MG HS Plus EV Essence PHEV car review
One week living with the MG HS EV Essence PHEV.
The revival of the MG brand under a new Chinese ownership group has shaken up the new car market somewhat, with some well-priced vehicles hitting our shores. MG has made a splash recently with the MG ZS EV being the cheapest electric vehicle on the market. It has a plug-in hybrid now too, the HS Plus Essence EV (quite the mouthful, I know), which MG lent to us for the week.
The Essence is the top-spec model of the two in the HS line-up, the other being the Excite. The Essence sells for $56k while the Excite is $52k. Both qualify for the Clean Car Discount, and you’ll get $5750 back.
The extra $4000 for the Essence gets you plenty of trimmings, including a panoramic sunroof, bigger 18'' wheels, super-bright LED headlights, 360° camera and (my personal favourite) lights under the wing mirrors that project the MG logo at your feet when you unlock the car at night. Most Grand.
Size-wise, it’s a medium SUV which pits it against vehicles such as the Toyota RAV4. It looks really nice inside and it has a luxury feel that defies its price tag. The Essence has sports seats in leather which I found quite comfortable, though you can’t adjust the headrest so they might not be for everyone.
The infotainment screen is large and crisp but can take a while to boot up and do things, especially when you hit the navigation button. While you can do most things on the screen itself, below it is a series of switches that act as shortcuts for volume controls and for heading straight to the climate settings. The dashboard is all digital and flash looking, with a clear display of all the info you need.
All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by everything inside.
How we test
Each vehicle we trial gets the same treatment: a week of commuting in rush hour from Lower Hutt to Consumer HQ (a round trip of 28km); a run to the supermarket; and a drive over the Remutaka Hill and back, to see how it goes on a longer weekend trip. In total this makes for about 270km of motoring.
We record fuel use (both actual and on the trip computer) and measure electricity usage where appropriate, with PHEVs and EVs. The actual fuel use is measured by filling the tank to the brim at the start of the trial and then again at the end, and comparing numbers. It’s an inexact science that we use as a check, but it’s still a real-world appraisal – just one you take with a grain of salt.
If you leave the MG to its own devices, it runs as a hybrid on the motorway and only turns into EV mode in the city. It’s not that it isn’t capable of running the vehicle in EV-only mode at motorway speeds, it just hasn’t been programmed that way.
You can put it into EV mode, though, by pressing a button next to the gear lever, and it will change to electric-only driving.
However, it won’t do this when you first start the car on cooler mornings. For me, it warmed things up first and needed about 5km of driving before it’d let me switch over from hybrid driving.
That meant it used petrol each morning rather than powering in EV-only mode like most of the other PHEVs I’ve recently driven, and the trip computer returned an average of 0.8L/100km on my commute – it’s not much at all.
When it’s in EV mode, the motor whines and sounds a bit like a jet engine. This is easily drowned out by the radio if you don’t like it. I didn’t mind it though, because it’s the closest I’ll ever get to being a Top Gun fighter pilot.
The extra money you pay for the Essence gets you a 360° camera, which is good for parking. But you still feel it’s a decent-sized car when manoeuvring into spaces. It doesn’t have front parking sensors to go along with that camera. Sometimes I get really annoyed with parking sensors and turn them off, but here I was surprised by their conspicuous absence.
Since it’s a bigger car, it also has a bigger boot which will suit families well.
A medium SUV is usually a comfy way to tackle a longer trip and the MG doesn’t disappoint. I set it to EV mode as soon as it allowed me to. However, it kicked into hybrid mode when I started the climb up and over the Remutaka Hill and that meant it had plenty of power to ascend. On the way down to Wairarapa, it was in EV mode and gained a few kilometres of range, as all PHEVs do. Since it hadn’t completely drained the battery on the climb over the bump, I could go a few more kilometres in EV-only mode on the other side.
I found it to be quite peppy in hybrid mode when the electric motor and petrol motor were working together. When it’s going along in petrol-only or EV-only, you feel like it’s lacking some power, especially in steeper sections.
I gleefully discovered a wonderful touch in the MG: a cooled centre console for storing unopened drinks on the journey. Unfortunately the bar has been raised and now I really want a chilled console on any road trip I embark on.
One thing that didn’t agree with me were the blind spot monitors. They do work, but the visual cue for them is a little LED light that’s on the inside of the car on the little tweeter speakers at the base of the front windows.
I’m used to having the warning light in the wing mirror itself and this new location meant I had to train myself to look in a new spot before doing the proper look over my shoulder. It might be OK for others, and some people can’t really see the ones in the mirrors in certain conditions, but I didn’t like it myself.
The MG HS Plus EV has a couple of quirks, albeit fairly minor. It still represents a good-value package that seems stuffed with tech and is a nice vehicle to drive.
Whether you can get really good economy from one depends on how far your commute is. If it’s within 5km, you’ll probably spend a good chunk of your time in hybrid mode rather than EV, especially in the winter when it needs to warm up. If you live further afield and are happy to change modes to make sure it’s driving as an EV on the motorway, you won’t use much fuel at all.
One of the major things that the MG has on its side is availability. There’s a long waiting list for many other brands when it comes to EVs, PHEVs or hybrids. However, the salesperson I spoke to at the MG dealership reckoned you could get one of these delivered quite snappily.
MG claims 1.7L/100km for the HS EV. The trip computer gave us a readout of 2.7L/100km. Our actual fuel usage suggested 3.1L/100km.
The vehicle was kindly lent to us by MG NZ.
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