Getting the opportunity to have the MG HS for a few days feels strange. You see, I’ve actually driven the car three years ago on a rainy Tianma Circuit in Shanghai. Its distributor, The Covenant Car Company Inc., had just acquired the rights to the brand from its former importer, and it wanted to generate a lot of consumer interest for this new player with British roots.
At the time, I didn’t give the HS much thought. MG’s initial lineup consisted of the ZS, the 6 and the RX5. Of the three, the RX5 didn’t feel like it was part of the family (even though it was). After getting to terms with SAIC Motor’s corporate hierarchy, I learned that the car was actually a Roewe product (itself a reincarnation of the Rover brand).
There’s nothing wrong with the RX5. In fact, my colleague thought that it was a decent ride for the price. But its stately styling looks very different from the curvaceous profiles of the ZS and the 6. It’s as if the MG badge doesn’t belong there. Fortunately, the HS is now here, and it sports the genes of the rest of its maker’s catalog.
That starts with the large, concave grille. The MG badge isn’t alone as there are a lot of metal “studs” surrounding it. Some might say that it’s a lot of brightwork, but I personally like it. It’s not an in-your-face treatment, and it matches the tasteful touches of chrome around the vehicle.
The HS has a profile that is roughly similar to other vehicles in its class, which will make it hard for it to stand out. That’s why the paint job has an extremely important role, and my test unit is slathered in the loud Brighton Blue color. MG says that it is brighter than the blue hue on the ZST. And true enough, I got a lot of curious stares as I drove it around during my test period.
The headlights and the taillights do a little dance when you unlock the vehicle. Even the turn signals have a sequential effect that used to be limited to luxury brands. Unlike a lot of crossovers these days, the HS’s twin tailpipes are actually linked to the exhaust (which I’ve had the painful misfortune of touching just to prove a point). However, the 18-inch wheels could’ve used more spokes to make them stand out. The blue color is so prominent that it seems to overpower the rims.
MG’s theme of minimalist interiors is passed on to the HS. Aside from the center screen that combines the infotainment system and the HVAC controls, the instrument panel itself is also a display that can be configured by changing the drive modes (more on that later). The Trophy trim level gets leather bucket seats with red stitching, as well as very few piano-black surfaces.
One of the features that piqued my interest is the mood lighting. While it changes with the drive mode, it can also be configured to show a specific color. It can also be set to pulse, which should be a talking point. The armrest assembly also has unique toys like a PM2.5 air purifier and a ventilated box. The latter isn’t a properly cold storage area, but it should keep sandwiches and salads nicely chilled.
As with the ZS/ZST, rear passengers have plenty of room in the HS. The seat backs can even be reclined slightly, and there are aircon vents and charging ports. But it was the cargo space that I was impressed with. With the privacy lid removed, I was able to fit a large cooler, a trolley bag, overnight clothes for four guys, and a week’s worth of groceries.
I’ve mentioned that the HS has selectable drive modes, and each of them changes various characteristics. Aside from throttle response, each setting affects the way the steering and the air-conditioning behave. “Eco” mode lightens the tiller the most and economizes on the use of the compressor. The steering wheel becomes stiffer, and the throttle response becomes sharper as you move up to “Normal” and “Sport” modes.
The HS uses a 1.5-liter turbocharged engine with 167hp and 250Nm. I suspect that this is the same motor fitted to the 6 because it has an identical valve cover. It feels rather peaky, and I would’ve wanted more pulling power at low revs. But my main issue with the HS is the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission it comes with.
It’s hard to crawl in traffic with this gearbox as clutch engagement isn’t smooth. Whenever you floor the accelerator in “Eco” and “Normal” modes, it doesn’t go to its kick-down mode immediately. I sometimes found myself struggling to climb up parking ramps because it didn’t downshift to first gear fast enough.
In my review of the 6, the transmission behaved the same way. I wasn’t too concerned because it was probably one of SAIC Motor’s first dual-clutch boxes. But given the two-year gap between that car and the HS, I expected that the latter would have had a more refined transmission.
There is a way to get the gearbox to respond a little more quickly. The HS’s most aggressive drive mode is called “Super Sport.” I initially thought it was too gimmicky, but I eventually learned its usefulness. Activate it and the powertrain maintains higher revs for longer, which helped me a lot when overtaking. And because I can access this mode with the big red button on the steering wheel, I don’t need to cycle through all of the other drive modes.
I’m not a fan of the infotainment screen that does everything, and I’ve already made my feelings known about this system in my review of the 5. At least the display is big, and you get both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Lastly, while the HS is equipped with blind-spot monitoring, the warning lights are located on the tweeter housings instead of the mirrors. They are rather dim and do not emit any alert chimes, making them easy to miss.
MG is banking on the HS’s British heritage and affordable sticker price to lure customers. And the Trophy variant comes loaded with plenty of toys for P1,308,888. It is a little rough around the edges, but there is a lot to like about this car. And, more importantly, the HS now feels like it is a true member of the MG family.
MG HS TROPHY
|1.5-liter four-cylinder turbo gasoline
|7-speed dual-clutch automatic
|167hp @ 5,600rpm
|250Nm @ 4,400rpm
|4,574mm x 1,876mm x 1,664mm
|There are lots of toys for the price. And if you like attention, the blue paint job is an absolute head-turner.
|SAIC Motor needs to work on refining its dual-clutch transmissions.