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Used test: Citroën C5 Aircross vs Mazda CX-5 vs MG HS
Which of these large SUVs makes the best secondhand buy: the comfort-focused C5 Aircross, the plush CX-5 or the generously equipped HS?...
Citroen C5 Aircross Puretech 130 Feel
List price when new £24,435
Price today £20,000*
Available from 2019-present
It promises to be as relaxing to drive as floating on a cloud, but is its tiny petrol engine punchy enough?
Mazda CX-5 2.0 Skyactiv-G SE-L Nav+
List price when new £25,600
Price today £22,000*
Available from 2017-present
A sharp, sporty drive, plush interior and great reliability help round out this large SUV
MG HS 1.5 T-GDI Exclusive
List price when new £22,995
Price today £19,000*
Available from 2019-present
While it's designed as a budget choice, its punchy engine and excellent level of equipment suggest otherwise
*Price today is based on a 2020 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing
Cheap and cheerful is often ideal in relation to, say, a sandwich or a novelty mug, but when it's applied to a car, it poses some important questions. What exactly am I missing out on? Where's the catch?
Well, with the MG HS there isn't one. Despite its bargain new and used prices (the second of which we're considering here), this is one accomplished large SUV.
That makes life difficult for more expensive rivals, flipping our initial questions on their heads so it becomes a matter of whether pricier alternatives justify their mark-ups. Two models that have a good chance of doing so are the sporty Mazda CX-5 and the comfortable Citroën C5 Aircross. What's more, by going for two-year-old examples, you can access some good savings and avoid new-car waiting lists.
Our test car HS is also two years old, completing our competitive trio for this used large SUV shootout. Which model will take the number one spot? Read on to find out.
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
Each car comes with a six-speed manual gearbox and sips petrol, but the C5 Aircross has a modest turbocharged 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine with 129bhp. With 160bhp from its 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo, the HS looks strong, but it’s still beaten on paper by the naturally aspirated 163bhp 2.0-litre unit in the CX-5.
Mazda’s refusal to turbocharge means acceleration in the CX-5 is only brisk when you’re working the engine hard, so it's actually the most lethargic car of the three when pulling from low revs. You often have to shift down a gear or two if you want to build speed quickly.
If it’s performance you want, the HS is the quickest when racing through the gears. It’s also pleasingly strong if you ask it to slog from low revs in a high gear. Although the C5 Aircross is slowest in a drag race, it’s the happiest to pull from low revs, making for relaxed progress.
Helping matters is a hushed engine that contributes to the C5 Aircross being the quietest cruiser. The engines in the others are noisier, with the HS’s especially rowdy. Both suffer from more wind and road noise than the C5 Aircross too, and the HS’s gusting is particularly noticeable at 70mph.
The CX-5 has the firmest suspension of the bunch so it fidgets the most and has the least comfortable ride at low speeds. The up side is that it feels the most controlled and composed over dips and crests on faster roads. The HS is a little softer, so although you still feel the road beneath you, its suspension takes the edge off most bumps. Squishy suspension makes the C5 Aircross the comfiest, with only nasty potholes and ridges causing it to thud.
The flip side of that soft suspension is that the car leans the most around corners and nosedives and pitches more than its rivals when you brake or accelerate. However, once you’re used to the rather light and lifeless steering, you’ll find there are no nasty vices – just that it’s not at all enjoyable to drive quickly.
The HS leans far less and has more pleasingly weighted steering that gives you a better sense of connection to the front wheels. However, it’s the CX-5 that sways the least and feels the most stable and at ease during fast direction changes. Although you have to apply a fair amount of lock to negotiate tighter turns, you can guide the front wheels precisely.
In addition, the CX-5’s gearbox, with its short throw, is the most enjoyable to use, closely followed by that of the HS. Shifting in the C5 Aircross is like stirring porridge in comparison, due to a long and decidedly vague shift action.
Next: What are they like inside? >>
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