What Car? says...
The maker of the MG HS large SUV may have found fame building sports cars, but with this model and others, it's aiming for more mainstream success.
That’s a sensible business strategy, bearing in mind that sales of family-friendly SUVs have gone through the roof, while sports cars are very much a niche product. The HS – a large SUV that undercuts a fair few small ones on price – also cements MG’s reputation for good value.
The line-up is refreshingly simple. Power-wise, you can have a petrol engine with a six-speed manual gearbox (or optional dual-clutch automatic), or a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) with a 10-speed auto 'box. There's no diesel or four-wheel-drive option, and in terms of equipment, MG offers you just two trim levels to choose from.
You might expect one of the cheapest cars in the large SUV category to have an interior that feels a generation or two out of date, but as you’ll find out from this comprehensive review, the MG HS is full of surprises.
We'll let you know how it compares with other models in the class, including the Citroën C5 Aircross, Ford Kuga, Mazda CX-5 and Peugeot 5008. We’ll also tell you all about how it drives, what the interior's like, how many people and bits of luggage you can cram into it, which engine and trim we prefer and much more.
When you've decided on the best model for your needs, we can help you save thousands off the price. Simply do a search on the free What Car? New Car Deals service. It currently has some very appealing new large SUV deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The MG HS’s 1.5-litre petrol engine (badged 1.5 T-GDi) is flexible enough in normal driving, but the smaller 1.2-litre petrol in the Citroën C5 Aircross picks up quicker from low revs. Even so, the HS is fairly brisk when you work the engine really hard, chalking up a 9.0sec 0-60mph time on our damp test track.
If you want something quicker, the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version is a different ball game. Its official 0-60mph time is 6.9sec – which is faster than the Ford Kuga PHEV – and it feels lively whether you’re on a motorway or in town. It'll run on electric power alone, and while it's a lot slower in electric mode, it's fine for pootling along. The official WLTP electric-only range is 32 miles, a little short of the Kuga's 39 miles.
The HS Plug-in is quiet in electric mode, and when the petrol engine starts up, it's still relatively hushed. It becomes more gruffer when you start working it hard, though, with a coarse edge if you take it past 4000rpm. The same applies to the non-PHEV version, too. Wind and road noise is acceptable at 70mph, but the C5 Aircross and Kuga are quieter.
The standard six-speed manual gearbox that comes with the 1.5 T-GDi is pleasant to use. It's not as snickety as the manual 'box in the Mazda CX-5 but it's more precise than the one in the Peugeot 5008.
The non-PHEV version's optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearboxsuits a slower driving style. If you've got a light right foot, it's smooth when moving off from a standstill or changing gears, but when you try to pull away quickly, the HS lurches forwards clumsily. That's not an issue that the Plug-in’s 10-speed auto suffers from.
If you avoid the HS Plug-in, you’ll find that the suspension strikes a good balance between ride comfort and handling prowess. The ride isn’t as pillow-soft as in the C5 Aircross, but it still takes the sting out of most potholes and pimples, and doesn’t suffer from as much float as the C5 Aircross on undulating road surfaces.
The HS is certainly more comfortable than some versions of the firmer-sprung CX-5, but that firmer ride does make the CX-5 a more agile SUV. Even so, the HS has less body lean and better-weighted steering than the roly-poly C5 Aircross. The HS’s brake pedal also proves easy to modulate, whether in start-stop traffic or pulling up from higher speeds.
The Plug-in is a different animal. While the ride is still mostly smooth over gentler bumps and settled at motorway speeds, there's a fair thump when you hit something sharper or more substantial. The extra weight of the battery also affects the handling, with significantly more body lean and less grip. If you’re after a plug-in hybrid that’s more engaging and comfortable, the Kuga PHEV or Kia Sportage PHEV is well worth considering.
The interior layout, fit and finish
A low starting price often implies rough edges and cut corners, but there’s actually an awful lot to like about the HS’s interior. MG has made a real effort to lift its quality beyond that of its predecessor (the woeful MG GS), and it shows.
The steering wheel is wrapped in tactile perforated leather, the switches work with pleasing precision and there are huge swathes of soft-touch plastic and faux-leather on the dashboard and doors. In terms of interior finish, the HS gets pretty close to the impressive Mazda CX-5 and the Peugeot 5008.
After you’ve been driving the HS for a while, you’ll notice that the steering wheel is very slightly angled towards the centre of the dashboard. It's an odd quirk rather than a discomforting annoyance, though.
A more common complaint among our test team was that the driver’s seat doesn’t go low enough, leaving you feeling perched, rather than sitting in it. The seat is great on long journeys though, especially the sports seat that's fitted to the top-spec Exclusive trim.
Every trim comes with a six-way adjustable driver’s seat with adjustable lumbar support, but where the seat is manually adjustable on the non-PHEV Excite trim, all others versions come with electronic adjustment.
Visibility is, for the most part, good, with reasonably lean windscreen pillars, big side windows and a decent-sized rear window. Only the low-mounted rear-view mirror proves problematic for taller drivers, blocking their view slightly. All trims come with rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera (or a full 360-degree view on plug-in hybrid models), but front sensors are not available. You only get bright LED headlights with Exclusive.
The 10.1in infotainment touchscreen isn’t too tricky to navigate and even has a couple of physical shortcut buttons, but it’s not all good news. We found it frustratingly laggy, with a long delay between pressing an icon and anything actually happening. Still, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone connectivity are standard on all models, as is sat-nav, Bluetooth and a six-speaker DAB radio (four-speaker with the petrol-engined Excite trim).
