Cars > Driven

MG GT Sport: Bringing fun back in affordable four-doors

This Chinese-made British sedan shows you can still have fun for cheap

A sporty sedan that nearly lives up to its name. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

SUVs and crossovers may be all the rage these days, but my heart still yearns for a compact four-door with a high fun-to-drive quotient. The king of sporty (as opposed to red-blooded “sports sedans”) Japanese sedans used to be the Civic. A relatively high-performing, small displacement in-line-four with a disciplined chassis was its forte, but option creep, inflation, and a tendency for manufacturers to keep making cars bigger have priced the Civic into SUV territory, while also bloating up into a pseudo-Accord. Same deal with the Mazda 3, whose impressive handling can be yours, but only if you’ve got P1.495 million to start with.

Sensual curves and just a hint of chrome. Doesn't it look like a juicy mango, though? PHOTOS BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Enter MG, the Chinese-owned British brand that has been making a killing in the market with a lineup of well-made and competitively priced cars and SUVs. Very competitively priced, actually. Enough to convince early adopters to switch from traditional brands and save hundreds of thousands of pesos.

This particular MG is currently priced at P1,193,888, and it’s loaded. Turbocharged in-line-four good for 159hp and 250Nm, seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, sunroof, active driving aids, 360° cameras…you know the drill.

One of the nicest cockpits in its class with interesting textures, patterns, and shapes inside. PHOTOS BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Compared to the Civic, the GT Sport is nearly as long (4,675mm versus 4,678mm), but is taller (1,480mm versus 1,415mm) and wider (1,842mm versus 1,802mm). The wheelbase of 2,680mm is shorter than the Civic’s 2,735mm, but put them side-by-side and you’d have a hard time telling which one was bigger just by eyeballing.

With a fastback profile, Tomahawk-style alloy wheels, a roofline reminiscent of the Hyundai Elantra, and just enough curves and scoops (fake or otherwise) to get you excited without going overboard, the GT looks very promising. And especially with this Nuclear Yellow color, you’re kind of hoping it drives as well as it looks. You’d be quite surprised. I know I was.

Like all other MGs, the GT is manufactured by SAIC, China’s biggest automobile manufacturing firm. If you didn’t know the GT’s origins, you’d think you were in a Japanese or Korean car, and while I don’t like the Chinese’s politics, I’ve come to accept that they can make pretty good products. Fit and finish are very good all throughout, with liberal use of soft-touch plastics and quality leather.

The 1.5-liter turbo four is punchy and makes nice noises. PHOTOS BY ANDY LEUTERIO AND MG

Calling it a “GT” seems presumptuous at first, especially if you’ve normally associated those two letters with snooty, high-end cars, but the car has the oomph to make a good showing of itself. Deep, urgent prods of the accelerator have the car surging forward, accompanied by a pleasant growl from the compact four-cylinder along with a bit of turbo whistle.

There’s some turbo lag below 3,000rpm, but once it’s spun up the car delivers excellent midrange acceleration and will claw its way to nearly 200km/h. The seven-speed DCT is a great partner for the engine, shifting quickly and smoothly either in auto mode or manually with the paddle shifters. There’s no shift lock trigger, so keep your hand off the shifter unless you really want to change gears. Otherwise, you can accidentally nudge it into Neutral.

Michelin Primacy tires deliver a good balance between grip and comfort. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Like most cars these days, the steering is an electrically assisted unit, but it has a Sport mode that firms up the effort. It doesn’t feel quite as precise as a traditional hydraulic system, but it’s close and just a little bit wooden in feel. I left it in Sport for the entire duration of the test drive as the Normal setting feels too artificial and overboosted.

While the monocoque frame is as stiff as a brick and flex-free, where the GT falls short of its ambitious name is in the suspension. The front strut/rear torsion beam setup is common for the class, and while it’s an inexpensive way to get decent handling without eating up too much space, the limits are too easily reached when you’re driving aggressively.

It’s fun to swing the tail around at low speeds since the rear tires are effectively linked by the axle, but at higher speeds, the tail feels unsettled and robs you of confidence. Soft shock absorbers contribute to a floaty feel as pavement ripples send the back end continuously moving up and down. Firmer shocks with better rebound control would definitely fix this. As it is, the stock suspension setup is tuned for all-around comfort rather than attacking a hill.

For stopping power, the all-disc, ABS setup is excellent, and you’d have to be doing hot laps on a track to get it to seriously fade.

The digital speedo and tach are meh, but they save up the center panel for various displays. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Speaking of laps, I was actually surprised to find a stopwatch function on the dashboard, as well as an accelerometer/power/torque display. Unless I’m mistaken, it’s the only car in its class to have such a feature, and while you’re not going to use it a lot, it does encourage you to go looking for a track day or two.

This will have you looking for a clean quarter-mile of road. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
In case you want to see just how much power you're getting at any given time. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
This will tell you if you've been a bad boy. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Other things that make the GT Sport a bona fide driver’s car are the supportive Zero Gravity seats, a jet fighter-style cockpit, a low cowl, and a panoramic windshield—everything you need to help you get the best driving experience. When I wasn’t in the mood for sporty driving and just wanted to cruise, I loved the crisp audio quality of the stereo, and found the glass moonroof useful for brightening up the somber black interior.

The Zero Gravity bucket seats are very comfortable and supportive. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
The rear seat is firm and has decent room if you're under 6ft. PHOTO FROM MG
It's packed with plenty of mod cons, including a power moonroof. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

As a family car, it works well enough with decent space at the back for Asian-sized passengers. With a trunk volume of 401L, I was also able to stuff a gravel bike and some bags, too, by folding down the seat back.

A 401L trunk and a folding seat back are very useful. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

MG proudly lists the high-tech things it has stuffed in the car, and while they do add value and raise the level of safety in today’s automobiles, it’s nice to know that the brand has come up with a car that’s genuinely fun and engaging to drive, with or without the gadgets.

This puts us in the mood for some Thai catfish salad. Yum. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

I wouldn’t say that the GT Sport feels as hardwired to your brain as a true sports sedan, but for what it costs and how skilled most drivers really are, it’s close enough. Just get a better set of shock absorbers and you’ve got yourself a real grand touring machine.


Engine1.5-liter four-cylinder turbo gasoline
Transmission7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Power159hp @ 6,500rpm
Torque250Nm @ 4,500rpm
Dimensions4,675mm x 1,842mm x 1,480mm
Drive layoutFWD
UpsideYouthful styling. Driver-focused cockpit. Very good build quality. Potent drivetrain. Loaded with active driving aids and mod cons.
DownsideThe soft suspension will hold you back.

Andy Leuterio

Andy is both an avid cyclist and a car enthusiast who has finally made the shift to motorcycles. You've probably seen him on his bicycle or motorbike overtaking your crawling car. He is our motorcycle editor and the author of the ‘Quickshift’ column.