If the Chinese MG brand is going to grow, it needs to make the kinds of cars people increasingly want. Take this one, the GS Crossover. Jonathan Crouch looks at what's on offer.
Crossovers now come in all shapes and sizes but if you want one capable of taking the family - something Qashqai-sized - then typically, you're looking at having to find around £20,000 to get it new. If any brand could substantially reduce the asking fee necessary to get one of these kinds of cars in your driveway, they'd have a strong proposition to offer. Well MG has done just that with this GS model, arguably its most credible car yet.
So far, MG has limited its activities in our market to its MG3 supermini and MG6 family hatch. Here's something a bit different and a bit more forward-thinking. The brand calls this GS an 'SUV' but in reality, it's a rival for more lifestyle-orientated Crossover models like Nissan's Qashqai and Peugeot's latest 3008. The fact that this model targets those rivals, not Crossovers like Nissan's Juke or Renault's Captur, is important. Though priced against contenders in the Juke-genre, it offers the space and power you'd expect in the Qashqai class. And therein lies its appeal. Sales numbers will be small - MG only has a limited dealer network in the UK after all - but even these figures should certainly be enough to significantly improve this growing brand's market share. Let's check the GS out in a little more detail.
To start with, only one engine is on offer here, a 1.5-litre turbo petrol unit with 164bhp - a little more poke than you might expect from a car at this price point, especially as the poke comes in concert with a useful 250Nm of torque. Small to medium caravans and trailers of up to 1,750kg in weight should be no problem. Of course, if you are thinking of towing, you'd probably prefer it if MG offered a diesel or a bigger-capacity petrol alternative. Apparently the 1.9-litre diesel from the MG6 will fit beneath the bonnet - and in other markets, there's a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine option. On these shores though for the time being, we'll need to be satisfied with the 1.5. You do at least get a choice of transmissions - a manual or a dual-clutch DCT unit that doesn't decimate your economy figures. With the rather long-throw stick shift, rest to 62mph takes a reasonable 9.6s. You shouldn't be disappointed by the neutral forgiving handling and bodyroll is well controlled. It is necessary though, to work the little motor quite vigorously to maintain eager forward momentum in the lower reaches of the rev range.
Most will probably think the swoopy looks of the GS to be quite appealing - which should get customers to take interest in the showroom. Alloy wheels of at least 17-inches in size are standard across the range, as is a sporty rear spoiler. Inside, a few more of MG's budget origins become obvious when it comes to the quality of some of the plastics used - but hey, look at what you're paying. And check out the equipment too. Spec up a rival to this level and you'd be paying thousands more. The GS is quite practical too. The boot is bigger than you'd get in, say, a Nissan Qashqai, though its aperture does narrow around the edges. And there's plenty of space for folk in the rear, though the level of the floor is a little high. From mid-range spec, you can adjust the backrest angle of the rear seat for greater comfort on longer journeys and the top 'Exclusive' model comes with full leather upholstery, which certainly lifts the cabin a bit.
You'd expect this MG to be affordable - and it is. As we've been saying, there's only one engine - a 1.5-litre petrol turbo - and prices start from around £15,000 for the entry-level 'Explore' variant; this is probably where the real value lies. This version comes well equipped for the money, supplied complete with cruise control, automatic headlamps and air conditioning. Other standard features include LED daytime running lights, a hill holder clutch, 17-inch alloy wheel, automatic headlights and an engine stop start system. If you can find around £2,500 more, mid-range 'Excite' trim adds a DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity and rear parking sensors. Plus a trip computer, foldable and asdjustable rear seats and LED tail lamps. At the top of the range lies the 'Exclusive' trim level, priced at around £19,500. It's this derivative you have to have if you're interested in the option of paying your MG dealer £1,500 more for DCT automatic transmission. 'Exclusive' buyers get leather sports seats that are electrically adjustable, plus an iGO navigation system. Also included are rear parking sensors, larger 18-inch wheels and xenon headlamps.
The days when MG would bring us cars with running cost figures way behind the expectations of the market are, thankfully, now behind us. This GS manages 46.3mpg on the combined cycle and 139g/km, which isn't too bad for a 1.5-litre petrol turbo engine putting out 164bhp. For the DCT automatic model, the figures are 45.5mpg and 141g/km. Insurance is rated at group 17E. There's the usual five year, 80,000 mile warranty, though only a year of roadside assistance cover.
Approach the GS with expectations in line with the prices being asked and you won't be disappointed by what it offers. There's a package of space, equipment and performance here that would cost substantially more from directly comparable Qashqai-sized Crossover rivals. Yes, some of these may feel a little more polished inside but the gulf in quality between these brands and MG isn't what it once was. In short, here's a family car with a bit of style to it that could make a lot of sense for the right kind of buyer.