It doesn’t take an analyst to figure out that crossover SUVs have been dominating the roads both locally and abroad for quite some time now. That’s not surprising, considering the excellent value for money that you would get from a segment such as compact crossover SUVS. Here, comfort, fun driving dynamics, and lot of cargo space are all found in one car.
Right now, popular compact crossovers such as Mazda’s CX-5 or Honda’s CR-V hover around the PhP 1.7-million mark. Not as expensive as a fully-specced seven-seater diesel SUV, but not as affordable as most sedans either. MG’s top-of-the-line RX5 Alpha is offered at PhP 1,298,000 — almost PhP 400,000-500,000 more affordable than its established competitors. That’s quite a jump, but is it too good to be true? That’s what we’re hoping to find out.
Styling wise, you won’t hear any complaints about the MG RX5 Alpha, but you won’t particularly hear any “oohs” or “ahhhs” either. And maybe that’s a good thing. The RX5 Alpha boasts classic SUV styling with some modern elements thrown into the mix. Its chrome grille blends in nicely with its HID head lights and daytime running lights. Accents like side skirts, blacked-out wheel arches, roof rails, and skid plates on the front and rear do well to give it a rugged, go-anywhere vibe, and its silhouette from the side is generally well-proportioned.
Inside, MG impresses with details such as supportive leather seats with a six-way power adjustment for the driver, stitched leather door panels, and a steering wheel that feels great to hold.
Admittedly, the rest of the interior doesn’t quite hold up to its rivals, or even some of its stablemates such as the MG ZS. Fit and finish is generally ok, but there is an abundance of hard plastics used throughout the cabin. The eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay is nice, but lacks the added functionality of Android Auto, which its little brother the MG 5 supports. Unlike the MG 6’s impressive seven-inch virtual instrument cluster, the RX5 uses an older 3.5-inch monochrome display, sandwiched by simple analog gauges on the left and right. While build quality is certainly not an issue here, we can see that the interior is where MG decided to cut back a bit on cost, with more luxurious materials and appointments found elsewhere.
Once you come to accept this though, you’ll find that the MG RX5 is exceptionally roomy. This is especially true for those at the back seat. The rear passenger get their own air vents as well as passenger reading lamps. The rear cargo area holds 595-liters with the rear seats up, which is quite a bit more than Mazda’s CX-5 at 506 liters, and even Honda’s 522 liters. With the rear seats down, the RX5 opens itself up to 1639 liters of available cargo space.
Powered by a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 169 hp and 250 Nm of torque, the RX5 is rather spirited off the line, thanks to its wide torque band. Power delivery is highly linear despite coming from a turbocharged, small-displacement engine, with very minimal turbo lag.
The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission provides smooth shifts most of the time, with only some hesitation to be found at low speed or uphill. Still, it’s one of the smoother-shifting examples of a dual clutch transmission, even compared to those priced much higher.
Ride and handling
On corners, the MG RX5 isn’t what you’d consider a nimble handler, with body roll and understeer present if you take a sharp turn faster than you’re supposed to. It makes up for it with excellent comfort through irregular roads, easily soaking up small obstacles and potholes in a highly-composed manner. On the highway, the RX5 is impeccably stable, making long distance cruising a highly enjoyable experience. We were able to achieve 8.5 km/L on mixed highway and city driving conditions, which is just slightly above average for the segment.
It’s not perfect, but no one can deny the value the RX5 Alpha variant brings to the table. It comes with creature comforts such as a panoramic sunroof, cruise control, tilt/telescopic steering wheel adjustments, remote and smart key entry, push button start stop, and remote control trunk unlock.
On the safety side, the RX5 is well-equipped, with driver, passenger and side airbags, ABS, EBD, cornering brake control, electronic stability control, hill hold control, hill descent control, anti-roll protection, as well as a rear parking sensor and a reverse camera.
In an industry where small subcompact sedans are breaching the PhP 1-million mark, and compact sedans are breaching the PhP 1.5-million price point, it’s comforting to know that you can still get a decent compact crossover SUV with all the bells and whistles thrown in in-between that range. If you’re looking for the practicality, ride height and comfort that SUVs bring while being on a tight budget, then there really is no need to look elsewhere.
Text and photos by Chris Van Hoven