If you believe the research, around half of potential new car buyers want to go electric, yet the UK battery-electric market sits at just 15%. The majority are put off not by range anxiety, that old fear of being stranded with a completely exhausted battery and no three-pin plug socket within reach, but by the fact that you need to pay too much money to buy a car which is typically a compromise falling short of what you really want.
MG believes it can change all that with the MG 4 (which the company styles as MG4), the brand’s first full-electric hatchback, pitched as affordable but also practical and, shock horror, an electric car that is really fun to drive. Does it live up to the “bold new direction” billing?
What is it?
The MG 4 is an all-new model from the brand, designed to attract those who might be considering a larger supermini or smaller SUV. In looks and construction the car is like nothing MG has so far produced. It is built on a new modular platform specially designed for electric powertrains, with a thin battery pack under the floor and able to be made in several different sizes and body styles – the MG 4 is the first of a complete range of new MGs coming over the next few years, a range that will include a sports car.
At 4.3 metres long, the MG 4 is effectively the same size as the electric family car standard bearer, the Volkswagen ID 3. It sits in the ‘grey area’ between small family cars and compact SUVs, and MG is very proud of the car’s wheelbase being almost as long as a typical compact SUV, which means lots of interior space.
It comes with two battery capacities, 51kWh and 64kWh, and promises the equivalent of 203hp of power, 250Nm of torque and a sub eight-second 0-62mph time.
On first sight the MG 4 looks nothing like anything that has worn an MG badge since the brand was revived. The innocuous rounded styling of previous models is gone, replaced by sharper, creased looks that we are told from the basis for the next line of cars from MG. On first viewing the bold strokes, such as the body lines flowing to a point on the front, give the car a purposeful look that is both distinctive and attractive. Crucially they also provide MG with a ‘signature’, unlike previous offerings that simply looked the same as everything else in the car park.
This effect is emphasised in the Trophy model thanks to its ‘flowing’ two-tone roof finish and especially the twin rear spoiler. Following an MG 4 Trophy you will instantly know what you are looking at, though we can imagine that those two rear wings will divide opinions…
MG describes the MG 4’s interior as “simple, elegant, minimalist and functional,” which could also be described as bland – more shortly…
We like: Bold new look is attractive and not at the expense of practicality
We don’t like: Twin rear spoiler will not be to everyone’s taste
What do you get for your money?
MG likes simple model line-ups and that of the MG 4 is easy to remember. Initially there are two trim levels, dubbed SE and Trophy. Unusually the entry-level SE version comes with both battery options, either the standard-range 51kWh unit or the long-range 64kWh version, while the Trophy is only offered with the long-range unit.
You get plenty of equipment too – SE models include LED lights front and rear, auto air-conditioning, a ten-inch central touchscreen display, rear parking sensors, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone capability and the iSmart connected features working through a Smartphone app. There’s a fairly innocuous four-speaker audio system as standard, upgraded to six speakers and 3D sound on the Trophy, but perhaps an area for future improvement.
The safety package, standard across all models, centres on the MG Pilot suite of driver-aids, which includes adaptive cruise control, active emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist functions, lane-keep assist and lane-departure warning and traffic sign recognition. All good in theory, but the MG 4 has not yet been tested and rated by Euro NCAP.
Go for the Trophy and the extra safety aids extend to blind spot detection, lane-change assistance and a rear traffic alert, while among the menu of extras are a two-tone roof, a leather interior (with cloth inserts), electric driver seat adjustment, heated front seats and steering wheel, a 360-degree camera, wireless phone charging and live updates such as traffic alerts and music selections through iSmart. You only get navigation with the Trophy, but let’s face it most people simply plug in their phone these days and use Google Maps…
And how much is the money? You can buy an MG 4 SE for £25,995, or £28,995 in extra miles per charge form, while the Trophy costs from £31,495. These prices are good to start with, but they become even better when you add in the residual values. Predicted by industry-standard analysts CAP, it’s likely the RV ratings of around 60% shocked even MG, being not only at least 5% better than even the Volkswagen ID.3, more than 10% above the Peugeot e-208, Vauxhall Corsa-e and Renault Zoe.
In fact, it’s comparable to the residual values given to two more highly desirable EVs, the Porsche Taycan and Tesla Model Y. This is helped by MG’s standard seven-year, 80,000-mile warranty, which make the car more attractive at the end of a three- or four-year PCP or lease.
What this translates to is needing less money to buy one – a low car price plus strong residual values adds up to a very attractive PCP or PCH monthly payment compared to similarly sized EV.
We like: Lots of equipment for not a lot of money compared to rivals
We don’t like: Audio system could be better.
What’s the MG 4 like inside?
Slip into the MG 4 and the environment is spacious. Rear-seat passengers, in particular, will feel less cramped than in even the largest typical superminis, while boot capacity of 363 litres, expanding to 1,117 litres with the rear seats folded, is more than adequate. It’s all well put together, too, if a little bland and flat – some detailing would not go amiss.
Dominating the front-seat view are the twin display screens; the driver gets a seven-inch one with all essential information on it, while emerging from the centre console is a ten-inch widescreen version which looks after all the usual essentials – audio, climate, navigation if you are either using a smartphone system or the built-in version supplied with Trophy models, and also essential driver controls such as the five driving modes and the various levels of energy recovery.
You can have up to five touchscreen menus on screen to access all these and it’s initially a little fussy to use, though it soon becomes familiar. There are also buttons on the MG-standard octagonal shaped steering wheel for performing such functions as changing the audio system volume, but we found these somewhat indistinct in their action. Our tester’s little fingers also only just reached the short stalks for indicators, wipers et al.
