We find out where the new MG HS PHEV fits in the highly competitive plug-in hybrid SUV sector
3.5 out of 5
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MG’s plug-in hybrid is spacious and practical, and comes with a keen list price and the security of one of the longest warranties in the industry. These qualities should outshine a fairly average driving experience to attract not only company car choosers but also private buyers.
MG is a brand on the move again, grabbing a rapidly increasing share of the UK market thanks to a mix of strong finance offers, a long warranty and a couple of pure-electric models. But the Chinese-owned brand also has a halfway-house hybrid in its range – the HS Plug-in.
The HS is the largest model in MG’s range right now; it’s a full-size family SUV that aims to rival the likes of the Ford Kuga and Vauxhall Grandland. It comfortably undercuts those models on price, though; the HS Plug-in comes in at a whisker over £30,000, whereas the recently updated Grandland Hybrid starts at nearly £35,000 and Peugeot will ask you for a further two grand for a 3008 Hybrid.
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Those numbers mean that the MG could be an option not only for those wishing to slash their company car tax, but also private buyers who fancy the ability to complete lots of their local journeys with zero emissions.
Car group tests
Under the bonnet, MG’s familiar 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine is joined by an electric motor drawing power from a 16.6kWh battery, and a 10-speed automatic gearbox. MG claims it can deliver over 30 miles of pure-electric running, and WLTP efficiency figures of 43g/km of CO2 emissions and 156mpg mean that it drops into the Benefit-in-Kind tax rate of 11 per cent for company car users. The car should take around three hours to recharge on a 7kW home wallbox, so overnight fill-ups will be a doddle.
The total system output of the hybrid powertrain is 255bhp and 370Nm – plenty for a car of this size and weight (the small battery means it comes in at under 1,800kg). And sure enough, the HS feels noticeably more punchy than the conventional petrol HS. It never quite lives up to the claimed 0-60mph time of less than seven seconds, but it’s quick enough for most situations and will cruise along at motorway speeds without complaint.
Refinement isn’t a particularly strong point, though; other PHEVs are almost silent as they pull away in electric mode, but the HS delivers a noticeable motor whine at low speeds. And when the petrol engine does cut in, it sounds a little harsher than the units in some of the MG’s rivals.
Don’t expect the MG to deliver sporty handling to match that of the Kuga, either, because you’ll be disappointed. The ride is on the right side of soft for British roads, but while it does a good job of soaking up speed bumps and potholes, particularly at low speeds, it’s less proficient at keeping the subsequent pitching and rolling motions in check. The steering is inconsistently weighted too, so you end up with a dynamic package that falls apart if you try to hustle it down a B-road.
We’ve become used to MGs being acceptable inside rather than luxurious, and the same applies to the HS. The finish is better than you’d find in the smaller 3 and ZS, with softer trim on the dashboard and door linings, but the design is pretty plain and uninspiring.
The dashboard features a fully digital instrument panel, albeit one with slightly cheesy graphics, along with a more sensible 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system, incorporating Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration. We’d certainly rather use the phone hook-ups than the built-in navigation, though, because it’s fiddly to use.
Where the MG does score is space, because it’s huge inside. There’s plenty of room for four adults, and while you do sacrifice a little boot space to make room for the hybrid battery, the 448-litre capacity should be plenty for most everyday uses. You can lower the rear seats to extend it to 1,375 litres, but the second row doesn’t fold down completely flat, so it leaves an awkward step in the floor.
There are only two trim levels. Excite brings 18-inch alloys, heated front seats, auto headlights and wipers, keyless entry, a parking camera and silver roof rails. Step up to Exclusive and you’ll get a powered tailgate, a panoramic roof, full-leather upholstery, ambient cabin lighting and LED headlights.
MG HG Plug-in Hybrid Exclusive
1.5-litre, 4cyl turbo petrol-electric hybrid
10-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
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