The recent SMMT Test Day at the Millbrook Proving Ground had one or two surprises in store for those attending. One of them came via MG Motor UK – in addition to the MG3 and MG6, the company was also displaying the soon-to-be-launched MG GS as a static exhibit.
Rather like the new series of Top Gear, the MG GS has come in for a fair bit of abuse long before anyone has even experienced it. All the motoring social media portals have been chuntering away about the GS for a while now and, as to be expected, the normal ill-informed and xenophobic comments can be found.
My own take is to reserve judgment until the facts are known and the product has been sampled, but I will say this: MG needs to pull the rabbit out of the hat with this new model – if handled correctly, though, I think the car has the potential to make a few ripples if not a huge splash when it goes on public launch.
Personally, I think the MG6 is dead in the water. Sales remain poor and its Euro 5 diesel engine becomes obsolete very shortly, so the GS could very well be the car the company needs to gain the confidence of both the fleet and retail sectors. On the other hand, the little MG3 is genuinely smile-inducing in a tight corner and, for its value-led asking price offers a roomy five-door body with a level of trim no other rival can offer – it just desperately needs a zesty power unit to match its cheeky looks!
So, the MG GS: what’s it really like? Well, the car on show was a static exhibit, so sadly there was no opportunity to drive one around the superb Millbrook facility, but that didn’t stop anyone having a really good poke around inside the car. First contact proves that SAIC Motor is getting a grip on how a car should look and feel and, whereas the MG6 is a mish-mash of inconsistencies so far as textures are concerned, the GS’s interior feels well-engineered and soft in touch where it needs to be.
All of the controls and switches have a pleasant damped feel to the them when you twiddle the knobs and the grain of the leather on the seat facings has a nice semi-rouched look. That’s 100 per cent better than the current top-spec MG3 and 6 models.
There’s plenty of room all round and, when you pull the weighty door shut, you’re treated to a reassuring thunk. Exterior panel fit and paint work seems on a par with rival makers – I certainly didn’t notice any wonky gaps, kinked door seals or loose fitting handles during my examination of the car.
Popping open the bonnet shows a roomy engine bay for the 1.5 16v turbo so this is bound to bring sensible servicing prices when it’s due. The overall packaging looks impressive, even though the display car came fully-assembled from China the view under the hood is as good as any other European-built small SUV… Might this 1.5 turbo engine find its way into the MG3 in the near future?
Round the rear, there’s a decent-sized boot so, as far as a family hack matters, the GS seems to have the practicality boxes ticked. On the whole, my first impressions were good, but it’s not perfect. Some of the incidental plastics are hard and cold to the touch but they are on rival models as well these days.
That said, the MG GS seems to be a more fully-honed product and light years ahead of the MG6 in terms of quality and overall appeal. MG Motor UK is keeping tight-lipped about launch specification and prices but we are led to believe there’s a trio of trim levels and that both manual and auto variants will be offered. MG is also saying nothing about diesels at the moment.
MG is not ruling out UK production if sales volumes demand it – let’s hope so for now. However, as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the tasting, and MG has invited us along to the Launch Event in Oxfordshire in a couple of weeks’ time, so we’ll let you know what it’s like out on the road.
Hopefully, MG Motor UK will really push this rather important new model on the marketing front – previous marketing campaigns have either been laughingly poor or half-hearted to say the least. Marketed hard and professionally, though, this new car might just make a difference in terms of numbers.