Even though MG is British in spirit, it was one of the brands that helped kickstart the Chinese revolution in the Philippine car market. It was spearheaded by the ZS crossover which, thanks to its value proposition, proved a hit for local car buyers. MG gained even more ground when it launched the MG 5, its subcompact sedan.
And what’s not to like about the MG 5? For less than a million pesos, you can get a practical family car packed with tech and all the creature comforts consumers demand these days. We drove the mid-spec Style model a few years ago and we were generally impressed with what it had to offer at the price. Heck, it impressed not just in value, but also as an overall package.
That car retailed for P848,888, undercutting most of its subcompact rivals. That said, just because one variant is good doesn’t necessarily translate to the rest of the range. This brings us neatly to the entry-level model, the Core MT.
Base models are typically as bare as they come, at least back in the day. It wasn’t too long ago when you could still get a low-spec car with wind-up windows and a basic stereo. But modern consumers want more for less, and the MG 5 Core MT aims to please.
From the outside, at least, the MG 5 Core makes it clear you’re looking at the base model. The biggest giveaway here is the plastic wheel covers that hide the steel rims. In all fairness, the steel rim design isn’t your typical hole pattern, and clever placement of the cover disguises it well enough.
As for the rest of the car, it looks handsome and well-proportioned. Some will say it looks conservative, but that means the design should age better as the years go by. It’s also refreshing that MG still offers vibrant colors for their cars, and this base-model MG 5’s bright shade of blue is a good example. However, there is an odd window at the back that’s completely blocked off from the inside. Then again, the rear quarters look awkward without it.
STORIES YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED:
Those expecting a bare and nasty interior will be in for a neat surprise when they sit inside. For starters, you’re greeted by a sizable touchscreen, a rarity in this price point. Interior materials aren’t too bad, either. Sure, the dashboard is molded from hard plastic, but the texture doesn’t feel cheap. The padded armrest, thick seat cushions, and door panels were a neat touch, too.
Since the car is larger than most rivals, space is as good as one expects. Of course, space efficiency could be better, but you can easily stretch out in here. But if MG wanted to maximize the area, it might come at the expense of slimmer (and less comfortable) seats. And speaking of space, the trunk size is 512 liters, above average in its price point.
There are a few things we’d like improved inside. First are the air-conditioning controls that may confuse the first-time user. You have to press the center button to toggle the fan speed, press it twice to control temperature, and press it another time to turn it into the volume knob. Surely there’s a simpler way to lay it all out? Also, the touchscreen’s responses could be quicker, but at least it has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Powering the MG 5 Core is a 1.5-liter engine with 114hp and 150Nm of torque. It’s about average for its class, but you have to remember that it’s bigger and heavier than most of its rivals. That engine is paired with a five-speed manual, but a six-speed would’ve been nice.
On the performance front, the MG 5 is best described as adequate. Then again, none of the cars it competes with can be called performance cars. It’s good enough for most but the power has to come on a little earlier. The gearing is on the long side so it takes a while before the engine wakes up and pulls the sedan up to speed. Once at cruising speed, the engine becomes more flexible and acceleration at higher gears is on par with most rivals.
But beyond performance, people who look for sedans like these prioritize economy over speed. Thankfully, the MG 5 Core delivers, even in rush hour traffic. The trip computer showed an average of 8.1km/L at a mere 10kph—not bad considering a curb weight of nearly 1,200 kg. In lighter traffic, 12 to 13km/L is easily achievable.
For those curious how the clutch and transmission feel like in heavy traffic, the MG 5 won’t give you a sore left leg. The clutch pedal is soft, with its biting point at around the middle. It’s also forgiving since the engagement isn’t abrupt. This is one stick shift sedan you can drive smoothly. The lack of a hill-hold assist function might scare first-time drivers, but the trick here is to hold the parking brake, find the clutch’s sweet spot, and let go of the parking brake.
Ride and handling
As for the ride, there is a hint of firmness but it’s not to a point where it sends shocks up your spine. The fat tires and cushy seats help absorb the road’s bumps and ruts. It’s comfortable enough for most and those coming from thinly padded seats will appreciate the ones in the MG 5.
For what it is, the MG 5’s handling is good. Granted, it pitches and rolls around the bends, but that’s expected. Roadholding is up there thanks to the long wheelbase, and it doesn’t feel nervous in the twisties. It’s not the most fun driving experience, but you’ll appreciate the humble sedan’s dynamics. You can adjust the weight of the steering effort in the car’s infotainment system, but it’s best left in comfort mode since it won’t give you additional feedback.
All in all, the MG 5 Core MT presents a strong value proposition while offering a competitive package in terms of features. It’s also efficient, comfortable, and more spacious than most cars that offer a similar price tag. On the downside, we’d like better engine flexibility, better air-conditioning controls, and stability control as standard even for base models. But at P658,888, you won’t find a bigger, or more equipped, sedan for the money. But if that’s still too expensive, MG slashed the prices down to P598,888 for a limited time only.
After a week with the car, we miss having it as a daily runaround. Heck, we’d understand why you’d be tempted to buy one of these. And if you have doubts about its durability, the car you’re looking at in the photos was the same one that raced for eight hours straight about two years ago and it had no squeaks, no rattles, and no mechanical or electrical problems. Not bad for something that was thrashed for that long.
SPECS: 2022 MG 5 Core MT
Engine: 1.5-liter gasoline I4
Power: 114hp @ 6,000rpm
Torque: 150Nm @ 4,500rpm
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Drive layout: FWD