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First drive: MG’s GS gains a makeover

Upgraded trim and engine for MG’s crucial second-gen GS mid-size SUV

MG logo24 Apr 2019

By NEIL DOWLING in SHANGHAI

MG MOTOR’S new-generation GS will increase in size, in-cabin technology and engine potency when it launches later this year into the hotly contested mid-size SUV market – Australia’s favourite vehicle segment.
 
Although badged as HS in China, stepping up the alphabet ladder to reflect the significant updates, the mid-size SUV will likely retain the GS moniker in Australia due to the awareness of the nameplate, according to MG Motor Australia product planning director Pavel Meck.
 
“It (the name) is still under discussion but we don’t want to erode the following and familiarity we have with the GS badge,” he said during the international first drive of the HS in Shanghai last week.
 
Last year, MG sold 333 units of its GS crossover, a healthy 119.1 per cent increase over 2017’s tally, although still last on the brands charts behind the ZS small SUV (1692), MG3 hatchback (564) and MG6 Plus sedan (418).
 
In the first quarter of 2019 however, the GS has moved to third place with 114 new registrations (+132.7% year on year) ahead of the MG6 Plus (110 sales, +52.8%), but behind the ZS (756 sales, +563.2%) and MG3 (736 sales, +4229%).
 
Crucially, the new GS will compete in the thriving sub-$60,000 mid-size SUV segment led this year by the Mazda CX-5 (7118 sales, +7.8%), Mitsubishi Outlander (4905 sales, +22.8%) and Toyota RAV4 (4855, -12.9%) – the latter of which is expected to get a boost from the launch of a new-generation model next month.
 
Though the MG GS will face an uphill battle for market share, the new crossover grows by 74mm and 70mm in overall length and wheelbase respectively, while also being 21mm wider and 40mm lower, with only a marginal increase in weight.
 
Inside, the biggest difference in new-generation form is the addition of a larger touchscreen that – in China alone – will come with Alibaba software called Ali OS that includes fleet management tools and voice-activated search functionality. 
 
Australian versions however, will still benefit from a far easier to use and more attractive dashboard that includes the 10.0-inch centre screen backed up by a TFT virtual instrument panel that stretches 12.3-inches behind the steering wheel.
 
Placing the large screen above the centre console has lowered the centre vents, while the bank of buttons ahead of the gear shifter is now condensed into satin-alloy controls on either side of that shift lever.
 
Inside is an improvement in cabin design and a noticeable increase in quality, with fit and finish well into upper-level Japanese car class. 
 
The top-tier Trophy variant sampled here gains a leather cabin that is pleated and matched to the satin-alloy finishes, as well as piano-black trim and air vents, and soft-touch dash lining.
 
Rear seat room is better in the new model, mainly thanks to the 70mm increase in wheelbase, but also because of the more comfortable seats with longer thigh support.
 
Attention has also been given to rear ingress and egress, with the rear doors opening wider than before.
 
Although exact boot measurements were not given, the space appears similar to the existing GS, and includes a false floor to secure goods above the space-saver spare. When asked if the extra room could be used for a full-sized fifth wheel, the question went unanswered.
 
On the road at SAIC’s extensive test track near Shanghai – the biggest vehicle test facility in Asia – the HS shows a more mature ride and handling package, stepping up from the current GS with a firmer suspension setting and more positive steering feel.
 
This was a Chinese specified HS and things could improve further for Australia with added local suspension tweaks and tuning.
 
The HS Trophy is similar in specification to the current top-spec MG Essence X, with a carryover 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine and six-speed dual-clutch transmission that feeds power to the road via an on-demand all-wheel drive system.
 
MG quotes 170kW/360Nm for the engine, slightly up from the current model’s 162kW/350Nm. 
 
Fuel consumption however, is down to 8.6 litres per 100km compared to the GS’s 9.6L/100km, though the Chinese data doesn’t declare the test cycle used. 
 
Performance differences between the GS and HS were not noticeable on the test road used within the proving ground near Shanghai. 
 
The HS was run up to about 120km/h over the various road surfaces – broken concrete, smooth bitumen and corrugations – with four adults on a number of runs, and showed good control and happy passengers.
 
No prices or final specifications have been announced, though it appears the range will be similar to the current model and the 1.5-litre engine will remain as the entry-level power plant.
 
For reference, the existing GS kicks off at $23,990 before on-road costs for the two-wheel-drive manual Vivid, and tops out at $34,990 for the automatic all-paw Essence X.

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