MG GS - a lot for

less

MG GS, full side static
MG GS, front static
MG GS, rear static
MG GS, dashboard
MG GS, boot (2)
MG GS, full rear static
MG GS, boot (1)

PULLING over to the kerb to ask directions (no map, no idea where we were) the helpful granny knew the way.

She also spotted the new MG GS we were sitting in on the first drive of the company's first fresh model for years.

And, she confidently told grandson, aged about eight, that yes, 'it was a new sort of MG.'

Well done gran. If an MG - long since built in China but designed in Birmingham still - is as easily recognised as this there might be a demand for more than the modest 1,000 the company hopes to sell here in a full year.

Two obvious factors will be instrumental in any sales success for the GS, latest entry in the SUV market where buyers clamour for something that looks tough and a bit off-roady but costs no more to run than a boring family hatch.

First possible sales clincher is the cost; with three versions of the GS priced at £14,995 (Explore), £17,495 (Excite) and £19,495 (Exclusive) with an automatic version of the latter at £20,995.

Each grade is several thousand pounds less than any obvious rival, named by MG as cars like the Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage and Nissan Qashqai. That's an excellent start, as long as the MG GS does not disappoint on things like quality and the way it drives.

It doesn't disappoint on value for money. Even the entry level Explore has cruise control, alloy wheels and air conditioning, while the Excite adds DAB radio, Bluetooth and rear parking sensors.

No satellite navigation though, which is why we were lost. For that you need the top grade Exclusive which also piles on leather upholstery with electric adjustment for the front seats, bigger wheels, xenon headlights and auto dimming interior mirror.

Every MG GS is powered by the same 1.5 litre petrol engine, with 164bhp and enough for a 118mph top speed and 0-62mph in 9.6 seconds, and driving through the front wheels only.

There is no likelihood of a diesel (not offered on any GS, anywhere) but MG does sell a 2.0 litre petrol and a 4x4 version in other markets, so they would be available here if there was demand.

A brisk run on roads from rural to M40 produced a respectable 36.2mpg on the trip computer, not a figure likely to deter anyone who fancies a GS.

Emissions are 139g/km for the six speed manual version which equates to an official fuel return of 47.1mpg.

Another attraction to potential buyers might be the GS's five year/80,000 mile warranty. That will also apply to the next new MG, a smaller SUV due here in autumn next year but is not being applied to the current MG 3 or MG 6 models, which keep their three years/60,000 warranties.

All these details help make a case for the car but you can't imagine anyone buying an MG GS unless it looked the part - stylish is utterly vital in such a fashion-led part of the car market.

Well, to these eyes, MG has done a decent job on the looks front. Neat and tidy all over and especially assertive from the back, the GS will hold its head high in any supermarket car park or outside the kids' school at collection time.

Inside, everything stays neat and tidy but you can more easily see where the money has been saved to keep the cost so keen. Lots of hard plastics and switches and dials that look a generation older than those you'll find in the dearer opposition.

But the GS fights back strongly when you get it out on the road, where it's quickly obvious the car was honed on British surfaces by engineers who know we like a responsive feel to our daily transport, but not at the cost of a bone hard ride.

Indeed, the MG GS feels eager to please in the way of an enthusiastic and smaller hatchback. It made me smile and actually enjoy the extra miles our lack of direction imposed before gran came to the rescue.

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