New cut-price SUV arrives in Australia

Sales of this Chinese brand are booming, and the arrival of a new hi-tech and affordable hybrid SUV is only going to make it more popular.

Chinese carmakers have traditionally struggled to gain a foothold in the Australian market, but MG appears to have cracked the code.

Last month, it outsold established brands such as Subaru, Volkswagen and Honda, largely on the strength of its small MG3 hatch and ZS SUV.

Sales of the larger and more expensive HS have also improved and that should continue with the arrival of Australia’s cheapest plug-in hybrid SUV.

The HS plug-in hybrid costs $46,990 drive-away, an $8000 premium over the similarly equipped petrol model. That undercuts the cheapest version of its main rival, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, by about $5000, although the Mitsubishi is all-wheel-drive.

The petrol-electric model is the second of the brand’s “new energy vehicles”, following the launch of the smaller fully-electric ZS EV SUV last year. The new arrivals are part of the company’s broader strategy to make electrified vehicles more mainstream in Australia.

The HS plug-in combines a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine with a 90kW electric motor for a combined output of 189kW and 370Nm.

MG claims the SUV can be driven on pure electric power for up to 52km on a single charge, more than enough for the average daily commute.

The 16.6kWh battery can be recharged via a regular home power point in roughly seven hours. Installing a more powerful wallbox at home will cut that to about five hours.

Claimed fuel use of 1.7L/100km is mainly theoretical as once the battery is depleted the car will reverent to sipping about 7L/100km. Short trips get the best result.

The plug-in may be expensive compared to its petrol counterparts but it’s well equipped. Passengers are welcomed by firm and supportive leather and faux-suede seats that are both electronically adjustable and heated.

The cabin is adorned in soft plastics and leather, with all the touch points suitably padded for your comfort.

A 10-inch touchscreen incorporates satnav and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, but can be tricky to navigate.

Rear passengers will enjoy plenty of head, knee and shoulder room, as well as two aircon vents and a pair of USB charging points.

Boot space is ample at 451L or 1275L when the rear seats are folded down.

In the past Chinese cars have been criticised for their poor build quality and shonky craftsmanship, but the HS PHEV appears well screwed together.

There were no noticeable rattles or creaks during the drive and the fit-out and materials used were of comparable quality to mainstream brands. Long-term reliability remains an unknown quantity.

Driver assistance tech includes auto emergency braking, lane keep assist, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert and radar cruise control.

On the road the HS PHEV is quiet and refined. The electric motor does a good job of cruising in city traffic, with only the futuristic whirl of the zero-emission motor to disturb you. There is an occasional hesitation off the mark, though.

The petrol-electric combo has more than enough grunt on the open road, while good sound insulation makes for peaceful freeway driving.

Soft suspension soaks up most bumps without fuss but the car leans noticeably through corners.

The two-wheel drive set-up can struggle to put the electric motor’s ample instant torque down when accelerating off the mark, resulting in some tyre squealing.

MG only covers its electrified vehicles for five-years/unlimited km, while the rest of the range scores a seven-year guarantee.

The battery is covered for eight-years/160,000km. There is currently no capped priced servicing program.

VERDICT 3.5/5

Good looks, reasonable pricing and loads of features will draw in environmentally-conscious buyers but a longer warranty and capped price servicing would be welcome.

MG HS PHEV VITALS

Price: $46,990 drive-away

Warranty/servicing: 5-year/unl’td km, no capped price servicing

Engine: 1.5-litre 4-cyl and 90kW electric motor, 189kW/370Nm

Safety: 5 stars, 6 airbags, auto emergency braking, lane keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, radar cruise, speed sign recognition

Thirst: 1.7L/100km

Spare: None, repair kit

Cargo: 451L-1275L

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