Tak­ing mid­dle ground

Warwickshire Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - By Peter Keenan

THE MG GS at­tempts to per­form a neat trick. The lat­est mo­tor to emerge from the Chi­ne­se­owned, Birm­ing­ham­based mar­que is at­tempt­ing to take on qual­ity SUV com­peti­tors like the Nis­san Qashqai and Re­nault Kad­jar while be­ing a com­pet­i­tively priced al­ter­na­tive to the bud­get end of the mar­ket which in­cludes the likes of the Da­cia Duster and SsangYong Tivoli.

The business model needed to pull this off is clever. Re­search and de­velop new mod­els at the com­pany’s Long­bridge fa­cil­ity bring­ing Bri­tish en­gi­neer­ing ex­per­tise into the equa­tion, build the cars in China re­duc­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing costs be­fore sell­ing them at a de­cent profit.

It’s taken a few goes to per­fect though, with the MG GS look­ing likely to ben­e­fit from a process that saw the MG6 fam­ily hatch­back axed in the UK be­fore the MG3 su­per­mini made the break­through with UK sales top­ping 3,000 units last year.

As with any com­pro­mise the MG GS is nei­ther as good as the best nor as cheap as it could be – but it passes the three bears test of achiev­ing a mid­dle ground which will ap­peal to those who de­sire a de­cent-sized SUV, but also want it to be keenly priced.

So what do you get? Well from the out­side the MG GS is eye-catch­ing with the usual high stance and mus­cu­lar lines sug­gest­ing it can take on the tough­est ter­rain. Don’t be fooled though as it is strictly fron­twheel drive and de­signed to be driven on the high­way. The Ex­clu­sive model gets nifty 18-inch al­loy wheels, roof rails, LED day­time run­ning lights and front fog lamps which add to its vis­ual ap­peal.

The range starts at £14,995, so passes the price-tag test, with Ex­plore, Ex­cite and Ex­clu­sive trim lev­els all pow­ered by the same 1.5-litre petrol en­gine, with the top of the range model – fea­tur­ing a seven-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion – set­ting you back £21,000.

The model I drove had the sixspeed gear­box which was neat and tidy help­ing the en­gine achieve 60mph from a stand­ing start in a shade un­der ten sec­onds, while a stop-start sys­tem helps it to an av­er­age miles per gal­lon fig­ure in the mid-40s.

It is pleas­ant to drive with a good po­si­tion be­hind the leather steer­ing wheel eas­ily at­tained thanks to a range of seat ad­just­ment.

The steer­ing is light so doesn’t give a great deal of feed­back – but a re­as­sur­ing amount of grip gives con­fi­dence in cor­ners and the ride, while firm, is far from un­com­fort­able.

The cabin is fin­ished to a rea­son­able stan­dard al­though some of the plas­tics show where in­evitable cost cut­ting has taken place. There are com­fort­able seats that give good sup­port while all the con­trols are well set out and easy to see and use. The in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, in­clud­ing iGo nav­i­ga­tion on the Ex­clu­sive model, fea­tures a touch­screen ac­cess­ing most of the good­ies on of­fer while the au­to­matic air con­di­tion­ing is ef­fi­cient.

The steer­ing wheel fea­tures au­dio con­trols for the DAB ra­dio and CD player which of­fers MP3 com­pat­i­bil­ity and AUX/USB in­put.

Nice touches for this rea­son­ablypriced mo­tor in­clude au­to­matic head­lights and cruise con­trol while rear park­ing sen­sors and cam­era are also wel­come.

The wing mir­rors are heated and elec­tri­cally ad­justable while a side step and lazy lock­ing fa­cil­ity add to the al­lure.

There is plenty of room for five adults and their gear to be squared away as the boot is rea­son­ably roomy with the rear seats able to split and fold cre­at­ing more space when needed. The are also plenty of cubby holes for a fam­ily’s odds and sods.

The MG GS is an in­ter­est­ing ad­di­tion to the SUV sec­tor and it will be fas­ci­nat­ing to see how it fares in what is a white-hot mar­ket­place.

TEST DRIVE MG GS EX­CLU­SIVE MT

MODEL: MG GS Ex­clu­sive MT PRICE: £19,495 ME­CHAN­I­CAL: 166ps, 1,498cc, 4cyl petrol en­gine driv­ing front wheels via 6-speed man­ual gear­box MAX SPEED: 118mph 0-60MPH: 9.6 sec­onds COM­BINED MPG: 46.3 IN­SUR­ANCE GROUP: 16 CO2 EMIS­SIONS: 139g/km BIK RAT­ING: 24% WAR­RANTY: 5yrs/80,000 miles

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