There’s been a general consensus that, when it comes to features and technology, it’s becoming exceedingly rare to encounter an awful car on the market these days. Car buyers these days are such a wide audience that, and while you can’t please everyone, there’s almost something perfectly acceptable for someone, especially when it comes to getting what you pay for. For a relaunched brand like Morris Garages (MG) to be on the list of Filipinos, it has to have an interesting and affordable product lineup, reliable after sales services, and a good ownership experience. While we can’t give you a long term review on the ownership experience, we can give you a full review on MG’s latest compact crossover SUV, the 2019 MG RX5.
I was given the keys to an MG RX5 in AT Style trim for a week, and I was pretty excited to experience what their larger vehicles had to offer. Coming from an MG 6 Trophy which I enjoyed thoroughly and gave some good marks in my review, I was already expecting a similar drive and experience, which, for all intents and purposes, was generally impressive. Does this compact crossover SUV have what it takes to grab a portion of the pie from other established brands in the country?
One look at the MG RX5 in Ruby Red and you can tell that there are some styling cues that reflect the SAIC Motor partnerships with other brands. The front fascia is generally well executed, and the horizontal-slat grille is large but tastefully done, and there’s even some playful use of increasing widths on the lines to connect it with the front bumper. Thin LED running lights also add some nice touches to the front when the car is in motion. The side profile also plays safe, with just a single character line that runs right below the windows, and a chrome strip that accents the bottom plastic side lip. The rear is also conservative, with just a slight kink in the trunk, adding a bit of depth, and the LED taillights are nicely designed, ala European crossovers. There are even some lighter plastic “scuff plates” that may hint at some off-road versatility, but it’s more of a styling exercise. The two-tone 18-inch alloys are a looker, however, and do help a slight bit. Overall, it’s a safe and conservative design that won’t turn people off, but you might struggle to stand out in a sea of crossovers.
Step inside and you are greeted with a cabin that’s unlike the rather safe and unassuming exterior. Our tester was specced with a beige interior, and it’s all leather, mind you. Like that of the MG 6, the RX5 continues the streak of impressive fit and finish, plus there’s even a tad more soft touch plastic materials on the dashboard than their fastback sedan. You have shiny aluminum plastic pieces that surround the vents, instrument binnacle, and infotainment system. They even threw in tastefully done wood trim pieces on the door panels and where the gear lever is, adding a little bit more spice to an already nicely designed interior. Unfortunately, just like the MG 6, there are parts where the padding behind the leather is relatively minimal, but it doesn’t take away from the overall experience. The seats are supportive and comfortable for any drive, and rear passengers are treated to the same level of comfort and refinement, plus a pair of rear aircon vents to help keep them cool.
Speaking of rear passengers, space is good and even for a six footer like me, staying in the rear isn’t an issue, and I could still move my legs around quite a bit with the front passenger seat all the way to the back. Center passengers will find that the hump that runs down the middle is very low, so there’s no encroaching on valuable foot space. A minor gripe is that the doors don’t cover the entire side of the car up to the lower lip, which means that the back of your pants of legs can rub up against the dirty lower portion when getting in and out of the car.
The trend of good storage space continues here, with a retractable panel that reveals two medium sized cupholders, an armrest that opens up for more places to hide things, and adequate door pockets to hold water bottles and other loose items. Unfortunately, the cool box under the armrest doesn’t make an appearance in the RX5. Trunk size is 595 liters with the rear seats upright, but the 60:40 split can be folded to hold 1,639 liters of space.
A comfortable cabin can be elevated with easy to use technology and infotainment systems, and the RX5 also brings a decent set of features for an attractive price. Our tester was equipped with projector halogen headlamps with foglights, with headlight aim manually adjustable. Keyless entry and push button start is also thrown in for the AT Style trim, together with cruise control. All trims get a good eight inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, bluetooth, USB playback, CD playback, and six speakers. The steering wheel also has buttons for audio control and to cycle driver information on the instrument cluster, plus it’s also tilting and telescoping to help find a comfortable driving position. Just like the MG 6, apparently the infotainment system volume defaults to a pretty loud middle volume setting, so it can surprise you when you turn on the car and the radio is automatically selected.
