We’re pushing the all-new, mid-spec MG 4 Essence with its 64kWh battery and 150kW motor through a series of relatively challenging corners, and it’s not putting a foot wrong.
And this is just the mid-spec version armed with a relatively small battery, but it’s properly fun with rear-wheel drive and a very effective chassis.
It’s hard to believe this is MG’s first crack an affordable electric hatch, after launching in Australia just six years ago with some fairly average, budget offerings.
The MG 4 is still an affordable proposition kicking off from under $40k.
Its design is a three-way collaboration between the SAIC Design Centre in London, The Royal College of Art, and SAIC headquarters in Shanghai. From any angle it’s a head-turner. There’s not much I don’t like about it; even the wheels are interesting.
Under the skin is SAIC’s newest Modular Scalable Platform, which will be used to underpin a range of electric cars – including the Cyberster sports car. Then there’s the luxury cars MG has planned…
Before we get there though, is the MG 4 the affordable EV to buy in 2023?
The MG 4 range offers three battery sizes and two trims, with prices starting from $38,990 before on-roads for the Excite 51. For that, you get a 51kWh battery and a 125kW motor, good for a WLTP range of 350km.
Next rung up is the MG 4 Excite 64 from $44,990 before on-roads, with the same equipment but a 64kWh battery and 150kW motor, for a range of up to 450km.
Stepping up to the top trim level but with the same battery capacity is the MG 4 Essence 64 priced at $47,990 before on-roads, with a 150kW motor and a slightly lower 435km range.
At the top of the pecking order (until the dual-motor MG 4 X-Power arrives later in a few months) is the MG 4 Essence 77 from $55,990 before on-roads, which benefits from a 77kWh battery and 180kW motor, for a 530km range.
The MG 4 currently sits as the second-cheapest EV in Australia, behind the BYD Dolphin priced from $38,890 before on-roads – but with a smaller 44.9kWh battery, and less power and range.
You can order your MG 4 now with deliveries expected in the same month, where BYD is expecting Dolphin orders to be delivered in September/October this year.
Other affordable rivals are few and far between, except for the Chinese-made GWM Ora, which has seen a price drop to $39,990 before on-roads but has a slightly lower EV driving range (320km).
2023 MG 4 pricing:
- MG 4 Excite 51: $38,990
- MG 4 Excite 64: $44,990
- MG 4 Essence 64: $47,990
- MG 4 Essence 77: $55,990
All prices exclude on-road costs.
One of the nicer features of electric car cockpits is the minimalistic nature of the space, and the MG 4 is no exception.
Some electric cars have a stop/start button, but not the MG 4. As long as the key fob is on your person the car is good to go, once you’ve spun the tactile rotary dial around to ‘D’ and hit the throttle. It makes for quick (silent) getaways if you’re running late.
It’s also wonderfully simple, and less distracting than you find in most combustion engine cars, but there’s one or two drawbacks.
While there’s plenty of functionality on the flat-bottom steering wheel, there are no dials for volume control or air-conditioning operation on the dashboard. You’ll find the latter in the climate-control menu on the 10.25-inch touchscreen, while volume can be found in a row of shortcut buttons directly below.
It’s a good size screen with good clarity and colour, but we found it slow to respond and often requiring two firm presses unless you worked out correct finger-pressing form. That was a bit annoying, and likely something easily rectified some sensor recalibration.
Further across, there’s a configurable 7.0-inch driver display offering the same level of crispness as the infotainment screen, as well as a stack of relevant information including a large digital speed readout. There’s no head-up display option available.
I like the floating console which houses the drive selector, electric handbrake switch, and wireless smartphone charge pad. It’s a clever design, and is well positioned for easy access.
Directly below is large storage compartment with a roller cover that’s easily capable of swallowing wallets, keys, phones, and sunnies in one space if need be. Forward of that are cupholders, along with a small console bin that doubles as a centre armrest.
The driver’s ergonomics are excellent in the comfortably cushioned seat with good bolster, upholstered in combination faux leather and fabric. They’re soft but at the same time supportive for longer stints behind the wheel.
But only the driver’s seat gets electric adjustment even in the top-spec Long Range 77 variant, while the front passenger pew is an all-manual operation and is perched quite a bit higher than the driver. Taller passengers should take note if planning on being a regular in the seat.
