By Mark Nichol
What Is It?
The HS is MG’s crack at making a large and luxurious family car in the SUV style, but at a price that doesn’t follow suit. Essentially it’s priced like a smaller crossover, like a Volkswagen T-Roc or Skoda Kamiq, but has the interior space of something bigger like a Citroen C5 Aircross, Ford Kuga or Kia Sportage. You might assume that corners have been cut, then, be it in quality or equipment terms. But actually that’s not the case. The MG HS has a high-quality interior, lots of standard kit, and it even comes with a plug-in hybrid option so it can be very cost-effective to run. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, let’s find out.
What's Good About It?
The HS, much like the smaller MG ZS SUV, feels like exceptional value compared to other SUV-crossover cars that you might also be considering – Dacia Jogger aside (Dacia remains in a league of its own when it comes to pure value). There are only 2 drivetrain choices – a petrol and a plug-in hybrid – and 2 specification choices, which makes picking your HS very easy. Even the base model, called Excite, comes packed with stuff including a fully digital instrument display, a rear-view parking camera, keyless entry and start, navigation and full smartphone connectivity. You genuinely don’t need a top-level car (called Exclusive) to make your HS feel packed to the rafters.
But beyond that, on a basic level the HS is just a very pleasant family car. It’s nice to drive, the cabin is designed neatly and features far more soft-touch surfaces than you probably expect, and the ride quality is on the softer side, so it’s generally comfy. It’s one of those cars that feels out of kilter with the amount you’ve paid for it, in a good way – that’s what true value should feel like.
What Could Be Better?
Despite what we’ve just said, there are a couple of small areas where the HS gives away its value shtick, the main one being refinement. Generally it’s a very pleasant car to be in, but the 1.5 turbocharged petrol engine that comes with every version – including forming the basis of the plug-in hybrid – is a little gruff and lacklustre at times. The HS’s rivals invariably offer multiple engine choices, and a lot of those engines tend to offer better fuel economy, better performance and are a little quieter on the move.
The HS’s interior, while feeling very high-quality and being designed neatly, occasionally frustrates – specifically the touchscreen software, which incorporates the air-con controls. It can be a little fiddly to use and slow to respond, albeit that’s not an issue unique to MG. The 4-speaker stereo standard with an Excite car won’t necessarily excite an audiophile either.
What’s It Like To Drive?
Basic comfort is the main feeling when driving an HS. It rolls over the road with a sense of softness, the steering wheel is non-resistant, and if yours has a manual gearbox you’ll find both the clutch and the gearbox light and therefore relaxing to use. Those qualities place the HS at odds with ‘sportier’ crossovers like the Ford Kuga or Peugeot 3008, meaning it’s not very ‘involving’ to drive – the body rolls quite a lot during cornering and heavy braking – but then, cars like this aren’t made for dynamic prowess. More importantly, visibility in the HS is excellent front, back and side, partly because the driving position sits you quite high up in the cabin. This will be an advantage for most, but taller folk might want a driver’s seat that lowers by a few more inches.
The lack of sportiness extends to the engine – singular, because you only have 1 choice. It’s a 1.5-litre turbo petrol with 162hp and 250Nm of torque, capable of getting the HS to 62mph in 9.6 seconds. It’s perfectly capable of shuffling the car to motorway speed, of course, but you’re better off doing that fairly gently because at higher revs it’s quite noisy. The HS loses something of its rolling refinement at higher speed too, where the wind and tyre noise are a little higher than you’d find in, say, a Citroen C5 Aircross or a Kia Sportage. Still, it rides very nicely indeed both in town and on the motorway, feeling spongy but also keeping body movement to a minimum. It’s genuinely impressive.
MG offers a 7-speed twin-clutch automatic option, which is definitely the thing to go for if you tend to get stuck in start-stop traffic a lot. It’s very quick shifting and generally transitions smoothly between gears but, again, it doesn’t do the quicker stuff quite as well: the pause and subsequent jolt it sends through the cabin after a hard throttle press can be jarring at times.
The plug-in hybrid version uses the same engine as the standard car, but adds a 16.6kWh battery pack and 121hp electric motor for a 258hp total power output and, most importantly, a 155.8mpg official average fuel consumption rating. It uses a 10-speed automatic as standard. The extra pace is welcome (0-62mph in 6.9 seconds) but the additional weight of the set-up does have a slightly negative impact on ride quality in particular, and makes the car feel a little more cumbersome around corners. It’s never uncomfortable, but you will find it a little harsher over town-speed bumps and that there’s a firmer edge to the way it rolls over the motorway. The refinement of the engine is unchanged in the hybrid, but of course you’ll find that noise is reduced significantly when the car is using electric power alone; MG quotes a 32-mile electric-only range for the MG
How Practical Is It?
