The Chinese-built MG RX5 impresses as an all-round contender in the line-up of 2018 SUV’s to be marched out this year. Y’s Alvin Thomas gets behind the wheel for a quick spin.
Photos: Alvin Thomas
When you think of British born-and-bred MG (short for ‘Morris Garages’), it’s hard not to gawk over their creations – the MGB GT or the Magnette Airline coupe immediately come to mind. The former drop-top has even been ranked as one of the most iconic cars to ever be built. It’s little wonder some of the world’s most revered stars such as Elvis Presley and Bill Wyman (former bass guitarist for The Rolling Stones) would frequently ride around in their MGs with pride – and their arm on the sill.
Fast-forward to 2018 and the scene is markedly different. Today, MG’s lineup of cars primarily consists of budget sedans and SUVs – and it’s all built in China. But, there’s still a whiff of Britain in these cars – at least that was the case in my tester this week: The MG RX5.
Sitting atop the range as a five-seater SUV, the RX5 fits the bill as a worthy product. And here’s why: For starters, it’s distinctive – despite a generic front-end. Sharp LED-laden headlamps and daytime running lights aside, there are cuts and prominent character lines that accentuate the RX5’s stance.
This carries over to the posterior too, as the LED tail-lamps are neatly integrated into the tailgate and rounded off by dual chrome-tipped exhausts. Everything – from each individual panel to the rims – sits snug without any panel gaps. In short, the RX5 is built impeccably to the top standards.
Settle into the interior and you’ll find the RX5 is far from what you’d expect in a vehicle of its class. Everything you see and touch is comprised of soft plastics, while the doors are finished in neatly-padded surfaces. The seats too are finished in high-quality leatherette, and are cushy. It does lack lumbar support and side bolstering – though it’s a small price to pay, really. Still, with features such as real stitching on the seats and dashboard, you really can’t complain.
On the technology front, the RX5 comes with a responsive and easy-to-operate 10.4-inch-wide touchscreen unit. It’s not the most sophisticated head unit in the market but it does its job well, and also provides users with turn-by-turn navigation. The audio system is great but you’ll find yourself tweaking the equalizer a bit to acquire the
tone you want.
The cabin design is somewhat inspired, but takes a clean-cut approach featuring large and neatly-labeled buttons. Full disclosure: the MG’s interior puts the pricier Korean and Japanese competitors to shame.
Cabin room is up there with the best, with a plethora of leg- and head-room for both front and rear seat passengers. Meanwhile, boot space is at par with its rivals and, of course, you can fold the seats flat if you’re looking to lug furniture or long items around.
Underneath the hood lies a 2.0-litre turbocharged in-line four-cylinder engine producing a stout 221hp and 350Nms of torque. The latter kicks in from about 2,000rpm, which makes way for admirable acceleration.
As is the case with most turbocharged vehicles, there’s a sizeable amount of turbo lag. That, coupled with an economy-minded six-speed auto-manual transmission, means there’s an initial jolt in the cabin when you put your foot down.
The gearbox is also a tad slow to shift down sometimes and slipping the transmission into manual doesn’t change much either – except when you’re climbing up steep hills.
Out on the highway is where the RX5 belongs. Power delivery is smooth and the vehicle settles into its speed with ease. Overtaking is an easy affair; however, you’d have to meddle with the throttle a bit to eke the right gear out.
Still, ride compliance is top notch and the 235/50 tires wrapped around the 18-inch alloys soak up the bumps with ease. This can also be said when off-roading, as the high-profile tires, along with the independent suspension offer a very smooth ride.
Not much can be said about the RX5’s off-road performance, but it can do soft sand and rocky terrain without busting into a sweat. There’s also a center-locking differential that can come to aid if need be.
The steering is sensitive – a little too much at times – but lacks feedback. Nevertheless, it’s light at low speeds, which makes it a breeze to maneuver in city traffic. Body roll is controlled well, and the RX5 corners nicely. I found myself pushing the SUV into corners at speeds of up to 60kph.
There’s a lot to like about the MG RX5. Sure, it’s no blue-blooded sports-car that’s ready to take on baddies in an English soap (I’m thinking Midsomer Murders), but it can definitely find a place in your day-to-day commute.
It’s astounding how far MG – and many other Chinese car-makers – have come in such a short time. And at the rate they’re going, we may soon be looking at a market dominated by the Chinese. As for the RX5 – it’s as good as a mid-size SUV can get. Surely, things are only going uphill from here.
• Engine: 2.0-litre in-line four-cylinder turbocharged
• Transmission: Seven-speed auto-manual
• Power: 221hp
• Torque: 350Nms
• Reverse camera
• Cruise control
• Leatherette seating and upholstery
• Parking sensors
• 10.4-inch screen with navigation
• Panoramic sunroof
• 18-inch alloy wheels
• Locking differential
• Hill Descent Control
• Apple CarPlay
• Auto hold assist