Cars > Driven

MG One Lux: Stylish and competitively specced

But it’s one gimmick too many

The Fizzy Orange color with the blacked-out roof and the 19-inch wheels really pop. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

If you’ve noticed quite a bunch of GAC Emzooms lately, that’s because the brand sold a little over 1,500 units in less than a year since its relaunch.

While that’s not an earth-shattering number compared to the near half-million vehicle sales sold last year, it shows that a relatively upstart brand can do well for a small crossover despite all the Chinese political baggage it has to bear.

Will this MG One fare as well, though, or even better?

Muscular proportions give the One an athletic vibe. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Larger than an Emzoom with a length of 4,581mm, a width of 1,871mm, a height of 1,617mm, and a 2,670mm wheelbase, the compact five-door crossover has a sleek profile with muscular flanks, a jet fighter-inspired front fascia like the GT sedan, and chic colorways.

Our Lux test unit also has bigger 19-inch wheels compared to the STD’s 18-inchers, roof rails, and blacked-out roof and pillars.

A better view to appreciate the sculpting of its flanks.
Blacked-out roof and pillars with rails and some tasteful chrome trim. PHOTOS BY ANDY LEUTERIO

So, aesthetically, it checks all the boxes, and this feeling continues inside where you’re greeted with a low dashboard with a minimalist display scheme.

Too minimalist, unfortunately, as haptic panels and buttons have replaced physical dials and buttons with a vengeance. A panel for the climate control saves time from having to dig through the menus on the touchscreen.

So far, so good. Until... PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

As usual with these systems, it takes a few seconds before the computer realizes that what you want is full blast to aerate a car that has been baking under the sun for hours. Someone, please tell the Chinese that physical dials and buttons are much better.

More annoying is some engineers’ decision to replace decades of proven technology (and logic!) with another fancy capacitive panel for mundane functions like door locks, mirrors, and headlamps.

Instead of placing these on a column-mounted stalk and a bunch of buttons on the left-door armrest, they’re on the leftmost panel of the instrument display, and it blacks out when not in use.

Oh no. A slow-reacting capacitive panel for the A/C.
And whose bright idea was it to put the controls for the mirrors, the locks, and the headlamps on this panel? PHOTOS BY ANDY LEUTERIO

I couldn’t find the door-unlock switch the first time I got in so my son could enter on his side, and then I fumbled with the left stalk thinking that was where the headlamp dimmer would be (as it should).

It’s nothing that a few minutes of familiarization can’t solve after years of muscle memory in dozens of other cars that never had this gimmick, but good luck jabbing just the right spot when you need to access it in a hurry. It took multiple presses to find the door unlock, for example.

On a more practical note, with a car like the One’s overt dependence on a ‘glass cockpit’ to help you manage everything, one has to wonder how dependable this technology will be after a few more blazing summers.

The shifter looks like a Thrustmaster throttle. Pity there's no manual mode to better play with the drivetrain.
The 168hp in-line-four is a treat. Hood struts instead of cheap hinges and a prop rod are appreciated. PHOTOS BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Anyway, after I had calmed down from the One’s overt gimmickry, I found it to be a pleasant enough drive with moderate sportiness to back up its looks.

Power from the turbocharged 1.5-liter engine is smooth and linear, with the CVT a willing partner. You don’t get paddle shifters or a manual gate at this price point, but a Sport mode gives you more aggressive ratios and holds the engine to higher revs.

Continental Premium Contact 6 tires in 225/50 R19 size provide a sporty ride without being too harsh or noisy. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

The suspension is reasonably taut without being too busy, although some harshness from the 50-series, 19-inch Continental tires is to be expected. A ducktail roof spoiler helps to counter some rear-end float at higher speeds.

Sporty bucket seats do a decent job of keeping you in place in the curves.
And back-seat space and support are pretty good, too.
You get 1,120L of volume space with the seat backs down. PHOTOS BY ANDY LEUTERIO

The space at the back is quite good. Aside from the legroom and the headroom, the seats offer decent thigh support so outboard passengers don’t have that knees-up angle. Folding the seat backs down also yields a long and flat load floor big enough to hold an adult-size bike (front wheel removed) or accommodate bags and bags of groceries.

ADAS suite proves its worth in traffic, keeping you more aware of your surroundings. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

A full ADAS suite comes with the Lux variant, and this includes 360° cameras, lane-departure warning, a panoramic sunroof, a six-speaker stereo, blind-spot warning, and curtain airbags.

Dual front airbags, side airbags, ABS, traction control, and hill-hold assist are already fitted to the cheaper STD. Six speakers or not, the audio quality from the stereo is just average.

At least the steering wheel looks great and is nice to hold with its thick rim.
A cluttered instrument panel is the norm these days. PHOTOS BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard kit, as well as wireless charging. In typical MG fashion, the 12.3-inch touchscreen is easy to use, but doesn’t look particularly sharp.

The layout is workmanlike, in sharp contrast to the gimmicky, seven-inch driver’s display that resorts to too many bar graphs and digital numbers instead of replicating the classic, round gauges for the speedometer and the tachometer.

It's quite a looker, but has a fairly conventional back end. PHOTOS BY ANDY LEUTERIO

A competitive sticker price of P1,458,888 makes the One look appealing if you’re cross-shopping against the likes of the older Changan CS55 Luxe (P1.31 million), the base Ford Territory (starts at P1.335 million), and the nonturbo Honda HR-V (P1.389 million).

It’s not the cheapest, but it does have a lot of features. Going down to the STD brings you a lower price of P1,298,888.

While not particularly outstanding in any one aspect—and a slight overdose of tech makes it look gratuitously gimmicky—the MG One’s good looks and overall competence could mean that plenty of these will find their way into Philippine garages this year just like what GAC has done with the Emzoom.


Engine1.5-liter four-cylinder turbo gasoline
Power168hp @ 5,600rpm
Torque275Nm @ 1,500-4,000rpm
Dimensions4,581mm x 1,871mm x 1,617mm
Drive layoutFWD
UpsideSleek styling. Potent drivetrain. Useful driver aids. Good fit and finish.
DownsideGimmicky cockpit. Transmission needs a manual mode.

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.