DRIVE: MG GS EXCLUSIVE
THE last time I drove an MG it had a wooden steering wheel and wire wheels. My MGB GT was, in my biased opinion, an automobile of outstanding beauty and unbridled joy, even if through our years together we had our ups and downs and unfair share of tow-trucks.
My companion this week, the MG GS, is not a creation of the legendary Morris Garages.
It was put together in China following its top car makers giving shelter to MG Rover when it went bust in 2005, but it strives to be a thoroughly British SUV.
In fact it was designed in Blighty, which probably explains why up front and in your face is that unmistakable and much loved octagon MG badge.
Overall, it’s markedly different in design from the current crop of lozenges on wheels.
The roof rails and running boards add an element of dynamism to a car that blends curves on its bonnet with creases in it sides.
If I were to describe the GS interior as plain and simple that would not be an insult. In place of the mahogany and stitched leather favoured by sports car drivers of the Sixties, is hard plastic . . . but the general feel is of a spacious cabin that edges on deliberately unfussy minimalism.
The interior feels roomy, with space in the rear for three adults who love salads, and plenty of head and legroom in the front. The feeling of space is surprising as there must be a shortage of glass in Shanghai: the windows are all narrow, especially the rear screen, which doesn’t make for ideal visibility.
Thankfully, this model has a rear view camera to help parking, while the car’s nimble-footed control means it’s not difficult to scoot around town.
In terms of knobs and switches, there’s just enough of them in places easy to see and reach. The central touch-screen offers swipe graphics that are minimal but easy to use, which is refreshing at a time when car manufacturers seem to be spending far too much of their time developing increasingly complex infotainment systems that bamboozle and baffle.
Standard models of the GS come equipped with cruise control, auto headlamps and air-con but my Exclusive edition also boasts heated leather seats, hill hold, satnav, DAB radio, Bluetooth and those rear parking sensors and camera.
Changed days indeed. My GT had a mono speaker and a cassette player lodged with much padding in the hole where an eighttrack machine had been.
Much more modern, too, is this MG’s 1.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine, mated to a six-speed manual box.
Mid-range it’s more than willing to provide enough torque to do the job, but in this manual version it soon became evident I needed to give the engine advance notice of Kintyre’s steeper hills.
If the ride quality is stiff, it is also edged towards sporty, being planted into the Tarmac with steering that feels on-message and well weighted.
While it’s naturally no sports car, this is a good thing in my book, given that badge on the front.
Whether you’re a lifelong MG fan curious to know how the modern car feels, or brand new to the badge, this is a car that’s distinct in a world of homogenous SUVs and well worth test driving.
The MG GS offers value for money and distinctive styling in a world filled with SUVs