By Kingsley Wijayasinha
Special to The Nation
Amid constant supplies of high-quality pickups to the domestic and export markets by major producers such as Toyota, Isuzu, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Ford and Chevrolet, one wonders what MG has up its sleeves with the new pickup.
Question is how would it fight the big players with extensive R&D as well as strong marketing drives here?
MG, which is owned by SAIC (Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation) of China, has design and technical centres in Birmingham, England, but enjoys tremendous support from SAIC in the form of global sourcing, components supply chain and quality control management. While MG was well-known for making small sports cars and convertibles in the past, today its product lineup covers mass-market segments such as passenger car and SUV, with China being the largest market.
MG entered Thailand in 2013, joining hands with the Charoen Phokphand (CP) Group, and has been building assembly plants in Chon Buri for both domestic and Asean markets.
The Extender, based on the Maxus T60 made by SAIC Motors, was launched in the Thai market in August, instantly opening up a new market for MG, which previously offered only passenger cars and SUVs here. The Extender comes with only nine variants in luxury space cab and double cab bodies, while the commercial single-cab style has been omitted, pointing out what type of customers it is targeted at.
Unlike previous MG models that came with low price strategy, the Extender’s pricing seems pretty usual, ranging from Bt549,000 for the entry 2.0 Giant Cab model with manual transmission to Bt1.029 million for the top 2.0 Double Cab 4x4 model.
Still, MG is confident that the Extender can help it expand customer base in Thailand due to a good number of attractions.
Firstly, the attractive front-end design and large dimensions would surely appeal to Thai buyers. The radiator grille and projector headlights look luxurious, similar to something you’d expect from an SUV rather than pickup truck, and you can clearly see that it’s pretty big in size too.
The Extender measures 5,365mm in length, 1,900 in width and 1,850mm in height (for the 4x4 model), while the wheelbase is 3,155mm long. Apart from the strong road presence, this enables the Extender to come with lots of interior space as well as loading space when compared with trucks with smaller dimensions.
Get inside and it is also easy to notice the spaciousness both front and rear (even six-footers enjoy plenty of legroom). There are some soft-touch leather in the cabin that give it a luxurious feel, although most of the console and door panel still feel plasticky.
Both front seats are electrically-powered, and the rear seat backrests can be folded to increase carrying capacity in the double cab model. There are air vents at the rear too.
The console design looks good and has a large 10-inch color touchscreen display in the center with i-SMART connectivity system, supporting Thai voice command for all sorts of functions including phone, air-conditioner, power windows and even search for nearby attractions. There is navigation system with real-time traffic info. The system also has music streaming and news updates, and allows owners to check vehicle status and service logs via a diagnostic panel.
The Extender is powered by a 2.0-litre direct-injection turbo diesel engine that produces 161 horsepower and 375Nm of torque, which is just mediocre compared to the competition. The top model is fitted with a 6-speed automatic that’s a little jumpy in first gear, but performs smoothly in general.
While market leaders have reached the 500Nm level for torque output, the Extender’s 375Nm might just be enough for normal driving. With its 2,050kg weight, overtaking performance might not impress, and you’d probably wish for more torque.
MG claims an average fuel economy of 12.7km/litre which is pretty average while average CO2 is claimed at 207g/km.
The 4WD system is electronic and simple to use, offering the standard 2H, 4H and 4L options.
What you will like about the engine, meanwhile, is the smoothness, which is also reflected in the suspension setup. There are double wishbones up front and despite the rear leaf springs, the Extender offers a highly comfortable ride with no bumpiness to be found during our drive in Northeastern Thailand last week.
Cracks, bumps and potholes on the road were ironed out effectively, while noise insulation has been carried out well too, resulting in a pretty quiet and peaceful cabin (at least up to 120km/h).
The Extender comes with all the safety features you’d expect from a top brand, such as six airbags, disc brakes all-round, electronic stability control, traction control, tire pressure monitoring, hill start assist, hill descent control, blind spot detection and lane departure warning. The parking camera has bird’s eye view function, but not with the best resolution though.
MG says that it’s cheap to maintain the Extender, with no more than Bt20,000 cost per 100,000km of driving.
The Extender might not be a superior truck compared to other brands in the market. But it does come with some good points that can help MG find customers who are looking for a pickup with elegant design, spacious interior as well as the latest multimedia connectivity.
MG Extender Double Cab 2.0 Grand 4WD X 6AT
Engine: 4-cylinder DOHC 16-valve turbo intercooler
Bore and stroke: 83.0x92.0mm
Compression ratio: 15.9:1
Max power: 161ps/4,000rpm
Max torque: 375Nm/1,500-2,400rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Average fuel economy: 12.7km/liter
Average CO2: 207/g/km
Suspension (f/r): double wishbone/leaf spring
Steering: powered rack-and-pinion
Turning circle: 12.5 meters
Brakes (f/r): vented disc/disc
Track (f/r): 1,580/1,580
Ground clearance: 183
Wheels: 18-in alloy
Tires: 255/60 R18
Fuel tank capacity 73 liters
Distributor: MG Sales (Thailand) Co Ltd