The Chinese-built MG RX5 impresses as an all-round contender in this year’s line-up of SUVs, says Alvin Thomas.
A British marque that’s owned and operated by China: it’s a match not many would’ve reckoned would be sensible given the dark clouds that marred the history of the once relevant motoring conglomerate – British Leyland.
Yet, seven years have passed since the acquisition of MG Motor by Shanghai-based state company – SAIC Motor – and the brand has gone on to achieve so much more than it ever had in the latter chunk of the 20th-century as a stand-alone brand.
Call us crazy, but this also gives us reason to believe that the RX5 is only a start of things to come; not only from MG but from the plethora of carmakers that are flooding the Chinese marketspace today.
Part of that belief comes from the fact that the RX5 is a true revelation and a testament of what a crossover must be: a people-pleasing car with the brawniness of an SUV, tech from a smartphone, and design to please the lot.
The RX5 pulls an attractive face from most angles, pulling away from the over-the-top designs, that border on the gaudy, as seen on European vehicles. The lines around the headlamps are sharp, and the daytime-running LEDs are thin enough to keep the reflector LEDs from being obscured from vision.
Then there’s the grille – a sizeable (yet not overly-so like some European SUVs) intake flanks the fascia, with chrome lines running from the proudly advertised ‘MG’ logo upfront, and deep into the lights themselves.
The side profile is understated, blending subtly with the two bold character lines that emanate from the bumper and the fender, respectively, and the multi-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels.
Completing the crossover are the two LED tail-lamps that are neatly integrated into the tailgate and rounded off by dual chrome-tipped exhausts. It must be noted that even upon thorough inspection, we couldn’t find anything as near as a wide-panel gap, let alone any other imperfections.
Inside, the RX5 takes a minimalistic approach; the dashboard is constructed out of molded plastic but high-quality ones at that, while soft inserts fringe parts of the door panels.
There’s a dual-tone interior that breaks up the monotony in the cabin and a dash of wood and piano black trims up on the dash.
Tech conundrums are kept to a minimum: there are knobs and buttons to control everything – from the A/C, to the music, and even the now clichéd push-button start – though some of the functions can also be accessed by the 10.4-inch touchscreen display.
The screen is easy to operate and there are plenty of functions built in as standard – music player, navigation, reverse camera, and the like. There’s even a gallery app for viewing images.
Space is great for five passengers – even those who may be freakishly tall can fit in easily. The head and leg-room levels are class-leading, though it’s undercut by some slightly larger (and much pricier) German rivals – though, the Germans fail to outdo the RX5 in terms of fit and finish.
Boot space is pegged at 595 litres with all the seats in position and 1,639 litres with seats folded flat, which is up there with segment leaders such as the Volkswagen Tiguan but, had vehicles such as the Hyundai Tucson beat by a long margin.
MG rounds off this package with a cracking motor – a 2.0-litre turbocharged in-line four-pot banger that produces 221 horses and 350Nms of torque. The figures – both performance and efficiency – are in line with that of its competitors.
The turbo tuning is designed with fuel economy in mind, thereby leaving the engine to deal with a decent fit of turbo lag. Torque kicks in at about 2,000rpm, though there’s no real heft in the way it pulls away aside from the slight jolt that creeps in initially. It’ll still manage to settle into its speed quite well and do the 100kph dance in an impressive 8.2 seconds.
Power is put down to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. The transmission is quick-witted to say the least, even if it hunkers down when slowing down – keeping the gears high to keep the revolutions low.
Slipping the transmission into manual doesn’t change much either, making swift overtaking maneuvers a bit tricky – but figure out how you can find the right gears and you’ll be fine. It’s all about tinkering with the throttle to eke the correct gear out.
Keeping the revs low does come with its own perks: the noise, vibration, and harshness levels in the car are kept to a minimum. This, coupled with the smooth power delivery and the high profile tires makes for a silky-smooth ride.
Meanwhile, body-roll is controlled well, and the RX5 corners gracefully – although, there’s not much to write home about on the latter front.
The steering itself can be sensitive – a little too much at times – and lacks feedback like most other cars we drive today. Nevertheless, its lightness at low speeds make it a breeze to maneuver in city traffic.
Brake force is reassuring, and there’s a solid progression that’s almost reminiscent to a system fitted to a Mercedes-Benz, BMW, or an Audi – and that’s saying something.
As we proclaimed earlier: the MG RX5 is a revelation. Packaging all the necessities you’d need in a car that costs as much as a Japanese sedan – that’s the dream. And somehow, MG has tapped into that market… and with great success.
While all of that could be signs of things to come from the People’s Republic, it’s already started reaping the rewards of its decades of perseverance – MG is a shining example. The coming of Chinese cars into mainstream car-making was always inevitable, but what we may have missed is that the time has already come.
• 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