MG HS 1.5 TST Trophy: For the win

MG, the revenant brand synonymous with traditional British sports cars, is performing something of a sales miracle in the Philippines not with rear-wheel drive two-seaters, but with a range of sensible sedans and crossovers. Last year, they’ve managed to record a milestone year by moving 6,343 units—their best-ever annual sales figure in its 3-year existence. Out of that figure, 65 percent is the MG ZS subcompact SUV. It’s a sign, perhaps, that MG is playing its cards in the right segments at the right time.

Without a doubt, one of the allures of the brand is its pricing. After all, few brands can match how they can chuck a sensible amount of tech and convenience features in a package that doesn’t break the bank. Keeping that in mind, what would prospective MG buyers think of a P 1,208,888 compact SUV? That’s exactly what the MG HS Trophy is. It’s a compact SUV that now sits atop the local MG range.

At this price, MG finds itself sandwiched between some formidable opponents like the Chery Tiggo 7 Pro, Ford Territory, and Geely Coolray being the chief ones. And then, you have outliers like the Honda HR-V, Kia Seltos, and Toyota Corolla Cross, which are a size smaller and barer in terms of features. No matter how you swing it though, it’s going to be a tough fight, but it’s one that the MG HS is determined to win.

Things start out great with a design that’s clean, elegant, and clearly familial. Compared to the MG RX5, which will be retained in the local line-up, the MG HS looks like the true big brother to the MG ZS. The same Stardust grille, fancy LED lighting (they even do an animated dance on start-up), and the upward kink on the C-pillar are all recognizable MG cues by now. The MG HS also happens to get some de rigueur performance cues like the dual exhaust pipes and 235/50R18 tires.

Thankfully, the MG HS has some bite to match in the form of a turbocharged 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. In this case, the direct-injected engine puts out 169hp and 250Nm of torque—which aren’t class-leading figures per se, but remain impressive in a car of this size and price.

In a quick jaunt around an empty subdivision that was closed off by MG Philippines for filming purposes, the MG HS feels quick and prompt. Compared to the RX5 which almost always battled with its dual clutch transmission, the MG HS is way more compliant. It goes through the gears in a smooth, predictable manner with almost no shudder. With no other vehicular traffic around, it was “flog or nothing” during this short romp. It’s hard to determine how it would drive in Manila’s horrendous stop-and-go traffic, but if this hour-long experience behind the wheel leaves an impression, it’s that MG is on the right track.

Despite the sporty looks and turbocharged engine, the MG HS is definitely tuned for comfort. Honestly, it’s a breath of fresh air from many other compact SUVs that claim firmness to be part of their charm. In this case, it’ll deal with bumps and undulations remarkably well, and the abundance of noise filtering keeps the cabin nice and quiet. The plushness, however, does have a tradeoff and here, it’s particularly prone to body roll when pushed. It’s nothing alarming, but it can feel a tad lumbering when pushed hard through runabouts and corners. Still, MG deserves credit for their work on the MG HS.

Inside, it’s hard to find any scratchy plastic with fine materials and padded textures covering virtually everything. The cabin layout is beautifully spartan with only a handful of switches adorning the dash beneath the 10-inch touchscreen. Similar to the MG ZS T, navigating through the combination of on-screen buttons and the physical piano keys takes some getting used to. Meanwhile, the driver is welcomed by a 12.3-inch virtual driver display that changes depending on the selected drive mode.

The front seats are wonderfully shaped one-piece buckets that make a great Recaro impression. They’re softer than they look though, but supportive enough to keep the front occupants in place during more spirited maneuvers. At first, the thickness of the front seats looks to rob some of the rear leg room, but settling in at the back reveals no such worries. There are gobs of knee room at the back and despite the “Stargazer” panoramic sunroof, enough headroom to fit a 6-ft person easy.

The large glass roof aside, MG hasn’t forgotten that value is ultimately what Filipino buyers sought out in them. With that, the MG HS scores high in terms of tech and convenience features. It gets a dual-zone climate control system with rear air vents, ambient interior lighting, a power tailgate, and most important in today’s pandemic-stricken world, a built-in cabin filtration system. It’s also a pretty solid package in terms of safety with its tire pressure monitoring system and blind spot detection on top of the usual airbags, ABS with EBD, stability control, and parking sensors/camera.

MG Philippines came into the market strong, performing in segments that never really crossed the million-peso mark. However, with the arrival of the MG ZST and now, the MG HS, it shows a kind of brand confidence building up. Without really forgetting its value positioning, the brand is now coming up with vehicles that will get the attention of even the most discerning enthusiast. No matter how you stretch it, P 1,208,888 isn’t a lot of money, and honestly, that won’t get you much in terms of a brand-new car. However, with the MG HS, that money goes a long, long way. It’s everything you really need and want in a compact SUV minus, perhaps, the hefty price.

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