The latest model in the MG family of SUVs, is the largest, the MG HS, and a replacement for the GS. It’s a rival for the likes of the Nissan Qashqai and Seat Ateca, but spec-for-spec, you’ll pay a lot less for the MG than one of its better-established rivals. The range starts from £20,995, which undercuts the £23,550 starting point of the Qashqai.
The HS is available in two specifications. We’re testing the plusher one, the Exclusive. Despite the car’s budget price tag, it comes very thoroughly equipped.
The MG has a healthy towing limit and looks to have strong tow car potential, despite the absence of a diesel option. Buyers have a choice between the petrol modal reviewed here and a plug-in hybrid.
What are we looking for?
We want to know if the MG makes a good tow car, and if it has other qualities beyond its keen price.
MG HS buyers have a choice of a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol, and a plug-in hybrid with the same engine but the benefit of battery power. The plug-in is significantly quicker and heavier, but has a lower legal towing limit.
The petrol HS we’ve been testing has a legal towing limit of 1750kg, some 250kg more than the plug-in hybrid. The Exclusive six-speed manual we drove has a kerbweight of 1539kg. The seven-speed auto is 24kg heavier, but has the same legal maximum.
Our manual test car has an 85% match figure, usually recommended as a prudent maximum for safe and stable towing, of 1308kg. With caravan dealers across the country closed at the time of our test, we matched it to the Bailey Discovery D4-4 that we have on long-term test, which has a MiRO of 1059kg.
The 1.5-litre turbocharged engine makes a reasonable fist of towing for a relatively small petrol engine. It has peak power of 162hp, but it’s the 184lb-ft of pulling power which is more relevant for towing.
That’s not a great deal when you’re hauling a family caravan, but it helps that peak torque lasts all the way from 1500-4400rpm. It puts the MG’s engine on a par with the 1.5 TSI engine in cars such as the Seat Ateca and Škoda Karoq.
The MG”s engine has no trouble on the motorway, usually holding 60mph in sixth without complaint. It helps that the top gear isn’t too high, pulling 2000 rpm at the legal limit, so the engine is within the band of maximum pulling power.
Turn off onto country roads and the relatively modest power and performance become more apparent. You need to work the engine hard to get back up to speed after stopping at a junction, and you’re obliged to drop a couple of gears to hold speed on a steep hill.
Despite being an SUV, the new HS is a front-wheel-drive car. You notice if you need to make a hill start on damp Tarmac, with a little wheelspin if you don’t apply the throttle carefully. Acceleration from a standstill is steady on a 1-in-10 slope, and although the engine sounds a little strained, it copes well enough.
The MG can’t match the likes of the Seat Ateca for stability. Relatively soft suspension allows quite a lot of vertical movement on bumpy roads, so both car and caravan can start to feel a bit unruly, especially if you are towing downhill and the surface is poor. On the motorway, the HS is mostly secure, but when the caravan is caught by the bow wave of an HGV, the caravans movements can be felt tugging gently at the back of the car.
It’s not nerve-wracking , but an SUV with firmer suspension and tighter body control would cope better.
Arrive at your campsite and the MG is reasonably straightforward to manoeuvre; the standard rear-view camera will help you aim for the hitch when getting ready to set off again.
The detachable towball and electrics cost £600, although fitting is extra. The electrics fold out from under the bumper and tuck back out of the way when not in use.
Without the weight of a caravan to tow, there’s less reason to find the MG’s engine lacking. Drive gently and the engine isn’t noisy. The engine note only starts to sound strained and intrusive if you press on. The six-speed gearbox is rather notchy compared with the slick shift of, for example, the Mazda CX-5’s gearbox.
The MG’s suspension is quite soft and comfortable, smoothing undulations in the road well. The HS is less at home crossing sharp-edged bumps, which are felt with a bit of a thump.
The HS handles well on smooth roads, and the steering is well weighted. Rough and ready country roads reveal the MG’s limitations, however, with too much pitch and wallow unless you adopt a sedate pace.
This isn’t to damn the HS with faint praise. It’s more that while it looks sporty, the way it drives differs from what that might lead you to expect.
The HS suits a steady driving style, which it will reward with very comfortable, easy-going progress. There’s some wind and road noise at speed, more than in a Skoda Karoq, but not enough to become irritating.
The rear-view camera and rear parking sensors help when parking. However, it can also be difficult to judge exactly where the front of the car ends.