Mostly, there’s a good mix of soft-touch materials but with a good fit and finish, but it falls short of feeling premium in my view given there are also plenty of hard plastics below the eye-line and on the door cards.
Then again, this is a sub-$40k electric hatch, so premium isn’t the point. It’s a smart, interesting cockpit that’s not likely to disappoint given the overall value-for-money proposition.
It’s less thrilling in the second row. MG says it’s big enough for three good size adults – certainly there’s decent leg and headroom back there, but with no air vents and no rear-seat armrest, I’d suggest shorter trips only with five up.
Measuring just 4287mm in length, boot space behind the rear seats is only adequate at 363 litres for the Excite and 350 litres for the Essence. When the seats are folded the load space expands to 1177 litres and 1165 litres, respectively.
Charging cables will need to live in the relatively shallow compartment beneath the boot floor as there’s no frunk as such.
The entire MG 4 range is rear-wheel drive, which could easily be billed as one of its unique selling points compared with the front-wheel drive GWM Ora and BYD Dolphin.
The MG 4 Excite 51 has a 51kWh battery pack, which is good for a claimed 350km of driving range (WLTP). It has a single, rear-mounted electric motor that produces 125kW of power and 250Nm of torque, with a claimed 0-100km/h time of 7.7 seconds.
Step up to the Excite 64 or Essence 64 and you have a bit more poke from the motor, with 150kW and 250Nm. These models run a larger 64kWh battery with claimed 450km WLTP (Excite) or 435km WLTP (Essence) driving range.
However, the 0-100km/h time is 7.9 seconds as the larger battery pack adds more weight.
Choose the Long Range 77 and you get a larger 77kWh battery with a claimed WLTP range of 530km, while power is bumped to 180kW/350Nm. The claimed 0-100km/h time is 6.5 seconds.
The 51kWh battery can be charged using AC and DC charging. DC fast charging is capped at 88kW while a 6.6 kW AC charging speed is also available.
The 64kWh battery can be charged at up to 140kW using a DC charger. It will take a claimed 26 minutes to charge from 10 to 80 per cent at its maximum DC charging rate.
MG 4 energy consumption:
- Excite 51: 14.5kWh/100km
- Excite 64: 13.7kWh/100km
- Essence 64: 14.2kWh/100km
- Long Range: 14.0kWh/100km
On the way down covering a distance of around 125km, we saw as low as 17.6kWh/100km for the 64 Essence –remembering it was pushed hard.
In the 77 Essence on the return trip energy consumption measured 19kWh/100km with 90 per cent motorway driving.
For this specific launch program we focused solely on the MG 4 Essence 64 and Essence 77. Both feel suitably quick off the line despite their varying battery capacities.
While it’s a tad disappointing there’s no full leather trim (man-made leather will do) in the top trim variants, I can’t complain about the support and bolstering those front seats provide.
The steering wheel is an unusual two-spoke design with a flat bottom. At first it looks a bit odd, but its tactile and feels great in the hands.
Drivers can chose between a suite of drive modes (Snow, Eco, Standard, Sport and Custom), so to make our way out of Sydney we kicked off in Standard for its linear power delivery. Even then, the 4 is capable of leaving traffic behind at the lights.
It feels agile in the city and capable of quick changes of direction with excellent composure and body control when you’re having some fun. The steering is light but firms up noticeably in Sport.
Yep, I’ve switched already and I’m only five minutes in to a two-hour stint. Now we blasting by Ranger Raptors – much to the driver’s disdain as we make our way south down to the National Park.
The MG 4 offers great all-round vision, too. I was bit worried about rear vision with its tricky spoiler back there, but it doesn’t impede things one bit. Drivers will find it one of the easiest cars to park in tight spots, given both optimal vision and the light steering.
You can access a bunch of stuff via the four-way scroll buttons on the steering wheel, but for now we’ve changed drive modes and dialled up one-pedal driving via the touchscreen. It’s easy enough but a console button or two would sure make life easier.
Once you get to master one-pedal driving, you’ll very quickly get used to it and will likely become the default in the city, at least. There’s not much point to it on the open road.
