6
As small SUV sales continue to boom, MG has been hard at work developing its own effort, the GS. Our drive of a Chinese car shows there's still work to be done

Our Verdict

MG GS 1.5 TGI Excite

MG launches the third model of its Chinese-owned era: a crossover

8 September 2015

What is it?

The MG of old may have been best known for its sports cars, but today's MG is pinning its hopes on a sports utility vehicle. The MG 3 and 6 are both dynamically competent but sales have been hampered to varying degrees by the engine and transmission offerings. MG’s new GS has no such problems.

Available with both a 1.5 and 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engines, we drove the smaller displacement unit, which was produced in collaboration with General Motors. Producing an impressive 166bhp, it should manage to give the car more engaging performance.

Externally it's a modern looking thing, but the rear, while distinctive, is likely to be divisive. The look is reminiscent of a beluga whale with a bulbous bumper, which incorporates the tailgate, giving way to a slab frontage that has multiple lines. Black accents above the MG logo then highlight a sharp angle up to the roofline.

What's it like?

In order to stand a chance in the UK the interior is going to need some serious improvement. With the 3, MG has garnered sales by making it interesting to look at inside and out. Currently the inside of the GS is a tad on the boring side but where it really suffers is from the heavy use of nasty hard plastics. The dash is a standard charcoal colour while the leather seats are available in beige or black.

Even base models get a 6.0in touchscreen infotainment system, which is bigger than that of a Qashqai, although our range-topping Deluxe model gets an 8.0in unit which incorporates MirrorLink to integrate smartphones with the infotainment system. There are also more standard features, such as a reverse camera with dynamic guidelines and sat-nav. The unit is, however, excessively sunken into the dashboard.

In the back there is no large transmission tunnel, which in turn means there's ample room for three people. Leg and head room is good, too. Obvious cost-cutting, however, means that the bench does not fold up, but the backs of the seats do fold down to a pretty much flat surface. The boot is impressively sturdy with an additional cover for the spare wheel, while the capacity is more than 50 litres greater than that of a Qashqai. 

The GS is available with both a six-speed manual and a seven-speed dry dual-clutch automatic gearbox, but we drove a 1.5 with the latter, which provided seamless shifts up there with some of the best systems. Unfortunately there are no paddles (these are only available on the 2.0T) but manual control is possible through the drive selector.

Power is abundant, giving a spirited performance, but this seems to come at the cost of fuel efficiency, which on our journey showed figures poorer than those you'd expect from some of the competition. The steering needs better weighting for the European market, too, as it's currently too light, while the brakes suffer from limited pedal travel, meaning that even a light touch with your foot leads to disproportionately heavy braking.

The fact that our test route consisted of mainly straights roads meant it was difficult to get a true feeling for the GS’s handling. It seems as though the dampers could do with stiffening for the European market, although a corrugated ramp did produce a large amount of jarring.

Should I buy one?

MG needs to do a considerable amount more work on the GS before bringing it to the UK market if it is to achieve the success the firm is counting on. The basics are good but the GS's drive needs to be tailored for European conditions and tastes, and MG needs to find much better quality materials for its interior. 

Location Shanghai, China; On sale Spring/summer 2016; Price £17,500 (est, in China); Engine 4 cyls, 1500cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 166bhp; Torque 184lb ft; Gearbox 7-spd dual clutch automatic; Kerb weight 1539kg; 0-62mph na; Top speed 118mph; Economy 39.2mpg (combined); CO2/tax band na

Mark Andrews

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Comments
20

8 September 2015
Given the significant British input to their design, it is disappointing that the new MGs are all, to a greater or lesser extent, off the pace as far as European standards and expectations are concerned. This crossover has been around in prototype form for a long time now, yet still seems unready for a UK launch. It looks like MG might repeat the mistakes of the MG6, which may now be more competitive after recent upgrades and, in particular, the big price cut, but its time has passed. Ten years after the demise of MG Rover, I'm afraid the MG name is increasingly obscure and probably adds very little in desirability, particularly if the car to which it is attached is this lacking in polish.

8 September 2015
Incidentally, I guess this is aa nostalgic nod to BL and the 1970's. Anyone remember the last car to carry "Deluxe" as a name for a trim level?

8 September 2015
Daniel Joseph wrote:

Incidentally, I guess this is aa nostalgic nod to BL and the 1970's. Anyone remember the last car to carry "Deluxe" as a name for a trim level?

My guess (for Ford, anyway), is about 1970, the last of the Mk2 Cortina's, just before the Mk3 came along with L, XL, GXL trims. Am I right?

8 September 2015
I think you're about right as far as British marques are concerned, although Hillman persevered with the abbreviated "DL" on the Hunter and Avenger for a bit longer, if I remember correctly. Datsun sold a Sunny in Standard and Deluxe form (at least in Ireland) up to 1973. The deluxe model featured luxuries such as a cigarette lighter, clock and MW/LW push button radio. We were more easily pleased back then!

14 October 2015
Daniel Joseph wrote:

I think you're about right as far as British marques are concerned, although Hillman persevered with the abbreviated "DL" on the Hunter and Avenger for a bit longer, if I remember correctly. Datsun sold a Sunny in Standard and Deluxe form (at least in Ireland) up to 1973. The deluxe model featured luxuries such as a cigarette lighter, clock and MW/LW push button radio. We were more easily pleased back then!

I think the Ital had a Deluxe model. It came with brown vinyl roof and brown tinted windows. Although trying to find details of it , it could hav been a dealer sticker on a HLS model. My neighbour had one when I was a kid. The only thing I remember about it was pulling off the window winder handle when I wound down the rear window for the first time ( it was only a few days old). Truly dreadful build quality. Looking at pictures of it now, it has more in common with a Moskvitch than ItalDesign.

14 October 2015
Daniel Joseph wrote:

I think you're about right as far as British marques are concerned, although Hillman persevered with the abbreviated "DL" on the Hunter and Avenger for a bit longer, if I remember correctly. Datsun sold a Sunny in Standard and Deluxe form (at least in Ireland) up to 1973. The deluxe model featured luxuries such as a cigarette lighter, clock and MW/LW push button radio. We were more easily pleased back then!

I think the Ital had a Deluxe model. It came with brown vinyl roof and brown tinted windows. Although trying to find details of it , it could hav been a dealer sticker on a HLS model. My neighbour had one when I was a kid. The only thing I remember about it was pulling off the window winder handle when I wound down the rear window for the first time ( it was only a few days old). Truly dreadful build quality. Looking at pictures of it now, it has more in common with a Moskvitch than ItalDesign.

8 September 2015
I think the designer may have misread his brief when told to express his design thoughts on paper. The rear especially looks like an excellent achievement in Origami.

jer

8 September 2015
pay homage to an MG Metro.

8 September 2015
I like the shape of the interior, doesn't look any worse than the Captur's for example. THe outside looks terrible though. I really want MG to do well, but I get the feeling that they don't really care for the European market. They need to make the cars for the European market, rather than making a Chinese spec car and attempt to improve it for the Europeans.

In saying that, I would really like MG to do is to put this 1.5 turbo engine in the MG3 and make a really cheap warm/hot hatch.

A34

8 September 2015
For example "Obvious cost-cutting, however, means that the bench does not fold up, but the backs of the seats do fold down to a pretty much flat surface.". So like a Mazda CX-5 then? And the CX-5 is pretty much at or near the top of its class... No mention of whether this is just the China spec or the proposed UK spec (I'd assume the former, given the suggestions of changes needed for the UK - perhaps Autocar will then claim that MG took its advice when they try a UK version!). [Disclaimer: Comments for the review as of 8 Sep 15]

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