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MG HS Essence Review: hands-on

Posted: 18 September 2020 12:13 pm News

An impressive safety suite is the HS’s trump card in Essence.

What if I were to tell you that there is an SUV you can purchase in Australia that has all the trimmings of a premium model, like Autonomous Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist, electrically adjustable seats and more, for just over 36 grand?

Are you thinking “it sounds too good to be true!”?

The deep red SUV pictured above is the MG HS Essence. The “Essence” represents the top-of-the-line and when compared against the rest of the range, it costs just $3,000 more than the model before it. That means you can pick one up for $36,990.

What’s it like inside?

MG has done its best to create an interior that punches above its price tag, and in truth, has pulled it off.

There are some slight niggles, mainly to do with the infotainment system, but overall, the interior is way more upmarket than what you were probably expecting.

Inside the HS Essence, MG has covered as much as it possibly could in a decent leather. As you sit in the upholstered seats, you can get real comfy, thanks to the six-way power adjustable driver’s seat. Even the passenger seat has four-way adjustability. If that’s not enough, there are heating elements in the front row.

Behind the leather-wrapped steering wheel, (which houses a prominent red “super sports” button) sits a small digital display nestled between two analog dials. This screen allows you to access the trip computer, as well as audio and MG Pilot features.

To the left of that is MG’s 10.1-inch infotainment system. The screen itself looks quite good, but once you get to playing around with it, there’s a hint of lag between interaction and response. It comes loaded with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto too, which you may or may not prefer over the stock interface.

The sound system is hooked up to a six-speaker arrangement which does a respectable job.

Below the touchscreen, you have a row of switches that can toggle you between the various panes of the infotainment system above. Flipping to the air conditioning screen lets you control temperatures and fan speeds for both yourself, your passenger, or both, thanks to dual-zone climate control.

Brushed aluminium-look trim clads the centre console and accents the shifter. These little touches go a long way in creating that premium feel, as does the ambient lighting you get throughout the cabin. This is controlled via the infotainment system and comes with a fairly large array of colours.

As another reason you would opt to pay extra and go for the Essence over the Excite, you also get an electric panoramic sunroof.

In the back, there is a good amount of room. People who are around six feet tall won’t have any complaints sitting in the back and they will have access to two USB ports. There are another two in the front as well.

How is the boot?

463 litres of space is on offer with the rear seats up. If you need more than this, the rear seats fold flat and have a 60:40 folding configuration. You are able to move the floor a bit lower, when needed, thanks to a multi-tier boot floor.

With the rear seats folded down you get 1,287 litres of space.

Those are some pretty good numbers when you compare it to competitors like the Mitsubishi ASX which has 442 litres with the rear seats up and 1,193 with them down, or the Mazda CX-5 which also has 442 litres, but expands to 1,342 litres with the seats down.

With that said, the Toyota RAV4 has significantly more storage with 580 litres available with the rear seats in place and 1,690 litres with them down.

You can access the space in the back via an electric tailgate on the HS Essence.

How does it drive?

The MG HS Essence makes for a good car around town.

The 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine does an admirable job when darting around, but you really need to bury your foot to get that bit extra out. In terms of outputs, the block produces 119kW of power and 250 Nm of torque.

When you look at those numbers (and consider that it is more or less the same weight as segment leaders like the Mazda CX-5 and Toyota Rav4), you will see that in terms of performance, it is on the lower side.

The Essence gets a seven-speed, twin-clutch, automatic transmission which sends power to the front wheels. It shifts in a reasonably smooth manner.

We did find that there can be some indecision under initial acceleration, which can cause some anxious moments as you, say, turn on to a busy thoroughfare.

MG claims that the HS will sip 7.3 litres per 100kms on a combined cycle. During our time with the vehicle though, our combined numbers came out closer to 9.2 litres claiming urban consumption.

While interior finish and the safety suite are big focuses for the HS, MG has done a good job of getting the ride right too, it is rather comfortable. It effectively irons out imperfections on the road and is set up to be an agreeable daily driver.

If you go and check out the car at a showroom, I wouldn’t pay all that much attention to the SuperSport button. It will hold gears a little longer and tighten things up, but the difference is rather negligible if I am being honest.

How safe is the MG HS Essence?

The real feather in the cap of this price-conscious SUV is the amount of safety tech packed into it. MG has gone to great lengths to ensure that you really aren’t left wanting in this department.

MG Pilot comes with a stack of safety equipment, and it is worth noting that this is standard across the range – you don’t have to opt for the more expensive Essence, you get the same safety suite if you opt for the Vibe or Excite models.

MG Pilot includes:

  • Adaptive Cruise Control
  • Active Emergency Braking
  • Intelligent speed limit assist
  • Lane Keep Assist
  • Blindspot detection
  • Door opening warning (so you don’t collect any cyclists getting out)
  • Traffic jam assist
  • Rear Cross-Traffic Alert
  • 360-degree camera

Overall the suite operates efficiently, with Adaptive Cruise Control making longer highway driving a breeze and Lane Keep Assist helping you stay in your lane and gently nudging you back when you get close to the markers.

Blindspot monitors come in handy too, although they aren’t displayed in the standard spot in the side mirrors, but rather on the A-pillar. However, it doesn’t take much getting used to.

Overall, the system and this level of inclusions are great for savvy customers looking for a budget vehicle with a lot of inclusions, though there are some slight peculiarities.

For instance, activating the cruise control results in the set speed being displayed on the digital dash. Turn it off and this speed stays front and centre, not your current speed, which is more important. With that said, it is easy enough to switch back by cycling through screens.

Another thing, which may not be an annoyance for people doing their daily run on roads they are intimately familiar with, is the amount of warnings and noises the system makes. It chimes constantly about a range of different things whether that be speed limit changes, entering built up areas or a number of other situations.

Again though, this high level of alertness could be welcome.

Features like intelligent speed assist work with speed sign recognition to detect the speed limit you are travelling in and, when activated, will speed up, decelerate to or maintain the velocity in line with the marked speeds. You will find it very hard to override it though. Hammer your foot to the floor and you will continue to cruise at a lazy 60 km/h (or whatever the signed speed is).

The verdict

At this price-point, the once British brand makes a compelling argument for someone shopping within the segment. For $36,990, you get a load of safety tech, a decidedly premium-feeling interior and from the outside, a clean, modern design.

It isn’t as punchy as competitors though, and if you do a lot of driving that may be one thing to consider.

Overall though, the HS Essence looks like it is quite the package.

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