Testing the MG RX5—Bavarian style and Bavarian substance

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Manny De Los Reyes
Manny De Los Reyes
Manny de los Reyes, motoring editor of wheels.ph as well as its print edition, has been writing about cars since 1995. His life has been deeply intertwined with cars, having cleaned and maintained the family cars as a teenager, operating a paint shop and entering national car shows in college, before joining Nissan after graduation. He handled car brands as a copywriter afterwards. Today, when he's not testing or writing about cars or attending motoring events, he is home reading novels or playing with his shih tzu.

Most car buyers make a short list of their prospective purchase based initially on looks and of course, pricing. Other factors like space, fuel economy, safety, comfort and convenience features often come after those first two. And when it comes to looks, it’s almost always the front of a car that makes the strongest first impression.     

Not so for the MG RX5—at least as far as I’m concerned. Don’t get me wrong. The RX5’s front end is pretty smooth—clean and unpretentious while still retaining premium (or even luxury) European styling cues like the multifaceted LED headlamps, the wide chrome-trimmed grille, and the powerful bulging hood. 

But walking around to look at the sides and rear of the car made me think of a completely different SUV—the BMW X3. Having ogled and studied cars all my life, I instantly get cases of déjà vu when a specific styling element catches my eye. In the case of MG‘s RX5, visions of the X3 and X5 rushed into my mind. The rear three-quarter of the RX5, with its distinctive dogleg on the rear quarter window and D-pillar is pure BMW Hofmeister Kink.

That Bavarian first impression is further consolidated when you look at the RX5’s rear. The purposeful sculpting of the tailgate, the large LED taillight clusters, the sportily angled backlight, the short and stubby wiper, and the subtle spoiler with the integrated LED third brake light all radiate ‘BMW!” I just wish the dual tailpipes on either end of the rear were proudly displayed instead of hidden behind the under-bumper diffuser.

If you’re a relatively new brand, you can’t go wrong channeling the design aura of a universally admired brand. The fact that MG went for BMW’s subtle but unmistakable rear end design signatures instead of a more blatant front-end redo makes the overall effort all the more admirable. Needless to say, I’m smitten.

But is there substance to back up the style?

BMW is a driver’s car. How is the MG RX5 on the road? Four words: Not bad at all. Sure, it’s no Nurburgring scorcher, but it’ll hold its own in everyday driving—and can even be spirited in the hands of a capable driver. The RX5’s engine—a state-of-the-art direct-injection turbocharged intercooled 1.5-liter DOHC 16-valve Euro 5-compliant motor developing 169hp and 250Nm of torque—is more than capable of spiritedly moving the RX5’s 3,300-pound mass, especially when you engage the manumatic function of the 7-speed DCT. Expect 7-9 km/l of fuel consumption in the city, improving to 12-14 km/l on freer roads (and even better when cruising). Thankfully, the DCT didn’t exhibit any of the usual DCT quirks of hesitation and shift lag. It’s still not as smooth as a conventional torque-converter automatic, but it’s close enough. 

The RX5 rides on well-tuned MacPherson strut front/independent multi-link rear suspension (MG didn’t scrimp by using a torsion beam rear suspension). It won’t carve apexes like Bavaria’s finest, but the overall ride/handling balance is right up there with the best SUVs and crossovers from Europe and Japan.   

  

Inside, there’s lots of room inside the finely crafted faux leather-covered cabin, thanks to a generous 2,700mm wheelbase (almost two inches longer than a Honda CR-V’s). The seats are large and well-padded and there is elegant double stitching found not just on the seats, but on the door panels and dashboard. All dash and door surfaces are covered either in the same faux leather that upholsters the seats or with soft-touch plastics. The center console has handsome wood trim.

Creature comforts/tech features include a 6-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, an 8-inch touchscreen Apple CarPlay-compatible 6-speaker multimedia infotainment system with USB port, a panoramic sunroof, an airconditioned glovebox, reversing camera with parking sensors, front and rear 12V outlets, electric parking brake, rear aircon vents and controls, 2-touch flat-folding rear seats, and audio/cruise control switches on the leather steering wheel, among many others. Safety features include an alphabet soup of ABS, EBD, BAS, ESC, CBC, HDC, HHC, TPMS, ISOFIX, etc.

Needless to say, the RX5 has impressively way more substance than its elegant and sporty exterior might suggest. Priced at P1,298,888 for the flagship RX5 Alpha (it starts at P1,058,888 for the RX5 Core M/T and has a P1,228,888 midrange RX5 Style A/T variant), it presents a truly compelling value proposition. Even if you’re not a German car lover.

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