Space and practicality
When MG’s top-spec car costs little more than the entry-level version of some rivals, you’d think something would have to give – the standard of finish, for example. But no, the cabin is the MG’s greatest strength, with an attractive design and impressive materials.
The turbine-like air vents and metallic switches are reminiscent of recent Mercedes-Benz cabins. It would be an exaggeration to say the MG’s interior hits the same heights, but it’s a good effort in a budget brand.
Look to the doors and the lower parts of the dash and the quality dips a bit, but you can say the same of cars that cost double the price of the MG.
It’s not just well made, it;s practical, too. The touchscreen is easy to navigate, although it can be a little slow to respond. The driving position has plenty of adjustment, although the sporty seats are bolstered and have a fixed head restraint. We’d prefer seats that don’t make you feel so hemmed in.
A panoramic sunroof is standard on Exclusive cars and does steal some headroom. However, adults can still sit comfortably, and there’s loads of legroom in the back.
Air vents between the front seats keep the temperature agreeable, and there’s a couple of USBs to charge devices.
Boot space is the only mild disappointment, with a capacity of 463 litres with the back seats upright. That compares with 510 litres in a front-wheel-drive Seat Ateca. A tyre repair kit is standard, but a space-saver spare is available as an option. We could see no warning against towing with either in the handbook.
Buying and owning
MG dealers ask £24,040 for the HS 1.5 T-GDI Exclusive, although What Car?’s research suggests you can save some money by haggling.
The Exclusive comes with leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, a DAB radio, sat nav, rain-sensing wipers, 18-inch alloys, and more – a high-end space at a budget price.
MG hasn’t skimped on safety kit, either, as the five-star rating from Euro NCAP testifies.
Fuel bills will be higher than some rivals’, though, with an official combined figure of 37.2mpg. We achieved 22.8mpg while towing.
What Car? predicts the MG will be worth 45% over three years and 36,000 miles, a little less than the equivalent Škoda.
If you choose to hang on to the MG for longer than three years, you’ll be pleased to know it comes with a seven-year/80,000-mile warranty.
Budget cars usually have some rough edges, but there are very few to be found in the MG HS. If the vehicle cost a couple of thousands points more, it would still be good enough to deserve consideration.
The list of standard equipment is generous, and the cabin’s finish is very impressive. There’s a lot of room to accommodate passengers, although a bit more boot capacity would be welcome.
To drive, the MG is comfortable, rather than sporty. It handles neatly enough, but the soft suspension is stretched by a brisk pace on poorly surfaced roads. It’s much better suited to a steadier driving style.
When towing, firmer suspension would make the HS more stable in crosswinds, and there’s no getting away from the steady performance, even towing a lightweight caravan like the Bailey. But any movements from the van soon ebbed, and the MG could keep pace with traffic so long as the driver was prepared to work the engine hard.
Running costs should be reasonable, although the HS will use a little more fuel than some rivals. But when you’ve saved so much of the purchase price, it will take a very long time to reverse that at the pumps.
Another point in the MG’s favour is the long warranty. With cover for seven years or 80,000 miles, HS owners won’t have to worry about any unexpected repair bills for a long time to come. If the budget stretches far enough, we’d prefer to tow with a Seat Ateca or Škoda Karoq,. But the MG is superb value for money.
How much will it cost on finance?
If you put down a £4000 deposit and make a Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) through an MG dealer, MG will contribute £740 towards the car. There follow monthly payments of £323.40 per month over three years, with an annual milage allowance of 100,000. To own the car outright at the end of the agreement, you’ll need to make a final payment of £9180.
What can I tow with a B licence?
If you passed your test on or after 1 January 1997 and haven’t taken a towing test since, you have a B licence. This allows you to tow cars and caravans with a combined Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) of 3500kg. The MG has a Gross Vehicle Weight/MAM of 2001 kg. That leaves 1499kg for the van, considerably more than the 85% match for this car; it’s a good choice for a B-licence holder.
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Acceleration from a standstill is steady on a 1-in-10 slope; the engine sounds a little strained, but copes well enough
|Engine Size||1490 cc|
|85% KW||1308 kg|
|Towball Limit||75 kg|
|Maximum Towing Limit||1750 kg|
|Torque||184 lb ft|
|Offical MPG||37.2 mpg|
|Towing MPG||22.8 mpg|