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The MG HS has now joined the plug-in electric fraternity. The mid-sized HS has already proved immensely popular with consumers, now the addition of a plug-in variant is shaping up to becoming another very strong seller in New Zealand. Therefore, thanks to MG Motor New Zealand through CMG Motors in Christchurch, I decided to see what all the fuss was about.

Despite being called the HS Plus EV, this HS is actually a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle or PHEV. Therefore, we will henceforth refer to it as the HS PHEV, seeing as it also says it on the nameplate of my test car.

The range consists of two spec levels, the entry level Excite at $52,990 and the flagship Essence at $55,990. It does make it a more expensive proposition next to the all electric ZS EV but it is still good value when compared to others in this segment. The HS PHEV is also entitled to a Government Clean Car Rebate of $5750 which only adds to the subject of value for money.

Being a plug-in hybrid, both spec levels get a 1.5L turbo four-cylinder petrol engine providing grunt via a 16.6kWh battery back and a single electric motor over the front wheels. Combined power sits at 189kW and torque at 370Nm. With the electric/ICE combo and a new 10-speed automatic transmission, MG claim combined fuel consumption figures of 1.7L/100km and 39g/km of CO2.

Running solely on electric power will give you up to 63km of real-world range which is nothing to be sniffed at. The HS PHEV also comes with Type 2 AC charging which is capable of giving you those 63kms of range back again in around 5 hours.

The HS is not exactly an ugly duckling, but its looks don’t really blow me away. However, there are some nice features like the LED “London Eye” daytime running lights, large chrome-esque grill and that set of 18-inch diamond cut alloys.

Hop inside and you find yourself sitting quite high up. The leather accent sports seats unique to the top spec Essence featured here provide good levels of lumbar and lateral support, but will likely leave those of a lankier frame feeling somewhat compromised in terms of headroom. Some of the switchgear does feel somewhat second-rate, but the way everything is laid out is quite good.

The 10.1-inch colour touch screen infotainment system takes centre stage. It is clear and easy to understand, but I found that some of the user interface functions which are operated by touch can take some time to engage.

There is a good deal of standard equipment including Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Sat Nav, Push Button Start, 4x USB ports front and rear, heated electric front drivers seat, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, dual zone climate control, rear parking sensors and a leather wrapped steering wheel to name a few.

The HS PHEV also gets the latest generation of MG Pilot. As MG’s safety suite, you get features like Adaptive Cruise Control with Traffic Jam Assist, Forward Collision Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Blind Spot Detection, Active Emergency Braking, Lane Keep Assist, Auto Headlights and Intelligent Speed Limit Assist.

Niceties thrown in for the Essence includes a Stargazer Panoramic Sunroof which happens to be the largest of its kind in this segment. I am also happy to report it does a superb job of inviting the wintery Canterbury sun into the cabin.

There is also a 360-camera, LED ambient interior lighting, those aforementioned sports seats, heated door mirrors, fog lights and a power tailgate which is does its job nicely. Boot space is also rated at 451L with the second row in place.

On start-up, the HS PHEV defaults to Auto mode. This means you have power and charge coming from the petrol engine rather than leaving it all to the battery pack. You can switch between auto hybrid and full electric mode via button just above the cup holders. However, you will be unable to run solely on electric power if you have the heater on at a certain temperature. I found it is usually around the 22-degree mark coupled with having the seat heater on, but it also depends on the outside temperature as well.

Anyway, back to the drive. The HS PHEV does get moving rather well, there is an even delivery of torque and the way the power is put down feels solid with the ICE and batteries working well together. When you bring things to a halt again, you find there is some play in the brake pedal. Basically, from touching it to it actually engaging requires a firm press. Its not bad, but certainly noticeable.

Braking also allows a portion of energy regeneration. This ranges from between 11 per cent to 25 per cent if you vary from braking lightly or standing on the anchors. While this is decent, I would have loved a multi-level battery regeneration system operated via shift paddles or similar. That aside, the EV range of 63kms is more than ideal for those trips around town and one can be safe in the knowledge you can fall back on the petrol engine should you need to.

Visibility is good all-around and the A-pillars aren’t too thick which is nice. It also feels rather planted and solid as you navigate inner city back roads and dual carriage ways. Ride comfort is fairly decent, as is the turning circle. When you come to a stop, the 360-camera, tends to flick on and off rather quickly which can become a bit annoying, however the system gives you a very good perspective of just how close you are to the car next to you, or the curb you are determined not to scratch your alloys on.

The HS PHEV gives good performance in wide open motorway sections. Speeds above 80km/h are dealt with ease and there are no rattles or outside noise to speak of which is nice. I wouldn’t call it an engaging drive but despite a smattering of body roll in the bends, it fares well when you want to get up to speed quickly.

You can certainly believe the HS PHEV can reach 100km/h from a standstill in 6.9 seconds. The steering is also nicely weighted at speed but it does require a tad more effort when conducting a three-point turn but overall, it’s not too bad.

Despite feeling a tad rough around the edges, the HS PHEV has plenty going for it. Considering what you get when you factor in the price, range and equipment, many may well overlook those shortcomings. For those wanting their money to go further on a Plug-In Hybrid, the MG HS PHEV makes plenty of sense.

RATING: 7.5/10

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