GS Test Drive - thoughts
Had a test drive in a GS today - top of range Exclusive in manual gearbox form.
This is the first time I have seen the car outside of the London Showroom, which was a chinese spec model (though frankly, I see absolutely no difference). First impressions of the outside are great, it has a real presence and somehow seems significantly larger than its peers the Quashqai, Tucson, Sportage etc. Design wise I think it's a very handsomely executed car - has the right proportions, the right finishes, the wheels look right (unusually for MG who have thus far liked to put tiny castors on their cars...?)
The extra adornments of the Exclusive model, the side-steps looks excellent though they make it incredibly difficult to get in and out of the car because they are so wide and you need to hop over them to get to the seat - probably worth it as they look so effective.
The car I drove was the black interior model with leather (stretching the truth a little I have to say) - at first glance it's a handsome interior, everything fits quite well and is solid in feel, sure enough, as much of the media has harked on about, the plastics are all very hard, but this is hardly a unique thing today and there were few plastics that felt cheap. The black 'leatherette' door trimmings look dreadful and are clearly rubber, they look it and certainly feel it. The interior door handles have an enormous 'capped' screw hole that stands out like a sore thumb and I cannot imagine why they were designed with this blot right in the middle of them. The parts you touch, the wheel and column switches are all quite reasonable in quality, far better than in the 3 or the 6. However, other switches, including the windows, feel a little lower rent - though not terrible and certainly a step forward from the 6. A main criticism for me are the colours of the plastics, something I also noticed in the 6, they aren't quite black, have a slightly odd blue-ish tinge to them and a sort of shininess that cheapens them. The design is right, the mouldings for them are probably right but the molten plastic they are pouring into those mouldings in the factory is of questionable origin...
The seats, trimmed in 'some' leather, look ok but not quite as well styled as the octagonal themed 6 seats, they are quite comfortable but soft in odd places and the 'leather' is not great by any stretch, in fact, whilst I know most manufacturers only trim the facings in leather, this has been taken to extremes in the GS with literally only the very central part of the base and back in leather, and the rest, including the side supports trimmed a very rubbery feeling fabric that noticeably looks different to the rest of the seat. It doesn't feel nice, thought is probably quite effective at holding you in place as it is so unforgiving in texture.
Space inside is excellent, it really feels like a big car, though details like storage, cup-holders and door bins are pretty average, there are no surprise and delight features in the car anywhere, no lights on the vanity mirrors for example, though they have dampened the door-grab handles, which have a nice action.
The dashboard is a nice design, though there are too many differing plastic finishes to the surfaces which don't seem to be matched by the door trimmings. The central 'gloss' panelling looks ok at first glance but I suspect will be ruined after only the lightest touches from bags, bejewelled fingers or pets and children; the test car was already showing signs of fatigue and it's only seen two weeks service.
The media centre and screen is ok, the touch screen is responsive but the software and layout whilst clear to look at is pretty underwhelming and not very intuitive. The screen displays things such as volume and climate control settings which is ok but rather tiring given that you have to play with the buttons to see what setting you are using as it is not displayed on any of the switches.
That brings me down to the central pod of buttons mounted in the dash - they are, as most people have said, rather haphazard and not very intuitive to use, requiring constant looking back an forth to ensure you were selecting the fan button rather than something totally unrelated. They are quite disappointing.
The tailgate is enormous, feels quite heavy and of decent quality which rather disappointingly upon opening reveals a rather underwhelming boot - shallow, looks far smaller than it probably is, the parcel shelf is oddly positioned in the middle of the boot, doesn't go right to the back of the seats (regardless of what position you have the rear seat backs in) and feels fairly cheap. A bit underwhelmed given how big the car looks from the outside.
Finally, carpets, they feel and look cheap and there's nothing more to say on the matter other than yet another shade of 'black'
This is a funny one, given the model is the 'top spec' and on paper it seems to be well kitted out, somehow it doesn't feel it? The heated seats are simple on/off affairs which feels rather dated, the climate control is a rather binary face/feet set-up but admittedly the air-con is very effective. The trip-computer on the instrument binnacle is rather fiddly and took a number of attempts to work out how to use. There is no duel zone climate control. for a £20k car, it just doesn't feel especially well kitted even though the spec-list seems to ramble on and on.
On the Road
Another mixed bag. The engine is quiet on start-up and surprisingly sprightly in most conditions but does seem to run out of steam fairly rapidly. The manual box is smooth enough when changing but the clutch, revs and stick don't seem to want to work particularly in sync with one another resulting in fairly jolty changes up and down. As has been said by others, the car holds onto revs when changing gear which means it seems to scream from one gear to another. Surely something that can be fixed with a software update though surprising to find in a car that has been on sale for over a year already elsewhere. Power isn't evenly delivered and it's very easy to get caught out in 3rd or even 2nd gear when moving slowly, the car seems to lose all power and I found myself having to knock the box into 1st on more than one occasion whilst moving between 10-15 MPH, this is not pleasant, though I suspect, something that familiarity would resolve.
On the move the steering is well balanced, neither too light or heavy and with reasonable feel but I know this is entirely subjective. The suspension however is an unfathomable mix of soft and firm, with even the slightest road imperfections crashing into the cabin. It cannot be described as smooth in anyway, it has the firmness that you would expect in something like a sportier version of the MINI without the sporty handling or power to go with it, which makes it all feel rather odd. I suspect the firm ride and constant jiggling around would very quickly become tiresome to those who like a comfortable waft. Seems to corner pretty well without much roll though this could be down to being pinned into the rubbery sided seats...
Overall I left feeling quite positive of the whole package, it's a good effort, I feel far more successful externally than internally or mechanically. A few extra touches or details could propel the car to become a level contender with cars such as the Hyundai Tucson or new Kia Sportage that definitely have a more quality feel to them the instant you step inside. Given my comments about certain details, finishes and equipment I feel the car doesn't make anywhere near enough sense in Exclusive trim, £20k buys you a lot of other cars of varying body styles that offer more than the GS Exclusive does. However, in Explore or Excite form I can see a perfectly sound argument for buying one: They look very good externally, offer good space (mostly) and have a great badge and warranty too - they are also likely to remain fairly rare which for me adds something to the mix.
Lastly, despite what Matthew Cheyne of MG said, the Key is still awful, sure it's a more standard design, but the outer casing is truly horrible, a cheap grey-ish plastic that marks easily, the MG badge wasn't even mounted straight and frankly is an embarrassment. The MG3 key is far far superior and I cannot imagine why they didn't just use this for the GS?
For what it is, is trying to be and costs I'd give it a 3/5.
Dacia Duster - not really the same offering, far smaller, feels flimsy, tough but basic interior. Cheap to buy and can be had in 4x4 for peanuts.
Suzuki Vitara - offered in 4x4 trim, interior is awful in comparison with deathly dull design, terrible materials and switches straight out of the 1980's. Comparable on price, Suzuki badge and reputation could swing it for many
Nissan Quashqai - top of the tree, well made, fairly dull design, too common, expensive
Kia Sportage - Another great all-rounder, new model much better finished if a little polarising at the front end, prices have gone north and tip over £30k in top spec!!
Hyundai Tucson - Sportage was always more desirable than the iX35, the Tucson regains the crown, well finished all round, pretty expensive
Ssangyong Tivoli - I haven't seen one in the flesh, I think it looks odd from the outside, is undoubtedly cheap to buy and possibly a game changer for the brand
Last edited by James Riley; 14-07-2016 at 17:28.