mReview: MG HS Exclusive - Sensible as Ever

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Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1671004560429 Hs+FeaturedThere’s no one-size-fits-all approach with cars. Some may come close, but yet not fulfil every criteria. However, is it possible to come short, but yet still make sense overall?

First things first: yes, we've reviewed the MG HS previously. But that was the “regular” variant, if I do say so myself. This one here is a little different – more tarted up, or as the Thai saying goes, “same same but different”. 

But what sets this HS Exclusive apart from the “regular” HS? And more importantly, what sets it apart from the competition? 

Classified as a compact crossover, it is part of an extremely crowded and competitive segment where buyers are quite price-sensitive too. Even some defining feature one model has over another is enough to sway a buyer’s decision.

Tell Me, What’s Different?

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Looking from the outside, there isn’t any. Between the standard HS and the HS Exclusive, there isn’t any identifying mark between both variants. The HS Exclusive still has that familiar front fascia, with the chrome trim, black grille, recognisable headlights and sizeable fog lights. 

Along the side, the design elements and panels are all the same. You might be thinking, "What’s the point of having a new variant and call it an 'Exclusive', but not have any differentiating design cues?"

Well, changes cost money, and the cost of such changes is typically passed down to the customer. And as mentioned earlier, buyers in this competitive segment tend to be price-conscious, and are more likely to go with the more affordable option with superior value-for-money.

Some may complain about why there aren’t any differences, but why mess with a proven formula?

It’s not as sleek as some of its rivals, but its headlight design features an aggressive looking half-eye-like daytime running light, together with a grille that recalls certain visual effects from Star Trek, like when the spaceships enter warp speed. 

If you ask me, the HS Exclusive already looks pretty distinctive from most other crossovers on the market today.

Upgrades On The Inside

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Inside, you are treated with a predominantly-red leather upholstery, with swathes of black leather and alcantara to boot – a step up from the standard model's black leather-filled cabin.

Besides contrasting with the white sheet metal outside, it's perhaps the biggest visual pop to the car, covering most of the interior, from the seats, door panels, dashboard and centre console.

The front seats are semi bucket-style, with a fair amount of side and thigh bolstering. If you’re more generously-proportioned like myself, fitting in the seats will be a tad snug, but it should be fine for most people.

What's not ideal is the seating position, for even at the lowest setting, it still felt like I was sitting on the car, not in it. 

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Besides being electronically adjustable, the front seats are also two-piece, meaning that the headrest is not independently adjustable. 

This might be annoying to some, but having the headrest permanently positioned in a slightly forward position proved to be quite comfortable and more ergonomic, allowing me to rest my head without straining my neck.

The gauge cluster and infotainment remains unchanged from its standard twin. Apart from supporting wired forms of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, it also features an infotainment system that admittedly has some slight lag when scrolling through screens, and is not very intuitive to use.

On the plus side, sound quality from the speakers is fairly decent and will suffice for most people. 

What Else is Different?

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Don’t fret, as the HS Exclusive isn’t a one trick pony and it still has a little more to offer. While the gauge cluster is largely the same as before, it now showcases a suite of safety systems, front and centre being the adaptive cruise control system.

Besides that, there’s also a blind spot detection system, lane departure assist and rear cross traffic alert. At this price point, having such a comprehensive safety suite is quite uncommon, but extremely welcome. Particularly useful is the rear cross traffic alert, especially in busier HDB car parks where there are other vehicles and pedestrians around. 

Having this safety suite made driving less strenuous during our test, considering that it rained for half the time that we had the car.

The adaptive cruise control was straightforward to use, and also capable of bringing the car to a complete stop without driver intervention, like when the car in front stops at a traffic light. But like many other ACC systems, it tends to be overwhelmed in extremely heavy traffic.

(Don’t) Drive It Like You Stole It

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If you were expecting the Exclusive to gain some powertrain upgrades, we apologise for bursting your bubble.

MG have elected to use a General Motors-sourced turbocharged 1.5-litre inline-four engine, producing 160 bhp and 250 Nm of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Although the torque curve is pretty linear, the transmission can get confused at times, resulting in a surge in revs before it changes to a higher gear and things calm down. Still, shifts are smooth with little to no jerkiness when travelling at low speeds, and are rather snappy when more aggression is called for. 

I wouldn’t say the ride quality is class-leading, but I've no complaints. Fitted with 18-inch wheels and shod with 235/50 R18 tyres, ride quality is fairly compliant, with only really big bumps or expansion joints upsetting the car.

For a crossover, the steering feels well-weighted and not overly boosted. While it lacks feedback from the front wheels, driving the HS Exclusive spiritedly isn’t the point, for the car is not suited for aggressive driving.

Driven normally, however, it is calm and comfortable, with the linear torque curve allowing it to keep up with traffic with minimal fuss. With peak torque of 250 Nm available from 1,700 to 4,400 rpm, roll onto the throttle, ride the wave of torque even in the higher gears, and keep up with right-lane traffic with ease.

Rear passengers aren’t forgotten about either. They may not get semi-bucket seats, but they can still enjoy ample legroom and headroom, as well as rear powerful air-conditioning vents.

As a tool of practicality, I daresay the HS Exclusive excels at it.

It’s Not Perfect, But It Isn’t Half Bad Either

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The MG HS Exclusive is not the be-all, end-all of the Compact Crossover segment, and no car ever will be. However, what it does offer is a respectable, appealing, and better-value alternative to Japanese and European options.

And while its Korean contemporaries come with more bells and whistles as standard, the HS Exclusive offers is a more sensible and less fussy package. Overall, it's just that little bit easier to understand and operate on a day-to-day basis. 

While some might turn their nose up at what might be considered a “middle-child option”, this could very well be that Goldilocks car that satisfies most requirements of a prospective buyer.

And best of all, its price. At $89,888 (before COE, prices accurate as of press time), there is no difference in price between the HS Exclusive and the “regular” HS. You are getting all that additional safety kit and red leather interior at no extra charge. With a deal like that, you might almost wonder why the HS Exclusive isn’t already flying out of the showroom. 

MG HS Exclusive Specifications
Price: $89,888 (without COE)  VES Band: C1
Turbocharged Inline-4
1.5 litres
160 bhp, 250 Nm
7-speed DCT
Driven Wheels:
14.7 km/l
Top Speed:
190 km/h 
Fuel Tank Capacity:
55 litres
4,574 mm x 1,876 mm x 1,664 mm
2,720 mm
Cargo Capacity:
463 litres

Photo Credits: Lee Thern Yang & ACube Creative (@weareacube)

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