MG4 Australia First Drive
July 31, 2023
So, it’s cheap for an EV, but what do you get for the money?
The MG 4 Excite that kicks off a four-model launch range has fewer features than you would get with a similarly priced petrol hatch, though the specification is reasonable for a budget EV.
It sits on 17-inch alloy wheels, there’s keyless entry and start, and LED lights shine front and rear. Inside, the cabin features dual digital displays, the steering wheel is wrapped in leather, and safety tech comprises adaptive cruise control, lane-keep systems, forward collision warning with auto emergency braking (AEB), auto high beam, driver attention monitoring, and speed-sign recognition.
Interior comfort, space and storage
The MG 4’s cockpit has a simple design that is uncluttered but not uninteresting.
Its steering wheel shape seems to be impersonating the octagonal MG logo, though the biggest flourish is a transmission deck that protrudes from the central mid-section of the dash.
This deck houses a rotary selector dial for Reverse and Drive, incorporating push-button for Park, as well as the electronic parking brake. Behind these is a large pad that is conspicuous in the Excite for its lack of wireless phone charging capability (a feature that’s standard in the more expensive Essence).
The horizontal infotainment screen is reasonably responsive and well presented, though physical controls for the climate control system would be beneficial.
Practicality is a tale of two cabin halves. In addition to the console bin, front occupants are treated to good-size door cubbies, sliding-lid centre console storage, a small net, and cup holders (featuring a coffee-cup logo in case you weren’t sure what they were for).
In the back seat, however, there’s nothing except bottle holders in the doors and a small tray at the rear of the centre console.
Boot space isn’t huge – just 363 litres in the Excite and 13 litres fewer in the Essence owing to a two-level floor. The rear seats split-fold 60:40, though they leave a step when folded in the base model.
What is the MG 4 like to drive?
Getting underway is as simple as it is in a Tesla or Polestar 2 – no engine start button, just rotate the transmission dial to D and press the accelerator pedal. When the drive has finished, press the top of the transmission dial for P(ark), jump out, and lock the car.
The ease of the MG 4 driving experience doesn’t stop there. There’s good vision out of the windscreen (and the rear window if you remove the centre rear headrest), while the hatch’s compact dimensions, effortless steering and tight turning circle are all a boon for the navigation of urban streets.
MG’s electric hatch is comfortable at high speed on freeways and, on country roads, it’s impressively quiet … and fun. Fun in a way that we haven’t described an MG since the ZT V8 sedan – a very different kind of car to the MG 4 but also rear-wheel drive.
Squeeze the accelerator firmly mid-bend and you can enjoy the sensation of being pushed through the corner, the driven wheels also ensuring there’s no torque steer to corrupt the MG’s light and smooth steering.
There’s some firmness to the ride, which aids handling but can cause some fidgeting on poorly surfaced roads, though generally, the MG 4 provides comfortable conveyance.The regenerative braking can be adjusted either via the central touchscreen or steering wheel buttons if so configured. Levels are Low, Medium, High and Adaptive; we found High our preference when lifting off the throttle. It’s not overly aggressive and easy to judge when slowing, though the MG 4 doesn’t offer proper one-pedal driving as the brake pedal is required to bring the car to a complete stop.
MG quotes 7.7 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint, which is slightly quicker than the 7.9 seconds achieved by variants with a bigger, 64kWh battery and more powerful electric motor (150kW v 125kW). The quickest MG 4 at launch will be the 77kWh Essence that can sprint to three figures in 6.5 seconds, though this will be exceeded significantly by the 320kW, all-wheel-drive X-Power model due in late 2023 and good for 3.8 seconds. How far the MG 4 will go on a full charge also depends on the trim level and battery combination. The Excite 51 variant we’re testing here is quoted with a 350km maximum range. That jumps by a substantial 100km with the 64kWh Excite 64, the Essence 64 offers a potential 435km, and the Essence Long Range provides up to 530km. If you can find a 50kW rapid charger, MG says the Excite’s 51kWh battery can be replenished from 10 to 80 per cent in just 40 minutes. Or 60 minutes for the variants with bigger batteries.
The MG 4 is yet to be credited with a local crash-rating score by Australasian NCAP but was awarded the maximum five stars by the affiliated Euro NCAP in 2022. It scored 83 per cent for adult occupant protection, 80 per cent for child occupant protection, 75 per cent for vulnerable road user protection, and 78 per cent for safety assistance. Six airbags (dual front, side and curtain) are fitted as standard.
Warranty and servicing
As with the wider MG range, the MG 4 is covered by the brand’s seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty – including the high-voltage battery.
It has a complimentary 12-month roadside assistance program, which renews with annual servicing at a dealership during the vehicle’s warranty period.
MG has yet to confirm maintenance details for the MG 4, but the ZS EV requires servicing every 24 months or 40,000 kilometres, whichever occurs first.
Hitherto, a positive review of a modern-day MG would carry caveats – the main one being that it’s not that great to drive.
Our test car may have been a UK-spec pre-production model, but – missing rear-view camera aside – it is fully indicative of the base MG 4 that will launch locally in August.
And first impressions are that this is an MG that offers much more than a sharp price tag.