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.
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 a 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.
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.