The MG5 offers distinctive design, strong heritage and a well made interior but the entire package is let down by a poor drive train
  • First Drive

    First drive review: MG5

    The MG5 offers distinctive design, strong heritage and a well made interior but the entire package is let down by a poor drive train

What is it?: 

The concept version of the MG5 was aired at the Shanghai Auto Show in 2011 and was easily the star of the show, Chinese and foreign media crowded the MG stand to get a look at the first potential hot hatch from SAIC.

Concept and production cars seldom look alike but the MG5 has kept the same corporate front end as the rest of the MG range and also sports the same clean uninterrupted side profile as the MG3 and the MG6, but the 5’s rear has diverged away from the original concepts sleekness into a mismatch of design elements, making it difficult to accept for even die hard MG fans. 

What's it like?: 

Thankfully the MG5’s interior makes up for the exterior's quirkiness. Despite its relatively low price the MG5 is a solid vehicle, chunky plastics adorn the door inserts and the same plastics cover the dash are interceded by tastefully placed chrome strips. Whilst the MG6 was knocked slightly for its lower quality plastics, the MG5 needs to be praised.

The controls are made from the same sturdy plastic as the dashboard and everything is well placed and within easy reach, the only downside is that the automatic gearstick seems to be awfully tall for its needs.

The leather seats available on the top two models are also very comfortable and could easily be found in a car with a higher starting price, lower models have the same seats trimmed in cloth, rear seat passenger space is also quite generous with plenty of leg room.

SAIC is pushing modern schools of thought into their cars, the Roewe range of cars launched with an Android based, central entertainment system called Inkanet. The MG range now has an improved system called iVolka which allows for two way communication, much like the poor relation to the iPhone’s Siri system.

This new system has killed off the CD player in the MG5 which is a strong indicator of some of the technology that China has leap frogged. AUX inputs, SD Cards, and 3.5mm jacks are readily available in the MG5, media can be easily controlled by the generously sized display or the steering wheel controls. 

Whilst the exterior and interior are more than acceptable, the engine and gearbox combination is where the package falls apart. Although SAIC is pushing high tech into the MG5 they are also pushing low tech, the 4 speed automatic gearbox does not deliver the power you would expect from a 21st century car.

The 1.5-litre VTi engine produces 108bhp and 100lb ft of torque which when coupled with the 4-speed automatic seems awfully inadequate. We're told the 5 speed manual provides much a much improved ride. Handling is as you would expect from a modern day MG; it seems sure footed into the corners but the body roll seems a little excessive and could be attributed to the torsion beam rear axle. 

Should I buy one?: 

You can't just yet, but even if you could you ought to wait. The forthcoming model will see the introduction of a new 1.5T that is thought to have 135bhp and 147lb ft of torque on tap. The four speed auto will also be replaced with a new dual clutch gearbox developed in partnership with GM.

Ash Sutcliffe

MG5 1.5 Luxury

Price 128,700RMB (£12,800); 0-62mph na; Top speed 105mph; Economy 51.3mpg; CO2 na; Kerb weight 1300kg (est); Engine 1500cc in-line four-cylinder; Power 108bhp; Torque 100lb ft; Gearbox 4-spd auto

Join the debate


2 November 2012

Clearly this is a car that has been tested on it's home ground, so I would suspect by the time the MG guys in the UK have had their hands on it, there will be some improvements in ride and handling.

I am not sure if it is anything to do with SAIC's partnership with GM but the interior of this car certainly echo's the recent designs seen in both Vauxhall / Opel and Chevrolet cars.

From what I can see, clearly this car has potential (much like the MG6 before it) but it needs polishing.  Hopefully this time it will be done before it reaches the UK market.



It's all about the twisties........

2 November 2012

I swear, that steering wheel is stolen from an Astra/Cruze. 

Ooh - sorry Teg, you beat me to it. 

5-Speed Manual? 4-Speed auto? Torsion beam axle? For a brand new model, seems woefully off the pace already. Still, the price is good. 

By the way - why title the article 'first drive review' when clearly you have not driven it yet?   

2 November 2012

Article by Ash Sutcliffe? Any relation to His Steveness?

5 November 2012

As far as I know, no relation.

Peter on the other hand...

2 November 2012

"Body role"? More excellent editing standards at Autocar.

2 November 2012

Clarkey wrote:

"Body role"? More excellent editing standards at Autocar.




Please sort these errors out. Or get better staff.

2 November 2012

Clarkey wrote:

"Body role"? More excellent editing standards at Autocar.

Ash Sutcliffe is the guy behind  You only have to glance at that (interesting but appallingly badly written) site to realise why this piece is littered with typos. Still, you'd think the Haymarket subs would have sorted them before this story appeared on the Autocar site...

5 November 2012

Sorry! I agree they should have been caught.

As for China Car Times - its a hobby that I spend roughly one hour per day on, so there are bound to be some errors with such little editorial time. It basically keeps my translation skills up to spec and keeps me well read on the happenings within the Chinese auto industry, and hopefully with you.

The older articles do have some terrible spelling/grammar but newer ones should be improved quite a bit.

If you ever see any errors please do not hesitate to point them out.

2 November 2012

The front looks nice, as does the interior but the rear reminds me of the Daewoo Lacetti hatchback, not nice at all. And torsion beam suspension? The best in class like the Focus, even its bigger brother the 6 have independant multilink suspension, this is a huge step down, the MG ZS had multi link and that dates back to the 90s. The engines are awful, cast iron and little power. The K-series had a better power to weight ratio than these NSE engines and they sound MUCH nicer. I have heard the 1.5 in the MG3 at the factory and they sound vile. I hope the new GM/SAIC engines due to be used in Vauxhall and future MGs are good as these are awful. 

The gearbox sounds awful, I guess it is the same one that the Roewe 350 has that James May complained about on Top Gear. I think this car will struggle to sell, it will be out of date by time it is on sale in the UK and it doesn't seem that exciting with old tech. I hope I am wrong. 

2 November 2012

I moaned about the use of loosing when they meant losing on the VW Golf 2.0 TDi review on 25th Oct.  It hasn't been changed so I wouldn't hold out much hope.

Fair play to "The Sun"  it gets a lot of stick but you never ever see any typos in it.  I spotted two in the "i" today.




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