Car­rier with a catch

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - FIRST DRIVE -

a seven-speed dual clutch auto, rear cam­era, hill holder, du­al­zone air­con with rear vents, Arkamys au­dio, leather­wrapped wheel with in­fo­tain­ment con­trols and a cooled stor­age box.

The $28,990 Soul gets 18-inch wheels, more sup­port­ive front seats, leather up­hol­stery and lum­bar ad­just­ment, eight-inch touch­screen, nav­i­ga­tion, fog­lights and auto wipers.

It’s then a big jump to the $34,990 GS Essence X, which runs a 2.0-litre turbo, sixspeed auto and all­wheel drive. It adds pad­dle-shifters, au­tolev­el­ling head­lights, sun­roof, hill descent con­trol and ex­tended sta­bil­ity con­trol to in­clude rollover pro­tec­tion.

The sheet­metal is more in­ter­est­ing and at­trac­tive than your typ­i­cal Euro-box SUV.

That trait does not, un­for­tu­nately, carry over into the cabin. It’s an unin­spir­ing place, with dated, unimag­i­na­tive de­sign, a wall-towall grey pal­ette re­lieved only by a few swathes of gloss black plas­tic trim in up-spec mod­els and dull and un­re­spon­sive touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment and in­stru­ment dis­plays. There’s and no voice con­trol, Ap­ple CarPlay, An­droid Auto, dig­i­tal ra­dio or driver as­sist safety tech in any vari­ant.

There’s am­ple space for four, with plenty of driv­ing po­si­tion ad­justa­bil­ity. Front seats are com­fort­able and sup­port­ive Essence X and you get the high­est out­puts in the class (162kW/350Nm) but on the road it feels as though 40kW or so has gone miss­ing in ac­tion.

The larger en­gine is also a less than happy match with its sixspeeder, fal­ter­ing and lag­ging oc­ca­sion­ally at low revs, buzzing ex­ces­sively at the top end and gen­er­at­ing re­ver­ber­a­tion in the cabin, am­pli­fied on coarse bi­tu­men by tyre roar.

Essence X op­er­ates as a front -driver un­til slip is de­tected, when up to 50 per cent of drive can be sent to the rear wheels. Drive can be locked in a 50-50 split for low trac­tion sur­faces.

Dy­nam­ics also favour 1.5-litre mod­els, which en­joy a 182kg-222kg weight ad­van­tage over the heavy (1642kg), cum­ber­some Essence X.

They’re firmly sus­pended and ag­ile, with rea­son­able bal­ance and sharp, well­weighted steer­ing.

A firm, slightly ag­i­tated ride, es­pe­cially for rear pas­sen­gers, will be­come try­ing on rough roads.

VERDICT

As with any bit player brand, es­pe­cially one that has come back from the dead, you’re tak­ing a leap of faith if you put your money down on an MG GS.

Backed by SAIC, MG should sur­vive but resale val­ues may be weak, re­li­a­bil­ity is un­proven and, in the GS, 21st-cen­tury safety and in­fo­tain­ment tech is con­spic­u­ously ab­sent.

At th­ese prices, the GS is a tough sell when sim­i­lar money will put you into a no-risk, bluechip Toy­ota C-HR, Mazda CX-3 or Suzuki Vi­tara.

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