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. That said, the HS is actually pretty 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 then the Plug-in version is a different ball game. Its claimed 0-62mph time is 6.9sec, which is faster than the Ford Kuga PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle); it certainly feels lively everywhere from urban settings to motorways. And, of course, it'll run on electric power alone. It's a lot slower in electric mode, but still fine for tootling along and the official WLTP range is 32 miles – just shy of the Kuga's 35 miles.
The HS Plug-in is quiet in electric mode, and, when the petrol engine starts up, it proves relatively hushed whether you’re building speed or cruising on the motorway. Pass 3000rpm, though, and it becomes far gruffer, with an even coarser edge if you take it past 4000rpm. The same applies to the non-plug-in petrol. The HS is okay for wind and road noise at 70mph, but there’s more of both than there is in the Kuga or C5 Aircross.
Thankfully, the standard six-speed manual gearbox that comes with the 1.5 T-GDi is pleasant to use. Okay, it's not as snickety as the Mazda CX-5’s manual 'box, but it's more precise than the Peugeot 5008's. The optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic suits a slower driving style, proving smooth when pulling away from a standstill or changing gears – if you’ve got a light right foot, that is. Try to pull away quickly, and the HS lurches forward clumsily, as if you’d released the clutch pedal in a manual car too quickly. That's not an issue that the Plug-in’s 10-speed auto suffers from.
Meanwhile, the pure petrol HS’s suspension strikes a good balance between ride comfort and handling prowess. Although the ride isn’t as pillow-soft as the C5 Aircross’s, it takes the sting out of most potholes and pimples, and deals pretty well with undulating road surfaces, with only a small amount of float at times. The HS is certainly more comfortable than some versions of the firmer-sprung CX-5.
That said, the CX-5 is a more agile SUV, but 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. The ride is still mostly good over gentler bumps and is settled at motorway speeds, although that floatiness we mentioned for the petrol version is more prevalent over rises or falls in the road. When you hit something more substantial and sharper, though, the ride deteriorates to thumping and jarring, while the handling, thanks to the extra weight of the battery, also suffers from a lot more body lean and a lot less grip. The Kuga PHEV is a much sharper-handling and more comfortable plug-in hybrid SUV.
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