With hybrid sales on the rise in Australia, you’d think car brands would be bending over backwards to bring more of them. Especially when the hybrid vehicle in question is based on Australia’s regular top-selling small SUV, the MG ZS.

However, MG’s local division says it has “no immediate plans” to do just that, in reference to a new model revealed in Thailand recently called the MG VS HEV.

Despite the different name, the MG VS HEV is clearly based on the ubiquitous ZS, but brings new nose and interior designs, and the fuel-saving electrified drivetrain. It was revealed in Thailand in early August this year, and this week underwent media reviews over there.

“We are constantly listening to the needs and wants of our customers, as part of that process, we assess many variants within our global range,” said an MG Motor Australia spokesperson.

“But at this stage, there are no immediate plans to bring the VS HEV / ZS Hybrid SUV into the Australian market,” they added.

The hybridised MG would line-up against fellow cheap Chinese entrant, the GWM Haval Jolion HEV hybrid, which launches here in September. Just this week hybrid leader Toyota revealed local pricing for its new Corolla Cross, replete with electrified engines across the range.

As it stands, the MG ZST Essence turbo-petrol tops out at $33,990 drive-away in Australia, and the incoming updated ZS EV electric kicks off at $46,990 drive-away – presenting a gap for product planners to fill.

While its origins are unclear, the VS HEV vehicle is listed as a product of SAIC Motor-CP Co. Ltd, which is the name of MG’s Thai-based manufacturing arm – suggesting the vehicle has been geared for that market, and other ASEAN countries.

While it has six airbags and a 360-degree camera, there’s no mention of the MG Pilot active safety features such as autonomous emergency braking – which would be an impediment to it being sold in Australia, where the ZS EV has a five-star ANCAP rating.

The MG VS HEV combines a 1.5-litre petrol engine with 80kW and 142Nm (similar to the base ZS sold here), a 70kW and 200Nm electric motor, and a 2.1kWh lithium-ion battery. Maximum system power is 130kW, and fuel consumption is reportedly as low as 5.8 litres per 100km.

That’s some way off Toyota’s benchmark system, but compared to the ZS and ZST petrols in Australia, this VS HEV offers more power plus superior fuel efficiency. MG Thailand claims a 0-100km/h time of just under 9.0 seconds.

It also features a KERS mode to help recharge the battery while the vehicle is slowing down (just a fancy name for regenerative braking). There are three selectable levels.

MG has visually differentiated the VS from the related ZS with a more angular front end design featuring a ‘Electrified Matrix’ grille design, which has a distinctive diamond pattern.

There are large front cut-outs that feature blue trim elements forming an arrow.

Inside, the VS’ interior closely resembles that of the Lomemo from sister brand Roewe with dual 12.3-inch screens in the same housing, with the centre touchscreen featuring Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

MG has yet to offer a conventional hybrid model here, however it sells the electric ZS EV and the plug-in hybrid HS +EV.

Next year MG will introduce another electric model called the MG 4 EV – this one being all-new and designed to fight the Volkswagen ID.3 in Europe.

MG also plans to introduce the petrol-powered MG 5 small sedan next year, which CarExpert understands will be the brand’s first model in Australia to be sourced from Thailand. Maybe that opens the door to re-evaluate the VS HEV?

Mike Costello
Mike Costello is a Senior Contributor at CarExpert.
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