Used test: MG GS vs Suzuki Vitara

If you want an SUV but don't want to pay high running costs you could try the MG GS or the Suzuki Vitara. But which makes the most sense as a used buy?...

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What Car? team
30 December 2018

Used test: MG GS vs Suzuki Vitara
Used test: MG GS vs Suzuki Vitara

The Contenders

MG GS 1.5 Excite

List price when new £17,495

Price today  £11,200

Available from 2015-present

The GS was the revitalised MG’s first go at an SUV, but can it compete with the competent Vitara?

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Suzuki Vitara 1.6 SZ-T

List price when new  £16,249

Price today £11,000

Available from  2016-present

The Vitara is our current favourite budget SUV, and it's great value for money used

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Price today is based on a 2016 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

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We’ve had a few years to get used to it now but it still comes as a shock, not helped by the fact it’s never set the sales charts on fire. Yes, this really is an SUV wearing the famous MG badge. Long gone are the days of MG building sleek sports cars; the now Chinese-owned brand is intent on conquering the big-selling classes. This revolution began with the 6 family hatch in 2010, followed swiftly by the Fiesta-rivalling 3. Now, with the GS, MG is entering arguably the most fashionable class of them all: small SUVs.

Suzuki has far more experience in building SUVs. It launched its first Vitara when dinosaurs ruled the world, and this latest model is one of our favourite small SUVs. Both cars have fairly small petrol engines and front-wheel drive, and we’ve chosen used cars with trims that give you plenty of kit for a very reasonable asking price.

So, can MG topple one of our favourites, or will Suzuki’s experience prove more valuable as the two used cars go head-to-head?

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What are they like to drive?

Although both cars have similarly sized engines, the GS has a trick up its sleeve: a turbocharger. This not only gives it more outright power than the Vitara but also an extra helping of low-rev pulling ability. The result? The GS is 1.0sec quicker from a standstill to 60mph, and it builds speed more swiftly when you accelerate from low revs in the higher gears. While getting up to speed requires a bit more patience in the Vitara, it never feels sluggish, and its engine pulls consistently as the revs build. In contrast, there are annoying flat spots in the GS’s power delivery that make acceleration somewhat stuttery.

While neither engine creates much in the way of vibration, the GS’s is the more vocal at a steady motorway cruise and its gearshift and clutch pedals aren’t as slickly weighted as the Vitara’s. That said, Vitara occupants have to put up with more wind noise from the door mirrors and road noise from the tyres at a steady 70mph.

However, for those who value a comfortable ride, the Vitara does the better job of suppressing the UK’s pockmarked roads. It’s not perfect – sharp-edged bumps send the occasional jolt through the car – but it remains more settled than the GS along typical urban streets, as well as staying more controlled over the sort of dips and crests you might encounter on a country road.

Being the longer, wider and taller car, you’d expect the GS to weigh a bit more, but it actually carries a considerable 350kg weight penalty. This, combined with heavier, slower steering, makes the GS less easy to thread along meandering B-roads. The GS’s front tyres don’t grip as well as the Vitara’s through corners, either, and its body sways about more through tight bends. Let’s be clear: the Vitara is no driver’s dream, but it’s pleasant enough to mooch about in, and its lighter steering and tighter turning circle are a boon when parking and navigating narrow roads.

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