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Driven: 2023 MG HS PHEV. Image by MG Motor UK.

Driven: 2023 MG HS PHEV
How does the budget plug-in hybrid SUV stack up alongside rivals from more established mainstream brands?

   



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2023 MG HS PHEV

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MG has risen in the ranks of late, becoming a force to be reckoned with at the value-oriented end of the new car market. Such has been the brandís success that the MG HS Ė the flagship plug-in hybrid SUV Ė became the UKís best-selling car in January 2023. While even MG would admit that result was a bit of an anomaly, itís a sign of how far the brand has come. But is the HS really deserving of that accolade, and can it really compete with rivals from the likes of Peugeot and Volkswagen?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2023 MG HS PHEV Exclusive
Price: £34,290 as tested
Engine: 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine plus electric motor
Transmission: seven-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Battery: 16.6kWh lithium-ion (14.9kWh usable)
Power: 258hp
Torque: 370Nm
Emissions: 43g/km
Economy: 155.8mpg
Range: 32 miles (electric power only)
0-62mph: 6.9 seconds
Top speed: 118mph
Boot space: 448 litres

Styling

The HS looks vaguely reminiscent of the Mazda CX-5, particularly in this can't-believe-it's-not-Mazda shade of red, and whether that's intentional or not, it means the HS is fairly easy on the eye. Nobody will mistake it for a premium car, of course, but it's certainly not offensive and the big grille and chrome trim at least make it feel like a modern, mainstream car from the outside, even if it already looks a little bit dated.

Interior

In many ways, a similar description could apply to the MGís interior, which looks a bit like that of a modern SUV at first glance, but feels a little old-school when you get up close. It has all the features you expect Ė a touchscreen infotainment system and a digital instrument cluster Ė but the plastics feel a bit cheap in places and the steering wheel controls look like bargain-basement impressions of those found on an old VW Golf. That said, the touchscreen generally isnít too shabby at all, even if itís occasionally illogical, and the instrument cluster is easy to read. It doesnít have the polish of a Volkswagen or a Kia, but it does the same job in the end.

Practicality

Space in the MG HS is adequate, rather than impressive, but there's nothing wrong with a 448-litre boot, which is more generous than that of a Peugeot 3008 plug-in hybrid. Alongside non-hybrid rivals, though, space is a little tight. That said, there's plenty of space for passengers inside, with plenty of rear legroom and a reasonable amount of headroom for all but the very tallest passengers. And because there's no central transmission tunnel, you could seat three adults in the back fairly happily, although the central seat isn't especially comfortable.

Performance

The plug-in hybrid HS uses the same 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine as the standard HS, but it combines that with an electric motor and a 16.6kWh battery with 14.9kWh of usable capacity. That not only means you get 258hp, but 32 miles of electric-only motoring before the petrol engine kicks in. Of course, thatís theoretical and youíre probably talking about 25 miles in the real world, but thatís still enough to do most day-to-day journeys. If you can charge at home overnight (it takes four-and-a-half hours on a 7kW domestic wallbox charger), then youíll rarely use the petrol engine at all.

In that case, youíll find the MG HS quite smooth and quiet, as well as cheap to run. MG claims 155.8mpg on the official economy test, but we suspect thatíll be pie in the sky for many. Still, it will be economical for those with the right lifestyle. But when that petrol engine gets going, the promise of refinement is broken. The engine isnít too bad at lower revolutions, but it gets quite rowdy when you accelerate hard, and though performance isnít bad Ė 0-62mph takes 6.9 seconds Ė it makes a meal of it.

Donít go expecting any off-road capability, either, because although the HS has quite a bit of ground clearance, thereís no all-wheel-drive system. Fit some all-season or winter tyres, though, and it should cope as well as any other front-drive SUV when the snow comes down.

Ride & Handling

This is where the HS really falls down. Admittedly, most MG customers probably aren't to fussed about the way this car handles, but comfort is another matter. And though the HS feels soft and relatively smooth on the motorway, it lacks suppleness around town, where it's supposed to be at its smoothest and most efficient. Potholes seem to catch the car off-guard, sending a shudder through the bodywork, and even speed bumps give it a bit of trouble.

Ordinarily, such issues might be offset slightly by lively handling, but the HS doesn't really offer that, either. The steering wheel feels numb and lifeless in your hands, and the body wallows and rolls like an inebriated deckhand in corners. Add in disconcertingly soft brakes that seem unwilling to slow the car with any alacrity unless you mash your foot down and a noticeable shudder in the accelerator pedal, and the HS is not a pleasant car to drive quickly.

Value

In a world where cars often feel increasingly expensive, the MG HS is not. Prices start from just over £31,000, and that's very cheap for a plug-in hybrid SUV. The Peugeot 3008 range starts at £32,605 these days, and that only pays for a 1.2-litre petrol engine.

And it isn't like the HS is short on kit. Even the basic Excite models get a touchscreen infotainment system with satellite navigation and a 360-degree manoeuvring camera, as well as heated front seats, 18-inch alloy wheels and two-zone climate control. Moving up to the Exclusive version we tested adds leather sports seats, a power tailgate and rear privacy glass.

Verdict

At a glance Ė and at such a competitive price point Ė the MG HS looks like outstanding value, and theat doesnít change until you scratch the surface. Do that, and you realise a mediocre driving experience really holds it back alongside more polished alternatives. For those who arenít interested in cars, or for those who havenít tried anything else, that might not matter, but enthusiasts will be better served elsewhere.



James Fossdyke - 3 May 2023



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2023 MG HS PHEV. Image by MG Motor UK.2023 MG HS PHEV. Image by MG Motor UK.2023 MG HS PHEV. Image by MG Motor UK.2023 MG HS PHEV. Image by MG Motor UK.2023 MG HS PHEV. Image by MG Motor UK.

2023 MG HS PHEV. Image by MG Motor UK.2023 MG HS PHEV. Image by MG Motor UK.2023 MG HS PHEV. Image by MG Motor UK.    







 

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