Feb 12, 2020


The 2020 MG5 is a subcompact sedan with the dimensions of a compact car.
Photos by Aida Sevilla Mendoza

PROLOGUE. Made-in-China cars are now challenging the decades-long domination of the Philippine automotive market by Japanese brands.

A surge of China-sourced motor vehicles entered or re-entered the market after the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement took effect, adjusting the import duties on cars from China to only 5 percent.

Consumers are beginning to realize that over the years, due to technology transfers made possible by joint venture partnerships with European, American, Japanese and Korean brands, vehicles made in China have greatly improved in design, engineering, and technology.

What remains to be seen is their reliability and durability.

Meanwhile, China-sourced cars that carry the badges of global European and British brands such as Volkswagen (Germany), Maxus (British Leyland) and MG (England’s Morris Garages) are produced and exported by the multiple factories of Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. (SAIC), one of the Big 4 state-owned Chinese automakers.

MOST SUCCESSFUL. Of the three, MG has emerged as the most successful in the Philippines by breaking into the Top 10 Sales Performers list after only one year and two months under the management of The Covenant Car Company, Inc. (TCCCI).

TCCCI, which also distributes Chevrolet vehicles, was appointed the exclusive importer and distributor of MG cars and parts in October 2018.

Early this month, MG Philippines reported an impressive first-year sales figure of 5,085 after launching four all-new vehicles in its first year of operations: the MG ZS subcompact SUV, MG RX5 SUV, MG 6 fastback sedan and the MG 5 subcompact sedan.

In effect, in its first year of operations, MG PH was selling 400 vehicles a month. In contrast, Automobile Central Enterprise, Inc., the distributor of SAIC-manufactured Volkswagen models, sold only 500 units during the entire year of 2019, according to the sales report for the year released by the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. (CAMPI).

The cockpit is dominated by a 10-inch infotainment touchscreen and a sporty flat-bottomed steering wheel.
By scoring 5,085 sales, MG PH overtook Adventure Cycle PH, Inc., the distributor of Kia, and now ranks 9th in the Top 10 Sales Performers January-December 2019 tabulation.

Kia, with total sales of 5,019 in 2019, is relegated to 10th place, dislodging Foton Motor PH, Inc. which sold 4,293 units last year, from the Top 10 list.

 ENTER THE MG 5. The latest offering of MG PH is the MG 5, which was launched at the Cebu Auto Show on Sept. 13, 2019 and subsequently in Makati on Oct. 3, 2019 at the first anniversary celebration of the brand under TCCI.

The MG 5 enters the market as a subcompact sedan, but its length (4,601 mm), width (1,818 mm) and long wheelbase (2,680 mm) are the dimensions of a compact car. It is one of the biggest subcompacts in the country.

MG PH offers four variants: the entry-level MG 5 M/T Core (P658,000), MG 5 CVT Core (P718,000), MG 5 CVT Style (P848,888) and MG 5 CVT Alpha (P938,888).

Notice that all the SRPs end in 8, which Chinese tradition considers a lucky number.

In marketing the MG 5, TCCI uses the tagline “Brit Dynamic” to highlight the brand’s British sporting heritage dating back to 1924 before SAIC acquired the MG Rover Group in 2005 after the latter had undergone several changes in ownership.

Starting in September 2016, SAIC moved MG production from the UK to China although design continues to be developed at a studio in London.

CLASSICALLY SLEEK. Accordingly, the exterior styling of the 2020 MG 5 is classically Euro-sleek and uncluttered, with a large chrome-slatted grille, projector LED headlamps, LED daytime running lights (DRLs), and air intake vents in the lower portion of the front bumper.

Character lines on the flanks, a flowing shoulder line, an electric sunroof and two-tone, 10-spoke, 16-inch alloy wheels enhance the upscale look of the top variant MG 5.

In the Alpha and Style variants, the cockpit is dominated by a 10-inch color display infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while in the lower-ranking variants the touchscreen is smaller at 8 inches.

Using the quirky infotainment system requires a learning curve, but then the very fact that all this high tech is available, despite the car’s below-P1 million SRP, should be comforting.

The naturally aspirated 1.5 inline 4-cylinder DOHC engine, a newer version of the powerplant in the MG ZS subcompact crossover, produces 112hp max and 150 Nm/4500 rpm peak torque. The transmission is either CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) or 5-speed manual.

FRISKY ENOUGH. On paper, the horsepower may not seem like much, but the MG 5 is frisky enough, easily hitting 150 km/h on lonely highways. Its top speed is listed by the manufacturer as 180 km/h for the CVT variants, 185 km/h for the M/T.

Nonetheless, the MG 5 cannot be described as fun to drive. Despite the MG brand’s legendary racing heritage, the MG 5 was not designed for sporty performance, but rather for transporting five passengers in spacious comfort, like a family sedan, with a plenitude of driver assistance and safety features usually found only in costlier cars.

The electric sunroof, leather seats, push button start/stop, trip computer, automatic aircon, audio controls on the steering wheel, reversing camera, and rear parking sensors are standard in the Style and Alpha variants, while the Alpha alone has LED headlamps, power-adjustable driver’s seat, 4-way electric passenger seat, 360 degree vehicle view, six airbags, five USB ports, six speakers, and electric parking brake, among others.

TheMG5’s long (2,680 mm) wheelbase translates into generous legroom for backseat passengers.
The following safety features are standard across all MG 5 variants: ABS with EBD, cornering brake control, brake assist, electronic stability control, keyless entry, driver and passenger airbags, remote central locking, driver seatbelt reminder, 3-point seatbelt for the rear middle seat, child lock and ISOFIX child seat anchors.

Thanks to its long and wide wheelbase, the MG 5 offers generous legroom and elbow room fore and aft. The rear seat is completely equipped with three headrests and 3-point seatbelts for three occupants. The trunk’s 512-liter cargo room expands when the rear seat backrest is folded down as a single unit.

BOTTOM LINE. Given its affordable price, size, high tech and safety equipment, there is a lot to like in the 2020 MG 5 despite minor glitches like a turn signal stick that does not automatically cancel after the driver has completed the turn. MG PH’s 5-year/100,000 km warranty (whichever comes first), after-sales services and client servicing programs add to the value-for-money package that the MG 5 represents, and should boost the sales growth of MG in this country.


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