What is it?
Yes, we know, another week, another SUV. At least this one could prove a little more interesting, seeing as it’s from one-time sports car manufacturer MG. The Chinese-owned brand promises handling that stays true to the company’s roots, at a price that starts at less than £15,000.
That’s not bad for a Nissan Qashqai-sized SUV that has significantly more punch than rivals. While a diesel (sourced from the MG 6) will fit, at the moment a 1.5-litre petrol engine is the only choice of powerplant. If you want four-wheel drive, you need to look elsewhere.
Still, a turbocharger boosts output to a chunky 164bhp, making it one of the more powerful small SUVs out there at this price point. Add a decent level of standard specification, five-year warranty and a roomy interior and the signs are good.
What's it like?
Initial impressions are good. The GS isn’t a bad-looking thing in the metal to these eyes, especially with the 18in wheels and chrome detailing of our top-spec Exclusive test car. The interior isn’t quite so impressive, though.
There may be piano black trim on the dashboard and lashings of leather, but there’s also scratchy, cheap-feeling plastic as far as the eye can see. Search as we might, we couldn’t see any soft stuff on show. It will probably prove durable enough but is much less appealing than rivals' cabins.
The centre console is also behind the times, with a mess of buttons sitting just below the infotainment screen. While you might get used to their location in time, we found ourselves having to look down far too often to hit the control we needed.
Likewise, the infotainment system looks rather basic and offers less functionality than rival systems. Although you get Mirrorlink connectivity, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are notable in their absence. At least the system proves responsive and easy enough to navigate.
The GS does prove spacious for both front and rear passengers. Our only complaint is that the floor feels very high in the back, forcing your knees to sit much higher than you may expect.
The boot isn’t bad either. Not only is it bigger than the Qashqai’s, but it’s nearly as big as you get from a Mazda CX-5 or Kia Sportage, and folding the standard reclining rear seats reveals a load bay that’s virtually flat. It’s a shame, then, that the boot opening narrows around the edges, something that could be troublesome if you’re lugging particularly large bits of flatpack furniture.
So it may not be the most impressive interior in the sector, but what about the driving experience? Well, its ride fits MG's sporty intentions; even on smooth asphalt you feel continual vertical bouncing, while it's even more unsettled on rough roads.
Despite the firm springing, body roll is only moderately well contained; the Qashqai corners just as flatly yet offers much greater ride comfort. Even so, the GS enters corners keenly and is moderately entertaining on a twisting country road. Pushed hard, the GS remains surprisingly neutral without ever feeling like it’ll wag its tail.
Helping is steering that is well weighted and a gearchange that is slick, if a little long of throw. Sadly, this is spoilt somewhat by an engine that holds on to revs way after you’ve got off the throttle.
But that’s not the only issue the motor has. Unlike many modern forced-induction petrol engines, there isn’t much punch at all in the lower reaches of the rev range; you really have to work it hard for it to feel anywhere near as potent as the power output suggests.
Should I buy one?
Adding up all the scores on the doors, we find it very hard to recommend the GS in this guise. At nearly £20,000, the interior feels too cheap, it isn’t comfortable enough and it doesn't feel that quick in the real world. Even though you’d miss out on equipment and performance, an entry-level Qashqai is far more appealing.
Even at £15,000, we can’t help but think a Dacia Duster or Ssangyong Tivoli would offer a more practical, comfier and far more frugal alternative. All in all, we're afraid the GS feels like a missed opportunity for MG.
MG GS 1.5 TGI Exclusive
Location Oxfordshire; On sale Now; Price £19,495; Engine 4 cyls, 1490cc, turbo, petrol; Power 164bhp at 5600rpm; Torque 184lb ft at 1600-4300rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1420kg; Top speed 118mph; 0-62mph 9.9sec; Economy 46.3mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 139g/km, 27%