Most of the dashboard features are easy to use, but the climate control and heated front seats are accessed via the infotainment screen, making them fiddlier to adjust on the move than they need to be.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
So far we’ve only sampled the MG HS with a panoramic roof (it's fitted as standard on the top-level Exclusive trim). A 6ft 3in adult will find enough head room up front but there's not a lot going spare. The seat slides back far enough to accommodate people with long legs, though.
There’s a small lidded cubby in front of the gearlever, with a couple of USB ports and a 12V socket, but it’s a bit too small for a smartphone. The cupholders are a good size and there’s more storage under the sliding centre armrest, although that does block the cupholders when you move it to its forward position.
In the rear, tall adults will find they have a reasonable amount of space between their knees and the back of the front seats, but the high floor forces the legs of taller individuals towards their chests. Even so, a 6ft 3in adult won’t feel too hemmed in by the HS’s roof: head room is passable and, once again, that's even factoring in the space-swallowing panoramic roof.
At 462 litres, the non-PHEV HS’s boot is arguably rather small compared with the other cars we've talked about. We could fit in only six carry-on cases, which matches a Ford Kuga but a Mazda CX-5 and Kia Sportage will both swallow eight. Indeed, even the smaller Skoda Karoq has more room for cargo than the HS, and the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version is smaller still (448 litres).
You can drop the 60/40 split folding rear seats to increase the boot space. The configuration is less versatile than the 40/20/40 arrangement in the Peugeot 5008 and other rivals. The HS does at least give you reclining rear seats (although they don't slide back and forth like those in many of its competitors) and there's a useful covered storage area beneath the boot floor.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
This is where the MG HS really comes into its own. In its cheapest form, it costs little more than the far smaller VW T-Cross despite being a similar size to the Mazda CX-5. The top-spec Exclusive model costs about the same as the entry-level Volkswagen T-Roc, Citroën C5 Aircross and less than the Peugeot 5008.
The HS Plug-in model is fairly cheap too, but doesn't cost much less than the all-round better Ford Kuga PHEV. Most manufacturers give bigger discounts than MG, so it’s worth checking for savings on the HS and its rivals by searching our free New Car Deals pages.
Better news is that the HS’s depreciation is predicted to be the same as the CX-5 and the C5 Aircross, so it shouldn’t lose too much value over the course of three years. That also helps if you’re looking to buy with finance instead of outright, keeping monthly payments as low as possible.
High levels of standard equipment help to make up for the higher PCP finance payments and slim discounts, though.
Even entry-level Excite trim gives you leather seats, adaptive cruise control with steering assist (auto only), keyless entry and start, automatic headlights and wipers, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, power-folding door mirrors, alloy wheels and air conditioning.
We'd happily recommend sticking with Excite and maximising the HS's value, but top-spec Exclusive trim has merit. It features dual-zone climate control, ambient interior lighting, electric and heated front seats, a powered tailgate, a panoramic sunroof and the LED headlights.
If you’re thinking of running an HS as a company car bear in mind that the petrol's official CO2 emissions are on the high side, so it's in the top 37% benefit-in-kind tax bracket. The HS’s low P11D price will go some way to offsetting that, though. However, the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) is in the 12% tax band, which makes it a much more competitive company car proposition.
Officially, the 1.5 T-GDi petrol averages around 37mpg, which isn't terrible but trails the 1.2 Puretech petrol Peugeot 5008. In our tests simulating real-world driving, the 1.5 T-GDi manual managed a respectable 33.7mpg, which wasn't too far behind the 2.0-litre CX-5, Kia Sportage 1.6 T-GDI and 1.2-litre C5 Aircross.
The PHEV will officially average 155.8mpg, but that's unrealistic in the real world unless you mainly run on power from the battery, which, by the way, takes three hours to charge (from empty to full) with a 7kW home wall box.
Every HS has automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane-keeping assistance, blind-spot monitoring, automatic high-beam assist and even a rear cross-traffic alert system.
Such a long list of standard safety equipment is all but unheard of at this price point, and helped earn the HS a full five-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating. There were some noteworthy weaknesses with adult chest protection and child head protection in a crash and, overall, the C5 Aircross (with safety pack), the 5008, the CX-5 and the Toyota RAV4 proved safer.
MG performed reasonably well in the 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey coming ninth out of 32 brands, just behind Mazda and Kia, but ahead of Citroën, Skoda and Ford. MGs come with a seven-year manufacturer warranty, which is better than almost anything you’ll get elsewhere (even Hyundai’s five-year warranty can’t match it).
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Our favourite HS engine is the 1.5-litre petrol, which is reasonably brisk and delivers respectable fuel economy. We reckon the entry-level Excite trim level offers the best value – it includes nice-to-have kit, including leather seats, adaptive cruise control and power-folding door mirrors for a low price. Read more here
It has a 10.1in touchscreen with some shortcut buttons that make it easy to navigate, and built-in sat-nav. It can be slow to respond to inputs though, so it’s best to use the standard Android Auto/Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring feature if you can. Read more here
Non-PHEV versions of the MG HS have a relatively small boot at 463 litres, which our testers found to be big enough to take six carry-on suitcases. The plug-in hybrid HS has a slightly smaller boot (448 litres) because its batteries take up space. The rear seats split 60/40 to open up a larger carrying area. Read more here
|RRP price range||£23,495 - £33,595|
|Number of trims (see all)||2|
|Number of engines (see all)||2|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||hybrid, petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||155.8 - 37.9|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||7 years / 80000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£683 / £1,954|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£1,366 / £3,907|