We’re expecting to see the MG3 in the coming weeks, with the MG5 we’re driving here arriving in UK spec towards the end of the year. And if you’re thinking you’ve seen this model before, you’d be right, because it originally debuted in concept form at the Shanghai Motor Show in 2011.
The transition from concept to production hasn’t exactly been straightforward, and while the front stays mostly true to the original, the rear is bordering on ugly. Although the car was styled in Britain, it’s not a design we can be especially proud of; the MG5 always appears to be riding high on its haunches.
Still, the interior is well put together, with a definite step up in quality from the MG6. Although it’s not comparable with the latest Ford Focus, it’s at least as well put together as the previous-generation car.
The dashboard – available in black and tan or all-black finishes – features a couple of slightly hard-feeling plastics, but everything is simply laid out and focused around the driver.
Sitting proud in the centre of the dash is MG’s inkaNet touchscreen display, which runs an Android-based system and gives drivers access to the Web and other downloadable services through a SIM card and 3G data connection. The screen also displays the usual entertainment information and, on our range-topping model, it displays the image from the reversing camera, as well as the sat-nav maps.
Interestingly, there is no CD player, so drivers can play music only through the radio, an SD card or a USB connection. But you get a system called iVoka, which allows you to use voice commands to control various entertainment functions.
Unfortunately, the car’s hi-tech feel is countered by our model’s disappointing powertrain. The 105bhp 1.5-litre petrol engine is hooked up to a low-tech four-speed automatic gearbox which severely restrains performance. The five-speed manual seems like a far better option, with our auto model taking 12.8 seconds to accelerate from 0-62mph.
The good news for UK buyers, though, is that when the car goes on sale it’s expected to feature a newly developed dual-clutch box. We’re anticipating a diesel and a 135bhp turbo version of this engine, too. Meanwhile, the impressive suspension easily soaks up bumpy roads, but the steering feels a little artificial and overly light. We’re hoping some of these issues will be sorted before the car goes on sale in the UK, too.
If they are, the MG5 could make an interesting alternative to the Focus and VW Golf. After all, the cabin is spacious enough to seat four adults and the 327-litre boot is only a little down on the 380 litres of the Golf. With a price that’s expected to significantly undercut the VW, there’s plenty of promise in this package.