Below this screen is a centre console that houses the large rotary gear selector and (on the Trophy) wireless charging. A neat touch is that the tray on which one’s phone sits includes a couple of small holes through which one can feed cables to the USB sockets in the void underneath, hiding excess cabling out of the way.
We like: Excellent space, both for people and their luggage
We don’t like: Fiddly menus and buttons, slightly short stalks
What’s the MG 4 like to drive?
One oddity of this car is the lack of an on switch. Thanks to the key it recognises you as you get in and comes to life if you touch the brake pedal. You then select Drive on the large gear selector dial and off you go.
As with any electric car, it’s all very quiet and smooth, the car moving along in a very relaxed manner. In the default normal driving mode (remarkably there are five), the energy recovery from regeneration under coasting is noticeable as soon as you lift off the accelerator, and it is very easy to drive it virtually as a two-pedal car.
The energy recovery can be altered in intensity through the centre console, in the same section as selecting the drive modes which as well as the default Standard mode also include Eco, Sport, Snow and an individually customisable mode.
You can proceed along in the MG 4 with no concerns – the ride quality is up to the standards one expects and the chassis does a reasonably good job of smothering less than perfect road surfaces. Or you can exploit it. Floor the accelerator and the car is instant in its response, again as is the norm with an electric car. It piles on the pace, simply getting faster quickly but without the noise of a petrol-powered car.
On twisty country roads, the MG really excels. A combination of drive to the rear wheels and careful packaging to provide perfect weight distribution – the kind of thing performance car designers focus on – mean that this is a really enjoyable car to tackle corners in, which sharp, precise handling while maintaining an upright stance with little body roll.
When one has finished driving, however, we would like a means of actually turning the car off. Having parked up everything carries on being alive until you exit the car and lock it. Apparently you can disengage the auto function on the menus to stop the car coming to life should you wish to simply sit in it and have a nap…
And there’s more to come. The MG 4 might be swift and go a long way between charges, but among an expanded line-up on the way is an extended range model with a 77kWh battery that will take the car’s range close to 330 miles, and a dual-motor 330kW high performance model, with bespoke sporty styling and a 0-62mph time below four seconds.
We like: Handling, pace, general on-the-road dynamics
We don’t like: No obvious button to turn the thing on and off
Charging the MG 4
MG follows convention just once in the location of the MG4’s charging socket, which is on the left-hand side rear panel where one would expect to find a fuel filler cap on a traditional car.
With the long-range 64kWh battery fitted, charging at up to 135kW is possible. That means that if you’re using a suitable 150kW DC rapid charger, the battery will be replenished from 10 to 80% in a mere 35 minutes, around the time it takes to buy and drink a coffee. With the standard battery you are talking slightly longer at around 40 minutes. If the DC charger is a 50kW version then your driving break will be between up to an hour.
Most owners will routinely charge their cars overnight with an AC charger. With a 7.2kW wallbox, the sort that would be applicable for most homes, you are looking at up to nine hours to go from 10% to fully charged. With a three-pin plug, you’ll need around a day…
Official laboratory driving range figures for the two SE variants are 218 and 281 miles respectively, while the Trophy goes to about 270 miles due to the weight of extra equipment and that twin rear spoiler, which adds a little drag. These are certainly practical range levels which will make the MG 4 a viable everyday car for most drivers.
Few modern buyers will recognise the name Cecil Kimber, but in 1928 he was the designer that took the leading letters from the Morris Garages company he worked for and placed them as an octagonal badge on the first of many small sports cars. One can imagine that the MG 4 is the first of the modern-era MGs that were he alive today, Kimber would be happy to see his badge on…
MG is on a roll – it was one of very few car manufacturers to grow its sales in 2021, which it did massively. It beat its sales in the last ‘normal’ year of 2019 by April and with 28,500 cars registered by the end of the year became the 12th largest maker ahead of such mainstream names as Skoda, Land Rover and Mini. Rivals argue that MG’s now 3% share of the overall market was due to the Chinese-owned brand being far less affected by the global semiconductor shortage, though MG’s UK sales boss claims that it could have sold 18,000 more cars if the factory could have supplied them, so could have had an even better year.
The MG 4 is, however, the key to the future. On the evidence of driving it we believe this car could be a game-changer for MG, taking the brand into one of the most important sectors that not only does it not currently compete in, but in which a whole lot of brands do. This is an EV that costs less than rivals, matches or exceeds them on range and boasts better predicted residual values, meaning lower monthly costs on a PCP and more value when you come to sell it on.
None of this would matter if the car was some quirky, impractical niche model, but it’s not. It ticks all the typical family car boxes, but is also quick, with seriously impressive acceleration even before the higher-powered version joins the range. It has perfect weight distribution and it’s rear-wheel drive, which means sharp, responsive handling.
This car could do for MG what the Sportage did for Kia – the model to transform the brand from one of those budget makes trying to legitimise itself with a famous British badge, to a real global player. If you want to go electric but have been put off by big prices, you need to take a look at the MG 4.
Model tested: MG 4 Trophy
Price (as tested): £31,495
Motor unit: 150kW single electric motor
Gearbox: Single-speed automatic
Power: 150kW (203hp)
Torque: 250 Nm
Top speed: 100 mph
0-62 mph: 7.9 seconds
Battery size: 64 kWh
Battery range: 250 miles
Euro NCAP safety rating: Not yet tested (as of August 2022)
TCE Expert Rating: Not yet rated (as of August 2022)