults and the middle rear seat isn’t as unusable as some rivals where the transmission tunnel eats away at legroom.
The GS’s driver is also well catered for with a height-adjustable seat so you can have a great view over other road users.
MG GS boot space
The MG matches most of its rivals for interior space, but its boot is disappointingly small – at 335 litres it’s no match for the 470-litre Renault Kadjar, let alone the cheaper 475-litre Dacia Duster. On the upside, you can fold the rear seats flat to open up 1,336 litres of space. There’s no intrusive load lip to carry groceries over, but this also means that, if you park on an incline with a full boot, things can fall out as soon as you open the boot.
Pre-production models were sampled by UK’s motoring press in 2013 and the main criticism was that its ride was too soft for their tastes. MG has taken this to heart because the main criticism now leveled at the 2016 GS is that its ride has become too firm. That, of course, means less body roll and drive confidence in corners, but also means that the MG SUV moves about nervously and never seems to settle at motorway speeds.
The MG GS is also front-wheel drive only, which makes the high ground clearance slightly pointless but will save you money in the long run compared to a thirstier four-wheel drive setup. If you’re worried about the winter months equip the GS with a set of good winter tires and it’ll take you as far as many four-wheel drive cars.
Most, if not all, of the GS’s rivals have a broad engine range that normally includes a cheap entry-level petrol, a frugal diesel and a more powerful petrol or diesel that’s the best for towing. With the GS, you only get one 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol. You do get some choice in the form of a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, though.
MG GS petrol engine
With 165hp, the MG is definitely one of the faster cheap SUVs and that’s illustrated by the brisk 0-62mph time of 9.6 seconds. Long gear ratios mean you need to work the engine hard to achieve that acceleration, but also help provide a decent average fuel economy figure of 46mpg. However, it’s far from class-leading – in comparison, a Nissan Qashqai with a 1.6-litre petrol is three-tenths quicker to 62mph from rest and marginally more fuel efficient, too.
At this price point, the MG GS is generously equipped – entry-level Explore models come with necessities for family life such as air conditioning, cruise control and an electronic parking brake. Automatic headlights with LED daytime running lights and an engine start/stop system finish off the equipment list.
MG GS Excite
The middle-of-the-range Excite models add a raft of equipment – larger 17-inch alloy wheels (up from 16-inch ones), rear parking sensors with a reversing camera, climate control and a leather-covered steering wheel with controls for the stereo all feature along with DAB digital radio and Bluetooth phone integration.
MG GS Exclusive
The Exclusive is arguably the best looking in the range because it gets 18-inch alloy wheels and some chrome exterior trim that brings a more upmarket look. The luxurious makeover continues inside with full-leather upholstery, electrical adjustment and heating for the front seats plus an upgraded infotainment system with a larger screen. However it pushes prices to a point where almost every rival is a better alternative.
As a first go at producing a car to compete in one of the most hotly contested segments, the MG GS is a decent effort.
It’s pretty good to drive, faster than some rivals and comes with decent kit levels from the factory. However, there are so many good cars in this segment that the MG is like a rough diamond surrounded by the precious gemstones such as the Nissan Qashqai and Renault Kadjar. The MG GS doesn’t really beat rivals in any meaningful criteria apart from being cheaper so, if you care more about list price than practicality, running costs, brand image and ride quality, the bargain basement MG GS is definitely worth a look.