On all trims, a 12V socket and a sole USB port take up charging duties in the front row, but the second row misses out on any USB ports. The trunk, however, has a 12V socket, as well. Rear parking sensors and a reverse camera area also standard, together with speed sensing door locks, and an electronic parking brake. All variants get manual climate control, but the buttons and knobs are modernized, so it weirdly feels like automatic climate control, but it isn’t. There’s also the issue of not seeing the current setting of your temperature and fan speed since it only appears in a specific menu or if you manipulate the buttons or dials. Weird.
The RX5 comes with a good amount of safety kit, but it’s unfortunately limited to the more expensive AT Style trim. Standard on all levels is ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution, two airbags, and ISOFIX mounts for child car seats. Get your hands on the AT Style, and you get additional safety features such as hill descent control, stability control, cornering brake control, anti-roll protection, hill start assist, and a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS); very comprehensive indeed. We were hoping the MG RX5 came equipped with more airbags, seeing as the MG 6 Trophy we had a few weeks back had at least six to protect its occupants.
Driving & Handling
Powering the MG RX5 is a 1.5L turbocharged gasoline engine that makes 167 hp and 250 Nm of torque. Granted, this is a rather small motor for a compact crossover SUV, and there are times when the engine revs hard to get up to speed. The gearbox is a dual clutch seven-speed automatic, and while shifting is quick and imperceivable at higher speeds, it feels rough in low speed crawling situations and stop and go traffic. There were times when the transmission felt like it was hunting for a gear, only to suddenly downshift instead when prodded. It’s not as rough as the MG 6, but we’re sure that the added heft of the vehicle helps soften the lurching and surging sensation of the transmission.
It’s not all bad, though, and despite the quirkiness of the transmission, the engine is smooth and quiet. Steering feel is also very light, making the RX5 feel a little bit more flickable and agile than your regular compact crossover SUV. Road comfort is also good, with the suspension well tuned to handle road imperfections, making it well suited for all sorts of everyday driving situations. Noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) insulation is also decent, and the RX5 feels solid in every respect. It excels in the highway and in speeds above city limits, where the RX5 just settles and feels planted. In the city, it takes a bit of finessing of the throttle to smoothen out the transmission, but it can certainly be done. Nevertheless, the RX5 good performer in the driving and handling category, only let down slightly by a troublesome transmission.
With a heavier car to move around, the 1.5L engine used in all MG models slightly suffers in the fuel economy numbers. During my time with it, the MG RX5 returned 5-6 kilometers per liter in heavy traffic, with a slight increase of 8-9 when travelling at 20-30 km/h. On the highway, driving efficiently, you can get a respectable 14-16 kilometers per liter.
The MG RX5 hits a lot of the marks for a good compact crossover SUV, but misses some of them, too. For just slightly over a million Philippine Pesos, the RX5 feels like a win-some, lose-some contender. You get understated and relatively safe styling, but you get a fancy looking and nicely put together interior. You also get a good infotainment experience with nice standard convenience features, but slightly lack in the safety department. You also get a nice, smooth engine with comfortable driving dynamics, but a weird gearbox and just decent fuel consumption figures.
At the end of the day, the MG RX5 offers a lot of value for money, combining space, comfort, and a good core set of features. Does that mean it’s an excellent car? Not just yet, but it isn’t a bad one, either. If you’re decided on the RX5 and you’re looking to pick one up, for just P1,058,888 for the MT Core base variant, we reckon you should just save a bit more and go for the AT Style at P1,228,000 like our tester here; the difference of just P170,000 grants you better safety and convenience features that we believe are worth every penny.