MGâ€™s first SUV is a mixed bag of solid performance, space and value plus a jittery ride and inconsistent quality
Excuse the excess of capital letters, but the Birmingham-designed GS is MGâ€™s first SUV. Part-built GSs are brought over from China to Britain for final assembly and for the attachment of a tempting sub-Â£15,000 price ticket.
The MG 3 supermini has done pretty well since its 2013 launch,Â but the MG 6 family hatchbackÂ hasnâ€™t. Itâ€™s been killed off in the UK. Will this family-sized soft-roader succeed here?
It gets a decent start with distinctive styling that both conceals its size â€“ the GS is bigger in every direction than a Qashqai â€“Â and makes it look more expensive than it is. The only jarring notes are the tailgateâ€™s deep expanse of creased metal and (on our test vehicle at least) the variability of panel gaps and paint matches.
Under the skin, thereâ€™s nothing revolutionary about the so far front-wheel drive only chassis powered by a 164bhp turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol engine with a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. MGâ€™s 1.9-litre dieselÂ is reputed to be coming along later.
You sit upright in a reasonably comfy, if flat and not that grippy, cloth seat. No soft-touch materials take the edge off the grainy dash plastics. The leathery bits on the outer sections of the centre console are a token effort at adding luxury. Gloss back coverings here and there do add a little richness but the overall ambience is dictated by cheap-feeling fixtures and fittings.
Interior space is good, with more head and leg room and boot loading length than you get in the similarly priced Suzuki Vitara and 60/40 splitting back seats that fold flat. The entry-level GS comes with manual air-con, cruise control, electric windows, and automatic headlights. It also gets a 6.0in touchscreen infotainment system with a radio, aux-in and USB inputs, but without Bluetooth, which is a shame. Moving up to our carâ€™s mid-spec Excite trim adds that along with a bigger touchscreen, DAB tuner, MirrorLink for Android and Symbian smartphones and a reversing camera. Only the top spec GS includes sat-nav, but generally speaking the GSâ€™s equipment levels compare very favourably to others at this price level.
MG quotes 9.6 seconds for the 0 to 62mph but our car dipped under the nineÂ second mark. Thatâ€™s quick for a class in which anything under 10.5 second is good. The GS is quiet at idle and in town, and it pulls well from low revs thanks to its peak torque arriving at well under 2000rpm. Itâ€™s not smooth at high revs, though. Nor is it even in its power delivery, with an annoying flat spot at 3000rpm.
Braking is more consistent, albeit with a degree of forward pitch under heavy stops. The steering too is fine with good weight if not over-generous feedback. Unfortunately the GS doesnâ€™t ride very well at all. Itâ€™s unsettled on even moderately bumpy roads. Still, the car has good stability and grip and a reassuring sense of security that you donâ€™t always get with high-riding SUVs.
Our real-world economy figure of 38.4mpg was reasonable if a bit distant from the official claim of 46.3mpg.
Thereâ€™s money to be made in the crossover segment, but new entries into this market are up against some of the best pound for pound vehicles in the industry. A low price alone is no longer enough. In order to compete properly the GS needs a lift in all-round ability. Broken down into individual elements, that means a smoother ride, a higher-quality cabin, more sophisticated infotainment and comfort systems and a more economical engine. As it stands, itâ€™s two or three-tenths less capable than a QashqaiÂ orÂ a Kuga.