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MG GT Alpha: Out of the shadows

THE CONTEMPORARY iteration of iconic British marque Morris Garages (or MG) made its bones in the Philippines with the very popular ZS SUV, which resonated in the market on account of its value-for-money propositions. But MG is far from a one-trick pony. Its SUVs (including the RX5 and HS), are complemented by equally compelling, right-priced sedans: the MG 5 and the MG 6.

In fact, while the first experience people may have of the MG is the ZS, the brand, proffers local distributor and service provider The Covenant Car Company, Inc. (TCCCI), traces its history to the early 1920s when William Morris and Cecil Kimber first teamed up “to make the British sports car of their dreams.”

MG’s history is replete with speeders, continues TCCCI: The first MG 14/28 sports car, land speed record-setter MG EX181 of the ’50s; to two-door roadsters of the ’60s and ’70s, and all the way to the modern MG 6 XPower used in touring car races.

That’s how MG today prefaces the newest sedan entry: the MG GT. Size-wise, it measures 4,675-mm long, 1,842mm in width, and stands 1,480mm — slotting in between the smaller MG 5 which stretches 4,601 millimeters, is 1,818-mm wide, and 1,489-mm tall; and the marginally larger MG 6 (4,695mm x 1,848mm x 1,462mm). Interestingly, it shares wheelbase length with the MG 5 (at 2,680mm).

Now there may be a reason for the latter commonality. The new MG GT is actually the MG 5 in other markets, and it seems that we have nixed the MG 5 nameplate here for the more alluring GT tag. GT, of course, which stands for “grand touring,” denotes heightened speed and a pure love for driving. At any rate, the MG GT/new MG 5 looks good, that’s for sure.

Sweeping lines and curves, a peaked roofline, and a good-looking front assure more than just a passing glance for the GT. A large maw of a grille which the company calls a 3D Digital Flaming Grille (with an oversized MG logo in the middle) is flanked by LED headlights with automatic on/off function. Daytime running lamps and 3D taillamps are also LEDs in either variant. The side mirrors of the Sport variant will auto-fold; the Alpha’s do not. The fastback design swoops down to the rear and finishes in a ducktail spoiler atop the trunk lid. As for wheels, the Sport variant gets 17-inch alloys fitted with 215/50s; the Alpha gets 205/55 R16s. Back to the trunk, you’d be surprised by all the room of the cavernous cargo hold, to the tune of 401 liters of space.

As for the engine, the MG GT, like all its sibling sedans, sports a 1.5-liter engine. The GT Alpha (priced at P1,015,888) I try out is fitted with a naturally breathing heart good for 114ps and 150Nm. Compare this with the higher Sport variant (costing P1,193,888) whose same-displacement engine is turbocharged and blurts out 161ps and 250Nm. The GT Alpha mates its engine with an eight-speed i-CVT with manual mode; the GT Sport employs a seven-speed DCT.

The proof, of course, is in the pudding. How goes the MG GT in real life — when mostly negotiating traffic from Point A to Point B? Is this sedan something you want to be seen driving or be driven in?

The answer is, quite simply, yes. The MG GT ticks the boxes — even those items you didn’t think mattered to you. It flaunts elegant design coupled with technological bells and whistles like all-digital instrumentation — expressed through a large 12.3-inch screen. On the dash is a 10-inch floating HD touchscreen (thoughtfully slanted to the driver) through which you can control a sundry of things — including your smartphone content via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. This screen also accommodates the feed from the reversing camera on the Alpha variant. I must say that the image resolution is spot on — not muddied and grainy unlike some systems I’ve tested.

Under it are some physical buttons to more quickly switch to, or adjust, the essentials such as air-conditioning and audio volume. Back to the instrument cluster, there’s such a wealth of information the driver can access on demand — tire pressure, fuel economy, real-time output (power and torque) numbers, G forces, an acceleration timer, and much more. On either side are the digital speedo and tachometer — which display the real-time speed and engine revs. I must admit though that I kind of miss the traditional needles that can and are executed digitally in some vehicles.

The front seats of the Alpha are manually adjusted, with the driver’s throne able to be customized in six ways. Its leather-wrapped steering wheel has red stitching — echoing the same accent in the seats. There’s no paddle shifters like in the Sport variant, but the “manual mode” in the eight-speed i-CVT can be engaged, particularly if you need added grunt when you’re overtaking. The default setting on the drive mode seems biased for fuel savings, so if you crave more spirited driving, tip the gearshift knob to the right to engage “S” (sport mode).

At the bottom of the center stack, underneath the air-con vents and above the storage tray, are a couple of USB-A ports flanking a 12V outlet. The one on the driver’s side both charges and accommodates content; the other charges a device. Meanwhile, below the second-row air-con vent are USB-C and USB-A ports, also for charging.

Amid a torrent of SUV and MPV releases, is there room for this sedan contender? I would say yes, particularly since Filipinos are always on the lookout for a good deal. “Overall, the MG GT offers Car-C specs and features but with a Car-B price tag, countering the commonplace notions that are usually associated with many subcompact sedans,” said TCCCI in a statement.

Punching above its price point is the marching order for the MG GT, and it does this in spades — even in the realm of safety features. It starts with a high-density steel cage body put together with advanced laser brazing techniques to ensure a rigid and robust chassis and body frame. Important acronyms thrown in include AEB (Automatic Emergency Braking), FCW (Forward Collision Warning), IHC (Intelligent High Beam Control), BSD (Blind Spot Detection), LDW (Lane Departure Warning), and RCTA (Rear Cross Traffic Alert).

All told, the MG GT breathes the same surprising value-for-money ethos that so endeared its ZS sibling to discriminating yet price-sensitive buyers. This sedan is indeed ready to come out from the shadows, and I expect that many eyes will be fascinated by its surprising package of form, function, and cost.

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