MG’s latest plug-in hybrid HS SUV almost feels like a lightning bolt to drive, but could its high asking price prove to be its tripping point?
Photos: Clifford Chow and Leow Ju-Len
MG is a brand that continues to surprise and impress in the short time since returning to our shores. Its first two products that marked its relaunch here, the petrol-powered HS and electric ZS SUVs, were highly competitive products that offered great value. It was joined by the MG 5 electric station wagon that proved to be surprisingly excellent as a driving proposition as well as a practical family runabout.
Its latest addition is the HS PHEV, and, as the name suggests, is based upon the HS, which has been quite well-received by car buyers here, but now adds in a highly efficient plug-in hybrid drivetrain. It also means that three-quarters of MG’s local lineup is electrified in some way, further underlining the brand’s commitment towards electrification in Singapore.
The plug-in hybrid system adds another dimension to the already-excellent HS, not least with the promise of even greater efficiency and zero emissions motoring. Indeed, MG claims that the HS PHEV is able to return a fuel consumption figure of just 1.8L/100km, although frankly, that figure does seem like a bit of a stretch to achieve in the real world.
That’s just due to the nature of PHEVs, which offer relatively short electric driving ranges, in this case 52km. To be able to come close to MG’s quoted figure, one would need the ideal combination of being able to spare three to four hours pretty much every day to charge the car up at an available AC charger (the MG doesn’t take fast DC charging), and the discipline to restrict your driving to strictly within the car’s available electric range.
If you don’t have regular access to a charger though, the HS PHEV probably works best when left to toggle between electric and petrol engine modes. In that scenario, the more realistic fuel consumption figure would likely hover between 2 to 3 litres per 100km, depending on your right foot. It’s still not too shabby nonetheless, but definitely not quite the magic figure that MG claims.
The one slight niggle of driving the MG in hybrid mode is that the transition between electric and petrol engine doesn’t feel all that seamless as compared to other hybrids. When you put your foot down, there’s a momentarily lag as the drivetrain seemingly waits to decide how to properly make the shift between the two power sources. And when the petrol engine finally kicks in, it does so fairly audibly, and is not exactly the smoothest or quietest unit around.
That said, the other byproduct of the plug-in hybrid drivetrain is that the HS now gets quite the power boost. The petrol engine remains the same 1.5-litre turbo four-pot that produces 160hp and 250Nm of torque as in the regular HS. But the electric motor adds an extra 121hp and 230Nm of torque, which is a pretty significant amount, and results in a total combined output of 255hp and 370Nm of torque, driven through an equally-impressive 10-speed gearbox.
That’s more than what you get in a Volkswagen Golf GTI, and almost makes the HS PHEV a sort of mild performance SUV. Its century sprint time is quoted at 7.5 seconds, but it feels brisker than that if you have the full force of the electric motor available to deliver its plentiful instant torque. It can more than hold its own on the highway too, being able to reach and maintain triple digit speeds without much fuss.
Despite that, the HS PHEV is no sports car. It handles reasonably well in the corners, but there’s a noticeable amount of body roll if you push a little too hard. It’s easy to drive and relatively fuss-free, but if you’re seeking driving enjoyment and entertainment, then you should probably look elsewhere.
As a practical family SUV however, the HS PHEV pretty much ticks all the correct boxes. The basic shape and size is the same as the regular HS, with only the extra charging port flap on the right side of the car being its only external identifier as to its plug-in status. There’s a decent amount of space for passengers and cargo, although boot capacity is down slightly (by around 20 litres or so) due to the need to accommodate the additional hybrid hardware.
It also comes stacked full of equipment too, with standard features including a panoramic sunroof, intelligent automatic high beam headlights, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and an electric tailgate. The 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, but the system proved to be somewhat laggy and actually froze a couple of times during our test drive.
The HS PHEV’s biggest issue though lies in its price tag. MG lists the car now at S$99,888 without including a COE, but with Category B premiums now hovering around S$80,000 or so, the final retail price would come up to nearly S$180,000. It’s not helped by the fact that it doesn’t attract any rebates from the Vehicular Emissions Scheme (VES) despite the hybrid powertrain.
Whether consumers can stomach paying that amount of money for an MG remains to be seen, but viewed on its own merits, the HS PHEV does have quite a few things going for it, not least its decent performance, excellent premium features, and zero emissions driving capability. With a more reasonable price tag (or friendlier COE prices), the HS PHEV might probably be an even greater value purchase.
MG HS PHEV
|Engine||1,490cc, inline 4, turbocharged|
|Power||160hp at 5500rpm|
|Torque||250Nm at 1700-4300rpm|
|Electric Motor||121hp / 230Nm|
|Battery||Lithium ion, 16.6kWh|
|Charging Time / Type||Around 3 hours / 7.4kW AC charger|
|System Power / Torque||255hp / 370Nm|
|VES Banding||B / –|
|Price||S$99,888 without COE|
|Verdict:||MG’s plug-in hybrid SUV is a decent performer and well-equipped, but its high asking price blunts its appeal somewhat|
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