First drive: The MG HS PHEV brings electrification to this family SUV

·6-min read

What is it?

MG HS PHEV
The MG HS PHEV’s charging port is handily located

Just imagine if a couple of decades ago you’d said that MG’s most powerful car would be a hybrid SUV? It would have seemed pretty shocking, but well, here we are, with the HS PHEV being the brand’s latest battery-assisted model as it targets 50 per cent of its sales to be electrified before the end of the year.

The HS is MG’s largest model, rivalling the likes of the Nissan Qashqai and Ford Kuga, and arrived in dealers towards the end of 2019, but solely with a lacklustre petrol engine that proved thirsty to run. Can this new plug-in option prove to be the powertrain the HS always needed, though? Let’s find out.

What’s new?

MG HS PHEV
The HS is MG’s largest SUV

So, you guessed it, all that’s really new here is what’s under the surface, with this electrified HS being the first plug-in hybrid model from MG, though it sits alongside the fully electric ZS EV and MG5 models.

Bringing greater long-distance flexibility than an EV, but still with the ability to run on electricity for a decent number of miles, it joins an ever-growing range of plug-in hybrid SUVs, including the Ford Kuga PHEV and Vauxhall Grandland X Hybrid.

What’s under the bonnet?

MG HS PHEV
A 1.5-litre petrol engine combines with an electric motor and batteries

Rather than start from scratch, the HS PHEV uses the same turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol engine from the regular model but joins it with a 90kW electric motor. The combined sum is 254bhp and 370Nm of torque, meaning this MG is certainly not lacking in grunt. Power is delivered to the front wheels through a 10-speed automatic gearbox.

The sprint to 60mph takes 6.9 seconds – a figure that could rival some hot hatches – with a top speed of 118mph possible. A 16.6kWh battery also allows for a 32-mile electric range and provided you plug in regularly (charging takes three hours with a 7kW wallbox or seven hours with a three-pin socket), there’s scope for some very low running costs.

MG says it will return 155.8mpg, with CO2 emissions of 43g/km giving it a benefit-in-kind of 11 per cent, making it an appealing company car choice.

What’s it like to drive?

MG HS PHEV
The HS is one of MG’s latest electrified vehicles

Sometimes cars don’t look all that impressive on paper but just impress behind the wheel. Other times, it works the opposite way around, and for the HS Plug-in Hybrid, that’s most certainly the case.

So, despite that impressive power figure, it never feels especially quick, and with its rather vocal engine, it’s not a pleasant experience to really put your foot down, either. There’s also a really vague feel to the way it drives, with little communication to the steering and brake pedal.

Granted, this is a hybrid SUV so it’s never going to be great fun to drive, but rivals certainly manage far better in this department.

The hybrid system is also a bit questionable. Although it will run for close to 30 miles on electricity in real-world conditions, it lacks the intelligence of other models, seemingly either running purely as an EV or a petrol and not being able to combine the two for the best of both worlds.

How does it look?

MG HS PHEV
MG is pushing forward with its electrification plans

Though some might turn their nose up at the thought of the MG, we actually reckon the HS is a quite appealing looking car, and one of the more stylish in this segment. It’s got a sharp front end, with neat LED headlights and large alloy wheels, too. The intricate chrome grille also helps to give a more upmarket look, too.

The only thing we’d say is that the HS PHEV somehow lacks a bit of identity. Hide those MG badges and it has certain anonymity to it, looking like a mismatch of various other SUVs. That said, the overall combination is quite effective.

What’s it like inside?

MG HS PHEV
The cabin features a large central screen

Probably the best thing about the HS is its interior, which genuinely feels quite upmarket. Particularly in a top-spec Exclusive trim, you’re treated to elements like leather sports seats and a full-length glass roof, which really add to the appeal. The overall quality is excellent, too, while a clear digital dial system is one of the best to use.The only real gripe is the touchscreen. While coming with a range of features, it’s quite dim-witted to use as well as distracting to use on the move, with even climate settings nestled within it.

On the plus side, the HS PHEV’s interior offers plenty of space. There’s a generous amount of rear-seat room, even for adults, while the 448-litre is a decent size, and has underfloor storage to keep the charging cables out of the way too.

What’s the spec like?

MG HS PHEV
The drivers display shows how the powertrain is working

Regardless of trim level, standard equipment on the HS PHEV is impressive. Even Excite models come with 18-inch alloy wheels, a 10.1-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation and smartphone mirroring, a 360-degree camera and keyless start and entry. A comprehensive range of driver assistance technology is also included.The top-spec Exclusive is packed with features, though, adding LED lights with scrolling indicators, leather upholstery and electric front seats.

MG has always prided itself on value, and the HS PHEV is no different, with prices starting from £30,095 for the Excite and £32,595 for the Exclusive. Though it is significantly more expensive (around £8,000) than a regular petrol HS, it’s still the cheapest plug-in hybrid SUV on the market today of this size. A seven-year warranty is also included.

Verdict

The MG HS PHEV is a really mixed bag overall. There are some aspects – its interior, for example – that really impress and feel a notch above rivals. Generous standard kit levels and attractive pricing, at least for a PHEV, make it an appealing option for those looking for a roomy family SUV that will also be cheap to run.

But the driving experience and powertrain leave plenty to be desired, and it doesn’t feel anywhere near as well-integrated as many rivals. Though models like the Ford Kuga PHEV might be a few thousand pounds more expensive, we reckon they’re worth it.

  • Model: MG HS Plug-in Hybrid

  • Base price: £30,095

  • Model as tested: MG HS Plug-in Hybrid Exclusive

  • Price as tested: £32,595

  • Engine: 1.5-litre petrol-electric PHEV

  • Power: 254bhp

  • Torque: 370Nm

  • Max speed: 118mph

  • 0-60mph: 6.9 seconds

  • MPG: 155.8mpg

  • Emissions: 43g/km

  • Range: 32 miles