MG HS SUV - Engines, drive & performance
Driven gently the HS is competent enough but push harder and it feels less polished
Since the MG's return to the UK under Chinese ownership, every new model has shown areas of real improvement. However, the HS is still some way behind the best new SUVs to drive, especially when it comes to its petrol engine. The 1.5-litre turbo doesn't feel as powerful as its 160bhp figure suggests and it sounds gruff at higher revs.
The ride feels quite firm, so you expect the HS to have equally sharp responses but this isn’t the case. Instead, the body can bounce slightly over bigger undulations, where the Qashqai and Karoq feel planted. The steering has a pleasing weight, but there's a vague patch around dead ahead that adds to its slightly imprecise feel.
MG HS petrol engine
While it looks strong on paper, the 1.5-litre petrol doesn't feel as fast as its 160bhp power figure and 9.9-second 0-62mph time suggest. Both the smaller 1.3-litre petrol in the Qashqai and the VW Group 1.5-litre TSI are around a second faster from 0-62mph, despite only having 138bhp and 148bhp respectively. Drive the HS sedately at a relaxed pace and performance will still be adequate for most drivers, but refinement is poor for a petrol; approach 4,000rpm and it sounds coarse.
The six-speed manual gearbox is smooth, while the automatic makes the engine feel more cultured by shifting up at conservative revs, but it's slow to kick down into a lower gear when needed. MG is keen to inject its sporting heritage into its models, even its biggest SUV, and a red button below the steering wheel engages 'Super Sport' mode. This sharpens the throttle response and even switches the ambient interior lighting to a red glow.
The MG HS plug-in hybrid also uses the 1.5-litre petrol engine, but adds a powerful electric motor and a 16.6kWh battery. With total power standing at 255bhp, the HS PHEV is much quicker than the petrol alone, and you have the option to drive on the electric motor, which is quieter than the engine. Other plug-in SUVs are more refined, and the PHEV offers no improvement in handling, but you may well accept these compromises if you’re paying a lot less per month than for one of its rivals.