When one talks about MG, people who know the brand’s history would think of those simple yet fun sports cars that this British marque once made. More recently, though, most everyone would probably just talk about the ZS compact crossover. The latter has been the star of the now Chinese-owned brand as it is an affordable and rather stylish way of going around. I have never really been a fan of the new MGs, to be honest. I sincerely feel like it’s a bastardization of the iconic British automaker.
I’ve always had a bias against Chinese car companies. And that includes the ones that they have acquired. But trying Geely’s Okavango was such an eye-opening experience. So, when I was offered a chance to try out MG’s RX5 1.5T Alpha for a week, I grabbed it to help me answer this question: Are the Chinese done with making crappy cars?
One look at the RX5 and you know that it is inspired by the Germans. The front end is very Volkswagen-ish. After all, MG’s parent company, SAIC Motor, assembles VW cars for the Chinese market. And the inspiration continues inside. The simple gauge cluster is also shared with some VW models. The same goes for various switchgear used to operate most things in the cabin. But exterior-wise, its side and rear seem to be inspired by BMW. Almost everything that you see here seems borrowed from something else. A mix of everything that MG thinks is good.
But that is not necessarily a bad thing. For one, fit and finish are superb. Common touch points are made with soft materials. Hard-wearing leather seats and inserts feel nice and look quite durable, too. The Apple CarPlay-capable head unit is quite easy to operate. Everything inside just works. Overall, the cabin is a nice place to be in.
But what is most impressive about the RX5 is the way it drives, although it will not win drag races nor slice through corners like a hot knife on butter. It is a crossover, after all. The 1.5-liter turbocharged engine’s 167hp and 250Nm might not seem much, but the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission allowed me to maximize every bit of power that the engine makes. It made the RX5 feel peppy and quick on its feet.
Overtaking is effortless, especially when the turbo starts kicking in. But the most surprising part is that the crossover seems pretty efficient, too. At one time, without me trying really hard, the onboard fuel efficiency display read 4.1L for every 100km, or around 24km/L. In fact, there was more than a quarter of fuel left after my time with it. The light, electrically assisted steering makes maneuvering around tight spots effortless, but it can be a little unsettling at high speeds.
I took my nephews for a quick ride around our place, and they loved it. They were in awe of the gigantic panoramic roof while looking at the stars and the clear skies above. Plus, they got all giddy when I made a quick sprint on an empty street I found. Their squeals told me so.
If I’m being honest, I do not really find the RX5 mind-blowingly good, but it is far from being bad either. It has everything that a typical Filipino car buyer is looking for at a very attractive price range. This range-topping Alpha 7TST unit that I drove only sells for P1,298,888 and ticks most of the features and goodies that buyers need.
And perhaps, this is what the RX5 is really about. What it lacked in pizzazz and flashiness, it made up for in real-world performance. The features it does not have mean there are fewer things to worry about. And sometimes, that is what really matters—having a rather dependable vehicle that is attainable.
The automaker may still have some catching-up to do with the more established brands. But the RX5 is a reminder that our Chinese friends are getting there quite fast.
MG RX5 1.5T ALPHA
|Engine||1.5-liter four-cylinder turbo gasoline|
|Transmission||7-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Power||167hp @ 5,600rpm|
|Torque||250Nm @ 1,700-4,400rpm|
|Dimensions||4,545mm x 1,855mm x 1,719mm|
|Upside||Drives well. And build quality seems good.|
|Downside||It is not as packed with niceties as its competitors.|