It’s quiet and smooth at 110km/h on the motorway with plenty of juice on tap for high-speed overtakes. The only disturbance at this speed is some wind noise off the driver’s side mirror. You’re not aware of it from the passenger seat.
Even in suburbia you’re aware this is a fine chassis with very little body roll even in the tighter turns but it’s not until you’re properly pushing in the really twisty stuff do you realise just how good it really is.
The harder you push, the more composed and willing it gets. Remarkable, as my co-driver for the day has really upped the ante and there’s a few wet patches to contend with, too. Never mind, the MG 4 Essence 64 barely flinches and then grips up and darts in and out of a string of corners.
We’re genuinely pushing this thing in the same way you’d push any of the best hot hatches and it’s just eating it up. Remarkable stuff, really. The effects of a 50:50 weight distribution are properly felt here. Same goes for the rear-wheel drive. It’s all beautifully balanced.
Here I am talking about performance with one of the cheapest EVs on sale today, but it’s just the fact its so much fun to drive, thanks to its quite superb chassis.
While the MG 4 definitely skews on the firmer side with its suspension tune, the damping is tuned for a decent level of compliance, even over coarse chip surfaces and smaller potholes. There are no big hits felt in the cabin.
At first, I was thinking it could do with slightly more compliance but in the end, I think the ride/handling balance is where it should be given its inherently sporty characteristics.
While it might be one of the least expensive electric cars in Australia, the MG 4 is loaded with a stack of standard features.
The Excite comes standard with the following equipment:
- One pedal functionality
- Four-mode regenerative braking
- Five-link independant rear suspension
- 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster
- 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Keyless entry
- Automatic stop and start
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Four-speaker sound system
- Black fabric upholstery
- 17-inch alloy wheels
- Automatic high-beam
- Electric side mirrors with heating functionality
- Six-way manual drivers adjustable seating
- MG Pilot
- iSmart Lite connectivity
The Essence adds:
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- Black roof
- Rear light bar
- iSmart connectivity
- Six-speaker sound system
- Satellite navigation
- Wireless phone charger
- Synthetic leather/cloth upholstery
- Auto-dimming rear-view mirror
- Height-adjustable load floor
- EV trip planner
- Heated front seats
- Heated steering wheel
- 360 degree view camera
- Two-tone roof
- Active grille shutters
MG 4 colours:
- Dover White
- Brixton Blue
- Black Pearl metallic
- Camden Grey metallic
- Dynamic Red tri-coat
- Volcano Orange tri-coat
- Sterling Silver
On the back of 2022 testing in Europe where MG 4 received a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, it’s been awarded the same five-star ANCAP safety rating for Australia.
It scored 83 per cent for adult occupant protection, 86 per cent for child occupant protection, 75 per cent for vulnerable road user protection, and 81 per cent for safety assist.
Standard safety equipment includes:
- Autonomous emergency braking (AEB)
- Pedestrian detection
- Cyclist detection
- Junction assist
- Lane departure warning
- Lane keep assist
- Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
- Front, rear parking sensors
- Tyre pressure monitoring
- Front, rear seat belt reminders
- ISOFIX child restraint anchorage points (outer rear seats)
- Front, front side, full-length curtain airbags (6 in total)
MG 4 Essence adds:
- Surround-view cameras
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic assist
The MG 4 range is covered by a seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty encompassing the car and battery.
There’s also seven years of roadside assistance included. Uber or other ride share/commercial drivers also get a seven-year warranty, but it’s capped at 160,000km.
Maintenance is required every two years or 20,000 kilometres with the following pricing:
- 40,000km/24 months: $296.00
- 80,000km/48 months: $886.00
- 120,000km/72 months: $296.00
- 160,000km/96 months: $886.00
- 200,000km/120 months: $296.00
It might be one of Australia’s best electric car bargains, but the MG 4 is a proper looker that’s packed to the rafters with the latest tech and features – and a genuinely rewarding drive to boot.
There’s sound engineering and knowhow behind this car and it shows in so many ways, from the design to the chassis.
Perhaps the cabin could be a tad more exciting, and the touch screen more responsive, but none of that really dulls the appeal here.
And this is just the beginning of modern MG’s rebirth. Now, bring on the MG 4 X-Power and MG Cyberster.
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