The MG HS is a hidden SUV gem

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The HS has always remained under the radar for most buyers, unless you were someone who knew about the brand specifically.

If you weren't, probably the only time you encountered this brand was when you entered your name for the NTUC lucky draw. This isn’t a brand new car, and has been on the market for quite some time. But, why hasn’t it caught on as much as some of the other SUVs?

Brand image is probably one reason why. Most people don’t even know the MG brand exists. Once an iconic symbol of British Leyland, the brand has been given a second wind thanks to massive Chinese funding and influence.

Gone are the days of springy two-seater sports cars, with the once feisty MG-DNA now being converted into sensible mass market cars.

PHOTO: Motorist

While it is a shame we will never receive the same youthful and sporty cars as before, I wouldn’t say this transition is ultimately a bad thing. In fact, some of their current models can easily stand toe-to-toe with some of the industry’s biggest brands.

One such model is the HS, an underdog who randomly showed up to a fight one day and then proceeded to wipe the floor with the rest.

A dinosaur in our strange modern times

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The HS can frankly be classified as old fashioned. There is no hybrid assistance or any cutting edge fuel saving formula, making it truly a bonafide dinosaur in the strange modern times we live in, where other automakers are scrambling to debut the next futuristic "eco-friendly" step in technology.

While MG does make electric variants such as the ZS and 5, none of that electric jargon made its way into their bigger sibling.

All you get is a turbo, and the sweet raw power of internal combustion.

You would expect an SUV like this to have a clunky CVT inside, won’t you? But, strangely (and pleasantly) the HS actually comes with a seven-speed DCT as standard. Yes, you heard me right. This HS has a DCT gearbox inside, meaning it can really put the power down. 

Speaking of power, this car doesn’t have much of it, but the 160bhp and 250Nm of torque available to you is mighty sufficient, and makes overtaking a fairly uneventful affair.

Unlike its CVT brethren, you can drop a gear and disappear... not really disappear, but at least the other car is now behind you.

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The car looks quite tame on the outside, but once you press the throttle more enthusiastically, you realise that it makes a frankly joyous sound.

People will turn and expect a riced out “sports car” upon hearing this, but they’ll be even more confused once they see this pass by.

I really like the sound the HS makes. And it gets even more pronounced when you press the cheeky red button on the steering wheel, dubbed the “Super Sport”.

This in turn holds the wastegate shut for longer, giving you a temporary increase in boost and power, and more importantly, a lot more sound. Lovely.

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Contrary to its fun-sounding exhaust, the HS does a good job with noise and vibration while driving. The ride is also fairly comfortable and gentle, which is great for daily commuting.

At speed this car is reasonably smooth, however at low speeds this gearbox can make the car quite jerky. Getting off the line smoothly can be quite a challenge. Apply a bit too much power, and the car tends to lunge forward.

Another concern is the power steering, which is set up to be gentle in the corners, and nothing more. You get four modes - Eco, Normal, Sport, and Custom. But none of the modes changes the steering feel.

Steering feels the same regardless of which mode you are in, which is fine if you're only using the HS for your daily commutes. It can be scary however, if you are driving in sport and want to take a corner at more enthusiastic speeds.

Fast, and still able to lug around all your belongings

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The HS only comes with one trim level in Singapore, but with that one trim you get loads, and I mean loads, of features. One such trinket is a powered tailgate, which is always a benefit in any SUV.

It does take its time to open and close though, which may be a slight bother when trying to unload things quickly.

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For a mid-sized SUV, boot space is decent at 463 litres, and you can fold the rear seats down to create an even more cavernous 1,287 litres of room.

Small bins are hidden underneath the boot floor too to stow away smaller items, or items you don’t want your wife to catch you with.

Space isn’t just a premium, it’s a given

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Jump into the HS, and the first thing you’ll notice is the abundant amount of space. With tall headroom and generous legroom, you can fit three adults nicely.

Plus, with the almost flat floor, there will not be any awkward jostling or touching knees with other passengers. Ventilation is decent too with rear centre air-con vents, and you also get two USB ports for charging.

Everything in this comes as standard, even the panoramic sunroof which is a feature that always impresses passengers. The front half can be opened to let fresh air in, if you’re the kind that likes to drive without air-con.

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Interestingly, the front features sports seats with bolstering and electric controls. This is a theme that continues with the HS, like it doesn’t really know what it wants to be. Family-centric cruiser, or a more sporty machine?

Still, I will say that the driver’s seat does feel rather premium. Your touchpoints areas are all covered in nice soft materials, and there’s a distinct lack of low-rent plastics.

For entertainment, a 10.1-inch touchscreen sits front and centre, which somewhat resembles those Windows phones from the early 2010s, with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to boast.

While it does its job, one complaint I have is that this is fairly laggy to use.

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You do get dedicated buttons to adjust things like music volume, but crucially some settings you need, like your HVAC controls, still need to be set via the touchscreen. Laggy screen combined with touch controls, and you can see why this isn’t the most elegant solution while driving.

The HS comes with a six speaker sound system which sounds alright for the most part.

If the default presets do not scratch your audiophile itch, there's always the option of diving into the menus and customising your o EQ settings. To match your music, and by extension your sick gaming desktop at home, you can also change the car’s ambient lighting, which surprisingly is full RGB.

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It also comes with what essentially is a chilled centre glove box, which comes in clutch when you want your drinks chilled to combat the heat we find ourselves in.

Overall, add all of these things up, and the end result is a premium feeling interior, which is even more impressive when you realise that this car at one point was sold brand new for less than $100,000.

You get “borrowed” looks for other great manufacturers

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I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who takes one look at the HS and goes, “Hold on… this looks familiar.” Indeed, from the front it appears as though some remnants of the KODO design language from Mazda has made its way onto the HS.

Even MG’s badge placement is mostly in the same spot, shrouded by their aptly named stellar field grille.

PHOTO: Motorist

The chrome trim pieces extend throughout the length of the car, culminating at the rear which “strangely” looks Mercedes-ish. If I’m honest, park this beside the current generation Mercedes GLA, and some may be hard pressed to tell them apart.

PHOTO: Motorist

But hey, if these design traits work well for the other manufacturers, no harm in taking inspiration from it right? MG also went a little more conservative on the overall design, keeping the HS with tame looks instead of going all out and brandishing it with obscene futuristic sharp angles like other manufacturers.

Yes, it may look the same as most other SUVs in your typical HDB carpark, but at least it isn’t trying too hard, and ends up looking inoffensive to the eyes.

It is still huge value for money

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It isn’t the latest or greatest model on the market now, but its competitive price still makes it quite a decent front runner in the mid-sized SUV segment. You’ll be hard pressed to find a similar model that has both as many features as well be around the same price bracket.

Of course, prices have since skyrocketed as a result of the recent increases in COE quota premiums. But that doesn't detract from the fact that you should still seriously consider the HS if you're after a bang-for-buck SUV that is practical yet fun.

This is a car that will please your family because of its space and comfort. Drop them off, press the super sport button, and the car will in turn impress you with its performance.

PHOTO: Motorist

The best way I can describe this car is like a cup of Yuan Yang. The coffee part is the exciting sporty bit, while the tea balances the car out with comfort and space.

Similar to the drink, I can't decide if I like one side over the other more. But, who says you can't enjoy both sides? 

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This article was first published in Motorist.