MG HS plug-in hybrid review: A compelling medium SUV
Quick Verdict: The MG HS brings to the medium SUV space hybrid performance at a petrol price, and it does so with the full suite of modern features. It lacks a voice that’s truly its own, but does enough to demand a test drive.
- Good value for a hybrid
- Plenty of great quality-of-life and safety features
- Zippy, pleasurable and efficient performance
- Interior is a little bland
- It’s not AWD
- No capped-price servicing
The famous MG automotive brand has had something of a troubled life. It's hallowed convertible coupé days, when it was a British icon, are long behind it. However, it's once again striving to etch a name for itself from a new home. That home is China.
For those who haven't been keeping up with the various acquisitions MG has endured since the 1920s, that may come as something of a shock. MG doesn't represent who it once did, but it does stand for something new and is still compelling in today's automobile market.
With the MG HS PHEV, the company enters Australia's popular medium SUV market as the cheapest hybrid on offer. But from $47,990 driveaway, it still costs a pretty penny. So, is it worthy of consideration by Australian families?
MG HS PHEV offers zippy performance
If you're considering a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), then efficiency is likely something top-of-mind. Either that or you're trying to do the right thing for the environment. The MG HS comes with a 16.6kW liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery that grants you around 63km of distance from a 5-hour charge. It's supported by a 1.5L 4-cylinder turbo petrol engine.
The combined power of the 2 systems delivers an impressive 370N.m of torque and 189kW of power, with the petrol component delivering 250N.m and 119kW of that. While its top speed of 190km/h isn't mind-blowing, it still promises 0-100 acceleration in 6.9 seconds. Overall, you're expected to get 100km for 1.7L of petrol, although this changes dramatically depending on how zippy and for how long you drive. If you rely on just petrol, you can expect closer to 7.5L per 100km.
It's worth noting that the car is FWD, which may help with fuel consumption, but is a bit of a bummer. While a lot of competitors around this price range aren't hybrid, there are plenty that offer AWD performance.
As a result, before getting behind the wheel, I was concerned about how the MG HS would perform. It's a decent sized car (just under 2 tonnes) that's being pushed forward by a combination of electric power and a relatively small 1.5L engine. However, I was really impressed by its punch.
The car relies on electric power until you get to around 40km/h before the traditional turbo petrol kicks in. Then as you coast, it can switch back to electric – and even harvest more electricity – depending on the demand required to maintain that speed.
It's not so much how this backend power management works that's important, but more how seamless it feels. The transitions are barely noticed in the car's performance and if you blocked yourself off from the diagnostics, you'd just drive around unaware of what the car was using to control a desired speed. And it does so with real zip. Plant the accelerator down and the MG HS PHEV responds pleasingly, even on steep hills.
The automatic 7-speed dual clutch does get in the way a little bit. It's perfectly fine in most normal driving circumstances, but if you decide to give it a bit of jandal, it does seem to stick a bit in the high revs before transitioning.
A breeze to drive
MG touts its software as leveraging Intelligent Hybrid Energy Management. This system uses machine learning to adapt the way it toggles between its power modes based on your driving habits. As in, it will learn how you drive and adapt the power balance to maximise efficiency. I'm not sure how you can test this, other than to say I never found myself wanting for the MG HS PHEV to switch between fuel modes.
I was also happy with the weight balance in the car and the suspension, which work together to provide very even handling. There's next to no rocker in the vehicle as you zig and zag through tight corners, and the turning circle is on par with likeminded SUVs. Combined with the aforementioned performance, it's a sporty drive. Yet it's still a breeze to operate, especially when you throw in the rear parking camera support and sensors.
This is the big win for the vehicle and families looking for a cost-effective runabout that's going to spend a lot of its life doing school drop-offs, Saturday sport or commutes through peak hour. You've got a car that's easy to drive and park, and is light on fuel.
Looks just like a medium SUV
There's nothing particularly spectacular about the design of the MG HS PHEV. It's a cookie cutter medium SUV. It's not an unattractive car, and indeed even looks boss when you approach it from the front and get a good look at that grill. But people aren't about to see you drive through traffic and go, "Wow! Look, Mum, it's an MG."
The car's only available in 4 colours, too. Although the striking Phantom Red (which costs about $800 more) is hard to ignore, the base Clipper Blue colouring is perfectly pleasant. Indeed, many people commented on how much they liked the colour while I was doing my test drives. The other options are Pearl White and Sterling Silver.
What I do like about the design in general is that it makes good use of its external space. I'm 6ft 4inches and 100kg – a big, solid human. There are plenty of cars out there I simply don't fit in. However, with the MG HS PHEV, I was happy with the head and knee clearance in both the front and back seats. I wish the driver seat could have dropped maybe another centimetre or so, but it was still comfortable enough.
Where my height did become an issue was with all the camera and safety equipment built into the windscreen. Behind the rear-view mirror is a large black box that effectively gives you a giant blind spot when you're over 6-feet in height. These are becoming more common in vehicles – especially those with LIDAR – but if you haven't experienced such an object in your field-of-view before, it's quite confronting. It feels like you can't see properly.
