March 24, 2020 By Chris Van Hoven Photos by the author

2020 MG 5 Alpha

The Subcompact Surprise

I admit I wasn’t expecting much when I was handed the keys to the MG 5 Alpha. That’s not to say that MG hasn’t been impressing me so far; quite the opposite, in fact. MG’s lineup has proven time and time again that you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to get a quality vehicle, so I was expecting the same value-for-money proposal with the subcompact MG 5 – I just wasn’t expecting it to be the best car I’ve driven in the segment.

Wait, what?

Yup, it came as a surprise to me too. MG has already been garnering a reputation for their excellent value-for-money offerings, but the adage “you get what you pay for” still usually holds true in the automotive world. Well MG simply blows all that away with the MG 5 Alpha. Right now, the top performer in the segment is undoubtedly the Toyota Vios, which is already a great value for money choice to begin with. But let’s see how the MG 5 Alpha compares. To start, it’s bigger in every way. Longer, wider, taller, with a wheelbase that’s 130mm longer. It really should be classified as a compact car, almost. That means it’s roomier for those in the backseat, and allows for more cargo space as well, with 512 liters of trunk space on the MG 5, versus 478 liters for the Vios. The top-of-the-line MG 5 Alpha is priced at PhP 938,888, so the Vios variant that comes close in terms of pricing is the Toyota Vios 1.3 E Prime at PhP 936,000. So, let’s compare the specs, shall we?

The Powertrain

The MG 5 Alpha is powered by a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 112 hp and 111 lb-ft of torque. The Toyota Vios 1.3 E Prime uses a 1.3-liter 4-cylinder engine that pumps out 98 hp and 91 lb-ft of torque. Both are mated to CVT transmissions. Admittedly, as great as the MG 5’s engine offering is, I noticed some delay with its initial response at very low RPMs. But once you get going, the MG 5’s engine goes back to being responsive, even at high speeds. Overtaking is done easily, with no drama and a relatively quiet exhaust note to boot. It’s just in the beginning, when you get going from a full stop, that the powertrain seems to have to guess at what exactly is going on.

Safety Features

If there’s one thing the Toyota Vios really shines at with its 2020 model, it’s that Toyota didn’t scrimp on safety features. It’s got a full suite of airbags for driver and passenger, side, curtain, and knee, with the added bonus of stability control, ABS and hill-start assist. The MG 5 Alpha isn’t too shabby though, with 4 airbags (driver, passenger, and side curtains) and also comes with traction control, ABS, and hill-start assist. But, the MG 5 Alpha does one better with a 360-degree camera. You also get disc brakes all around for the MG 5 Alpha, while the Toyota Vios 1.3 Prime gets drum brakes at the rear.

Convenience Features

Here is where the MG 5 Alpha really takes off. It comes with a power adjustable driver’s seat, a 10-inch infotainment touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, retractable outer mirrors, automatic LED lights, push-button start/stop, automatic climate control, leather seats, and a sunroof. These are all features that you won’t find on the comparatively priced Toyota Vios 1.3 E Prime, though some of them are available in the top-of-the-line 1.5 G Prime variant. Either way, the MG 5 Alpha easily comes out on top here.

What Else?

The MG 5 Alpha also features impeccable build quality and attention to detail. The doors feel solid, the interior is well put-together, with no panel gaps, rattles, or signs of cheap materials used. The entire cabin actually feels upscale, like it should belong inside a compact car twice its price than in a value-beating subcompact. The MG 5 Alpha’s solid feeling translates to the road as well, with an almost Euro-like cruising quality. NVH levels are easily kept in check, and it feels completely planted on the highway at speed.

So, it’s a clear winner then?

Hold on. Toyota has spent billions over the past decade in ensuring that their after sales service and parts availability/prices are second to none, and that’s one of the main reasons people buy Toyotas in the first place. After all, you could buy a Porsche for PhP 900k but it would be a headache to own if servicing it costs a small fortune and parts are nowhere to be seen. MG is a relatively new brand, and as such, is untested when it comes to after sales and parts availability. Still, on a car-to-car comparison in terms of specs, features, and build quality, the MG 5 Alpha clearly leads the pack. As for how much weigh that holds in a buying decision? Well, that’s completely up to you.

Specifications

Engine

Engine Inline-4, 1498 cc, dohc 16V, Variable Valve Lift Timing Injection, CVT
Max Power (bhp @ rpm) 112 bhp @ 6000 rpm
Max Torque (lb/ft @ rpm) 111 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm

Performance

Top Speed 180 km/h (112 mph)
0-100 km/h | 0-62 mph 12.0 sec.

Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions

Fuel Milage (km/l) 9.8 km/L Overall

Ratings

Price as Tested (PHP) PhP 938,000.00
What's Great Easily the biggest, most comfortable, and most well-equipped car in its class
What's Not So Peaky torque requires some time to get going, untested long-term reliability and after sales
C! Editors Rating 9/10
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