MG Motor, a Chinese-owned UK brand, is aiming its first SUV at families looking for a budget vehicle.
The GS went on sale earlier this month in the UK, the brand’s only European market, with prices starting at 14,995 pounds (18,857 euros). That means the compact SUV undercuts the cheapest Nissan Qashqai by 3,550 pounds.
The GS is the MG's third model sold in the UK after the MG6 compact car and MG3 subcompact. It is the first MG to use one of a new range of small engines that parent SAIC has developed with General Motors. The 1.5-liter turbocharged gasoline engine is all-aluminum and makes 166 hp. A 1.4-liter version of the same engine is offered with the Astra compact car sold by GM’s Opel and Vauxhall brands.
The GS will not have a diesel option because MG’s 1.9-liter diesel engine offered with the MG6 model is being phased out.
The GS is aimed at private buyers who generally buy gasoline engines rather than business fleets who buy diesels for their better fuel economy, said Matthew Cheyne, MG UK’s sales and marketing director. "It's aimed at young families, mums doing the school run, or older couples. They are not doing the same miles," he said.
The decision not to offer a diesel will restrict GS sales, according to market researchers LMC Automotive. LMC’s analysis of compact SUV sales across Europe in the first quarter shows that 75 percent were diesel, although that has fallen from a high of 83 percent in 2011. MG needs a diesel, LMC’s powertrain analyst, Al Bedwell, said.
The GS will have only one gasoline engine and is front-wheel-drive only. A four-wheel-drive version is available in China and could be imported if there is enough customer demand, Cheyne said.
The GS is the first MG offer a new dual-clutch automatic transmission, also developed by SAIC in partnership with GM.
The GS has been on sale in China for a year now. It is built in SAIC’s plant in Lingang, Shanghai.
The MG6 and MG3 models sold in the UK undergo final assembly at SAIC's factory in Longbridge, central England. However, the GS is made fully in China. Cheyne said MG would need to sell over 2,000 a year in the UK before considering local final assembly.
MG said the GS was designed and engineered in Longbridge and it has been developed to make it "drive and handle like an MG should." The chassis has been tuned to deliver "agility and great handling," it said.
MG predicts it will sell 1,000 GS models in the UK in 2017.