People who see the MG badge want to know why we’re not seeing it on a sports car. The simple answer is that isn’t where the money is. Look around you and it’s obvious that the big money is in crossovers and SUVs. that’s why after the 3 hatchback MG set to work on the GS SUV and why its next model will be the XS compact crossover. If MG wants to start building the type of cars it was once famous for, first it needs to make some money and it’s hoping the GS is the way to do it.
MG is another company in the vein of SsangYong – looking to build the brand up with unfussy, unpretentious vehicles that come packed with equipment for relatively little money.
Take, for example, the entry level GS Excite which starts at £15,095. That’s around the price of a Nissan Juke or Renault Captur but £4,000 cheaper than a Qashqai or Kadjar despite it being in the same class as the latter two.
MG GS Exclusive
Engine: 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, turbo, petrol
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Top speed: 118mph
0-62mph: 9.6 seconds
CO2 emissions: 139g/km
The top-of-the-range Exclusive model we drove weighed in at £19,595. That’s just £300 more than a base-spec Qashqai and £200 cheaper than an entry-level Kadjar.
For your money you get all the sorts of gadgets you’d expect from a range-topping C-segment SUV. 18-inch alloys; eight-inch touchscreen with DAB, Mirrorlink and sat nav; LED running and tail lights; auto lighting and wipers; parking camera and sensors; heated electrically-adjustable leather seats; reclining rear seats and the full Scrabble board of safety acronyms.
It’s a strong high-value offering, even if more expensive rivals offer more of the very latest in safety and convenience technology.
As is perhaps to be expected the GS isn’t a flashy car. It doesn’t look obviously budget but neither does it do much to stand out from the crowd.
Inside it isn’t showy or innovative but there’s not much wrong with it either. The material quality is what you’d expect for a car at the cheaper end of the segment. It’s not stellar but nor is obviously bargain-basement. The driving position is too high-set but the seats are comfortable and around you the cabin layout is logical and clear. There are a lot of buttons but at least they’re big, clear and easy to use.
The cabin is also a decent size for a family vehicle. There’s a lot of space and adjustment for the driver, and passengers front and rear have a good amount of room to spread out. The 483-litre boot is also near the top end for the class.
Under the bonnet, the GS offers just one engine – a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol that can be had with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic gearbox. For a car operating at the budget end of the market, the engine is surprisingly smooth and refined. It stays relatively quiet and unobtrusive unless you’re really thrashing it. It’s not particularly potent, though. With 164bhp it’s nippy up to about 40mph but then runs out of puff.
Overall, the GS’s driving experience isn’t its strongest point. It’s not going to bother the car-like Seat Ateca, Peugeot 3008 or even the Qashqai. There’s a lot of lean and not a lot of feel or feedback from the steering. Anyone expecting this MG badge-wearer to honour the spirit of its sports car predecessors will be disappointed but treat it sensibly and it’s acceptable, if not involving.
At the end of the day, though, the GS isn’t a car that anyone is buying for edge-of-the-seat driving. It’s all about the value. More expensive rivals feel higher quality, offer more of the latest technology and have a broader spread of drivetrains. But they are significantly more expensive and the GS doesn’t look or feel as cheap as the price might suggest.
If you can live with the limited drivetrain offering the GS offers plenty of bang for your buck.