Fundamentally the HS is very practical because it’s large. To give you something quantifiable, its wheelbase (which is a general measure of how much rear leg space a car has) is significantly longer than a Nissan Qashqai’s and a Volkswagen Golf’s – the Golf being typical of a family hatchback. That, coupled with how tall the HS is, means it’s a very accommodating 5-seat family car – albeit the panoramic sunroof of Exclusive models does lower headroom noticeably. The rear bench reclines too, so back-seat passengers will get pretty comfortable back there.
Boot space doesn’t quite follow suit. It’s more than big enough for family use, has some useful underfloor storage and the rear seat backs fold down to form a near-enough flat loading bay, but at 463 litres its capacity is on the smaller side. A Nissan Qashqai has a 504-litre space and a Citroen C5 Aircross up to 720 litres, although the HS trumps the Ford Kuga (412 litres) and the majority of family hatchbacks – the Volkswagen Golf has a 380-litre boot, for context. The HS plug-in hybrid has a slightly smaller boot than the petrol model, though, down to 448 litres.
Elsewhere in the cabin the HS performs fine for storage and flexibility. The rear bench only splits 60/40, as opposed to the 40/20/40 split that some offer, but the glovebox is a decent size, the door pockets will accommodate a big bottle and the central storage area under the armrest is quite sizeable, too.
How Much Will It Cost Me?
Cost is, again, an area where the HS shines. A list price starting at just £23,000 undercuts the vast majority in a class where that number tends to be closer to £30,000. It follows that leasing rates are excellent, starting at well below £300 per month with 9 months’ deposit up front. Very few cars offer this much space, kit and quality for that sort of money.
Fuel efficiency from a 1.5 petrol model is less than class-leading, though, with the HS’s official WLTP average consumption ratings reading 37.9mpg for a manual and 36.6mpg for the automatic. It means that, especially with largely town use, you’ll see closer to 30mpg from either. Not catastrophic for such a large car, but also the sort of mpg return you could expect from something with a bit more power.
That’s where the plug-in hybrid comes in, though, which also offers amazing value in the context of rivals, starting at £31,000; a basic kia Sportage plug-in hybrid lists at £39,000. Again, lease costs follow suit and although you won’t see the 155mpg return it claims (as with any plug-in hybrid), you will be able to commute to work using surprisingly little fuel if you keep on top of your battery charge; it takes around 3 hours to fill an empty HS battery using a 7kW home wallbox.
Anything Else I Should Know?
To expand on the choice that an HS gives you, it’s very fair to say that the jump from a base Excite to an Exclusive model isn’t really necessary. It’ll give you dual-zone climate control rather than simple air con, you’ll get ambient cabin lighting, a big sunroof, heated front seats and a couple more speakers for the stereo. That’s all nice, but all HS models have synthetic leather upholstery and the same twin digital display set-up in the cabin, so an Exclusive model doesn’t necessarily feel more luxurious. More importantly, arguably, they all get the same suite of safety features, including lane keeping assist, emergency automatic braking with cyclist detection, and traffic jam assistant in automatic-equipped cars – a system that stops and starts the car for you in low speed traffic situations.
What Alternatives Should I Look At?
Citroen C5 Aircross Leasing
Pricier than the HS, but a little more comfy and with a much more flexible cabin, including an enormous boot. Available with a plug-in hybrid too.
Dacia Jogger Leasing
More a fat estate than an SUV, what the Jogger lacks in cabin quality it makes up for with 7-seat flexibility and an extraordinarily low price.
Nissan Qashqai Leasing
The go-to choice for a crossover SUV feels more techy and is more interesting to drive than the HS, but can’t match the MG for pure value.
The Vanarama Verdict = 7/10
"It’s important to stress the value that the HS offers, but that’s not to diminish just how nice it feels as a day-to-day family car. It has a classy cabin, excellent basic comfort, loads of equipment and plenty of interior space. Therefore it’s very easy to recommend."
3 Things To Remember About The MG HS:
One of the most comfortable large crossover-SUVs on the market, in ride quality terms.
The feeling of quality in the cabin is higher than you probably assume it’ll be, given the price.
There’s so much kit as standard that you needn’t look beyond the base model.
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