I was surprised by how quickly I got used to it. However, I do encourage MG to strive for a much smaller footprint with this component into the future – especially as the A Pillar is also a bit boxy, giving you reduced visibility both left and right.
Helping with the added head clearance is the panoramic sunroof. It's really quite awesome. You can have what feels like the entire roof open to the stars or the sun (yes, it's tinted) for a more enjoyable drive. Or you can open a good half of it up completely for a mini-convertible experience.
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Boot size and construction
Boot size is so-so. The initial 451L is healthy, but it's a bit vertical. The left and right sides of the boot are walled in, restricting horizontal space. This might catch a few parents out with kids' bikes or long prams, but you can fold the back row of seats down easily. The 60/40 split works a treat to turn the MG HS PHEV into a wagon, with 1275L of boot space – enough for surfboards or even a kid's kayak.
Just note, however, that the cost of the boot space is the lack of a spare tyre. Also, the cable required to charge your car's battery is stored under the floor of the back boot. This is a poor design choice. While the floor is easy to lift up, that's only the case when your boot is empty. If your boot is full, then you'll need to move stuff about to access this cable.
I'm happy with the general construction of the MG HS PHEV. Chinese-made cars have had a tendency in the past of feeling a bit loose in the screws – a bit rattly and cheap. That is not the case here. There's a level of craftsmanship in the base building of this car that gives it a feel similar to the more popular brands here in Australia.
The only asterisk next to that is the whine of the electric engine. I do wonder if there was more MG could have done to deaden that sound. I have quite sensitive hearing and found it annoying, but if you're not one to pick up high pitches, you may not even notice it.
What's in the interior?
Inside the MG HS PHEV, the company's choices get interesting. Ultimately, it's feature-rich. Highlights include a 10.1" 1280x720px HD colour infotainment screen with built-in sat nav, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. There's another 12.3" display screen behind the steering wheel that's got a wonderful layout with a wealth of information to provide at a glance. There's dual temperature air-con, in-seat heating, USB ports, a lovely button-filled steering wheel, a 6-speaker 3D sound system and more.
It ticks most feature boxes in this regard and is akin to the mid to high-range variants of alternative SUV models.
However, the finish is quite utilitarian. There's not much in the way of flair, outside of the really cool front air-con vents. This includes BADER leather seats with synthetic Alcantara trim, which create a harder, sporty feel. These do not have a luxury feel, and indeed if you're on the extremes of height and width, are lumpy in uncomfortable spots.
I do appreciate the traditional button controls for the infotainment. Being able to just press buttons to control volume, activate the home screen and jump straight to air-condition is a quality-of-life inclusion. It was quick to set up with my iPhone too, and I was using Siri voice commands to dial numbers and play songs in a jiffy. It's also great how you can bring up any of the cameras to get a look at anything around your car with ease.
However, I did find the display sluggish to operate. Switching between menu options incurs a loading time that grates, particularly when jumping into the in-built navigation. And while the speaker system provides okay sound, it's not a rich or deep audio landscape by any stretch. Indeed, those who like their bass will be particularly disappointed.
Perhaps I'm expecting too much given the MG HS PHEV's attractive price. There's still a lot on offer here, but there's definitely room for improvement.
Safety features in MG HS PHEV
The MG HS PHEV has a 5-star ANCAP rating and most of the modern-day bells and whistles we've come to expect. It's all managed via MG's own Pilot software, which brings with it a long list of features.
The most notable are forward collision detection, lane drift assist, blind spot cameras – in fact, there's a 360-degree 3D camera – lane change assist, traffic jam assistance, speed assistant, reversing and parking assists, intelligent high-beams, adaptive cruise controls, auto emergency brakes and airbags everywhere.
What I found pleasing is how easy it is to customise how aggressive these features are in an intuitive way through the main display. I've reviewed cars before that may score well on ANCAP, but it feels like the AI is in your face with its alerts or even pulling at the steering wheel in your hands before an issue is in play. As such, you end up turning them off. This is not the case with the MG HS PHEV.
The 7-year vehicle and battery warranty, both unlimited kilometres, is also a sign of trust the manufacturer has in the vehicle. In fact, it's been improved beyond the original 5-year warranty first advertised. There's no capped-price servicing, however, which is a real shame.
Should you buy the MG HS plug-in hybrid?
- Buy it if you're a family looking for an environmentally friendly, fully-featured runabout for dealing with kid's activities and commutes.
- Don't buy it if you're looking for full luxury or an SUV tank that's as comfortable out in the bush as it is around the local school.
For families who need a car for everyday life and commutes, the MG HS PHEV's new-age features and driveability demand a test drive.
Pricing and availability
From $47,990 driveaway.
How I tested the MG HS PHEV
I took ownership of the MG HS PHEV for a period of 2 weeks for the purposes of this review. I did all my day-to-day driving in it, as well as stretching its legs through the nearest national park. I have a young family of 5, and both my wife and I have owned SUVs for over a decade.