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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
Autocar
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.

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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
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FastRenaultFan 8 September 2015

Toyota Rav 4

Think it looks a little like a Rav 4 from the front. Not a bad looking car at all. Nice interior too kinda a little like a Kia Sportage inside but also kind of Vauxhall/Opel like too. If they can get the quality, engines, prices right and make it drive good it could do well.
Beastie_Boy 9 September 2015

FastRenaultFan wrote: If they

FastRenaultFan wrote:

If they can get the quality, engines, prices right and make it drive good it could do well.

So, basically start from scratch then?

FastRenaultFan 9 September 2015

Beastie_Boy wrote:

Beastie_Boy wrote:
FastRenaultFan wrote:

If they can get the quality, engines, prices right and make it drive good it could do well.

So, basically start from scratch then?

No really. Maybe they will have them things right buy the time they sell it here. If its nice to drive well even better but there are plenty of cars that sell loads and are not the most exciting to drive.

Beastie_Boy 8 September 2015

I thought it was a new Pontiac Aztec...

Then I remembered that Pontiac shut down. On the basis of this car, I think MG may disappear, at least from the UK.
Gerhard 8 September 2015

It's a Chinese-Spec, people...

As usual, Autocar (and commentators) has been overly critical with a China-Spec car and failed to take into account the different demands, expectations and pricing of that market. We have seen that Euro-spec cars are different in their setup, so we should expect the same from this, their 3rd car for Europe.
Clearly this car is a competent prospect, with a modern motor and technology as well as functionality, so the inevitable change of materials, suspension tuning and engine tuning is going to result in an interesting and competent rival for the established market in Europe.
si73 8 September 2015

Gerhard wrote: As usual,

Gerhard wrote:

As usual, Autocar (and commentators) has been overly critical with a China-Spec car and failed to take into account the different demands, expectations and pricing of that market. We have seen that Euro-spec cars are different in their setup, so we should expect the same from this, their 3rd car for Europe.
Clearly this car is a competent prospect, with a modern motor and technology as well as functionality, so the inevitable change of materials, suspension tuning and engine tuning is going to result in an interesting and competent rival for the established market in Europe.

I really hope so, I am an MG fan and I bought a new ZT in trophy blue back in 2002, I really like the 3, if only the engine and safety were up to modern European standards. So I am really hoping this will be a decent and competitive car when it arrives here.

superstevie 8 September 2015

Gerhard wrote: As usual,

Gerhard wrote:

As usual, Autocar (and commentators) has been overly critical with a China-Spec car and failed to take into account the different demands, expectations and pricing of that market. We have seen that Euro-spec cars are different in their setup, so we should expect the same from this, their 3rd car for Europe.

I don't think people are being too critical, just honest. Yes, the euro spec MG's are better than their Chinese counterparts, but they still lag behind rivals.

Don't get me wrong, I really want MG to succeed, and I like the MG3, and the MG6 is a much better prospect since it had a price drop.

Daniel Joseph 8 September 2015

Here's hoping...

Gerhard wrote:

...so the inevitable change of materials, suspension tuning and engine tuning is going to result in an interesting and competent rival for the established market in Europe.

Well, hopefully, yes. My point was that it seemed to be taking an age to bring this to market and MG failed with the MG6 by launching it when it clearly wasn't ready. If I were one of the (few) private buyers who bought an MG6 just before the recent upgrade and price cut, I'd be feeling pretty hard done by. At least the MG3 seems closer to the mark from the off, which is encouraging.

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