It trades pretty squarely on the same ‘metal for the money’ ethos as the Hyundai Santa Fe once did, then, albeit one step further down on the SUV size chart. And it’s not unlike the big Hyundai to drive in some ways, being fairly softly sprung and feeling its size on the road, although stopping short of letting that bulk become a problem in most everyday scenarios.
List prices on the car – which for several reasons make you wonder if you haven’t inadvertently time-travelled back to the turn of the century – are set to begin at a whisker under £18,000, rising to just under £25,000 for a fully laden car with a dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Depending on which of those aforementioned competitors you compare it with, that might represent as much as a £6000 saving on a like-for-like rival corrected for equipment.
There was no mention of monthly finance prices at the press launch, with which we might have made more meaningful comparisons with direct rivals – and, with residual values on the car unlikely to be great, they might well be slightly less favourable than those attractive sticker tags initially suggest.
Even so, the HS ought to have plenty of bargain-bucket value, without looking – or, in some ways, performing – like a car that necessarily belongs in one.
Is the HS a car that's built to a tight budget?
The HS interior is a comfortable, spacious and surprisingly materially lush place to sit. At least, it was in the case of our top-of-the-range, near-£25k test car. The car is sufficiently large and well packaged to have a boot that, at more than 450 litres seats up and below the window line, counts as pretty roomy compared with most cars of the price. It also offers passenger accommodation fit for one tall passenger to travel very comfortably behind another with knee room and head room to spare – even with a panoramic sunroof fitted. The front seats are generously sized and quite comfortable, although the padding of the cushions seems a bit thin and all-round adjustability could be better.
The cabin’s brand of perceived quality, convincing as it is in some places, is very much of the German premium-brand idiom. In fact, with so much use of piano black and satin chrome trim, as well as knurled-effect piano key switchgear and turbine-style air vents both in evidence, it seemed to this tester to get a bit too close for comfort to Mercedes’ approach to interior design in particular to be invulnerable to claims of plagiarism. Not that lifting ideas from the premium players and adapting them at a cut-down price is anything new for a budget car brand like MG, or for a Chinese car maker, to do.
Whether you recognise the debt owed to Stuttgart here or not, you’ll likely be moderately impressed by the selection of soft stitched leathers and fairly solid-feeling, ritzy-looking button consoles in top-end versions of the HS. There are much cheaper fittings on show, too, of course, such as the plasticky indicator stalks and the low-rent upper fascia pad – and the difference in apparent quality between the two ends of the spectrum is undoubtedly jarring.
Still, the overall ambience remains one of a car that looks and feels considerably more plush and luxurious than you expect it to; and one that isn’t blessed with digital infotainment and instrumentation technology that you’d ever find on a premium-branded car, but whose appeal isn’t totally undermined by what it does have, either.
How does the HS perform on the road?
The HS’s 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine starts fairly quietly and runs smoothly at low revs, and with plenty of accessible torque moving the car’s mass easily from low speeds. The dual-clutch gearbox, meanwhile, acts almost as unobtrusively as any on the market in response to smaller pedal inputs, timing its shifts well and executing most of them smoothly enough.