Tradition is meant to be broken. Or at least that’s what every car manufacturer with a storied past appears to be thinking nowadays. So, even for a brand as steeped in tradition as MG is, the decision to break with convention and venture into the world of SUVs would have been relatively easy seeing that marques like Porsche and Maserati have already done that. Moreover, it didn’t have much of a choice anyway. Staring down the scary barrel of bankruptcy and extinction early this decade, the brand had been reduced to a wretched shadow of Herbert Austin’s once-great Morris Garages. But as has been the case with many a struggling carmaker over the past few years, a knight in shining armour emerged from the East, and extended a long rope. But at the other end of the rope was an SUV, a proposition MG was in no state to refuse.
Although not as grand a plan as what Geely had for Volvo, Chinese auto major SAIC also had a plan in place for its new acquisition. And this plan was shipping relatively much cheaper Chinese made knockdown kits to MG’s historic Longbridge plant and assembling the cars there to retain their essential ‘Britishness’. Well, we now know that the plan didn’t work well as MG announced this September that it will stop making cars in the UK and the production will move to China. With the first models to come out after the takeover, the MG6 and the MG3, receiving lukewarm reception from the market, the parent company has pinned all its hope on the GS SUV’s success to keep the brand breathing.
And it seems to have got the formula right with the GS. For a crossover in this segment, it looks pretty decent. MG calls the design language “Diamond-cut Flow” and “Faceted Flow” car body design. Well, I find it hard to see the diamond cuts here, but if what the carmaker has tried to convey is sharp, chiselled lines, then the GS has got that. Even the cabin is well put together, although hard plastics and a lackluster layout take the sheen off a bit. But it does come equipped with electric seats, automatic climate control, rear parking camera and an electronic parking brake, so it doesn’t feel as basic as a Renault Duster for instance. Finding the right driving position isn’t a challenge, however the seats aren’t as supportive as they look, especially on longer drives or if you get stuck in traffic.
While the GS sold in other markets get a 1.5-litre turbocharged engine that makes 164bhp, the Middle East gets a 2.0-litre turbo motor that’s good for 220bhp. It’s heartening to see that for once our market isn’t short-changed when it comes to powertrains on offer. Mated to a six-speed dual-clutch transmission, the engine is impressively responsive in the mid- and high ranges. However, getting there takes some time. The 2.0-litre four-pot suffers from a terrible case of turbo lag, and you’ll be faced with a couple of seconds of complete dormancy before the car starts to move. But once it gathers pace, it’s one of the peppiest mills in this segment. The suspension hits a sweet spot between comfort and agility, while the electric power steering makes it quite easy to manoeuvre in urban traffic and into tight parking spots. It’s got an intelligent all-wheel drive system, but off-road escapades are best limited to dirt patches.
MG says safety has been given priority in the GS, with its lightweight body structure benefiting from up to 74 per cent of high-tensile steel. While that and features like electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes are common to all the trim levels, it’s disappointing to note that the all-round six airbags in our top-spec tester isn’t available in the lower variants. The entry-level models only have two front airbags, so they aren’t recommended as a family car option, as they do not offer the maximum available protection to your precious cargo at the back.
So, if you’re buying the GS, go for the top-of-the-line Luxury trim, as even that variant is priced reasonably at Dh73,000. It might not be the best-looking or best-driving car in the segment, which has many strong contenders like the Mazda CX-5 and the Nissan Qashqai among others, but the new MG GS is definitely great value for money.