Car reviews - MG - MG4
Excellent handling balance, nicely finessed steering, efficient powertrains, cohesive cabin design, comfortable seating, red-hot entry price
Room for improvement
Average charging times, modest door storage, hard cabin plastics, basic rear-seat amenities, wind rustle on the freeway
MG4 introduces new EV platform, three powertrains and genuine dynamic ability to the brand
15 Aug 2023
MG Motor is now comfortably seventh in the Australian manufacturers’ Top 10 ranking so there’s no disputing the sales success that this Chinese-owned, British-branded marque has achieved in recent years.
But MG’s growing market share has been mainly due to razor-sharp pricing, not great products.
With the new MG4 EV, however, the tide has finally turned. Riding on a new Modular Scalable Platform (MSP) developed by parent company SAIC, the brand’s first dedicated electric vehicle manages to combine great pricing with genuine ability and driver appeal for the first time in a contemporary MG.
Offered with three electric powertrains in four models (Excite 51, Excite 64, Essence 64, and Long Range 77), the MG4’s pricing spans $38,990 to $55,990 (before on-road costs).
Standard equipment for the entry model includes LED lighting, 17-inch alloy wheels, a 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster, 10.25-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, keyless entry with auto stop/start, heated mirrors.
The included ‘MG Pilot’ active-safety suite features lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, traffic-jam assist, speed-limit assist, and rear camera with parking sensors.
Essence and Long Range variants gain 18-inch alloy wheels, a two-tone roof, ‘twin-aero’ rear spoiler, active grille shutter, electric folding mirrors, rear privacy glass, front-seat and steering-wheel heating and an EV trip planner.
This is in addition to a six-way electric driver’s seat, leatherette/cloth trim, wireless phone charging, voice control, sat-nav and six-speaker audio (up from four average speakers), plus blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, emergency lane-keep assist and lane-change assist.
With a range spanning 350km to 530km (WLTP), the rear-wheel-drive MG4’s calling card is not only its dynamic ability but also its class-leading efficiency for the price.
In comparison, the similarly sized front-wheel-drive $38,890 BYD Dolphin and $39,990 GWM Ora offer a claimed 340km and 310km respectively (both WLTP), though none of the three rate particularly well when it comes to charging times.
A 10-80 per cent charge takes 37 minutes in the base MG4, 41 minutes in the base Ora, and approximately 50 minute in the significantly less powerful entry-level Dolphin.
MG Motor Australia says it already holds 1000 orders for the MG4 and can currently supply around 1000 units a month with that number able to ramp up significantly if the demand is there.
Given our positive first impressions of the first praiseworthy contemporary MG, there’s every chance the spritely MG4 could displace the much more expensive Tesla Model 3 as Australia’s favourite electric vehicle.
Apart from some early driver-focused sports cars, and several dynamic successes during the 1990s and 2000s, no MG has ever really been considered the British equivalent of a good BMW.
And since MG switched to Chinese ownership, apart from a few early examples still tuned in Longbridge, the broadest (and kindest) statement that could be made about the dynamic ability of any MG Motor product was that they’re still some way off their development potential.
But the MG4 is entirely different. Its dedicated EV platform features a super-slim battery pack embedded in its floor – enabling the MG4 to achieve both respectable packaging efficiency and tangible weight savings (its kerb weight is 1635-1748kg, depending on model variant).
And its sophisticated fully independent suspension architecture, developed and tuned by SAIC in conjunction with Spanish firm IDIATA, combines with 50:50 weight distribution and rear-wheel drive to achieve a level of dynamic excellence that has eluded every contemporary MG up to this point.
Even the base MG4 Excite lives up to its name to a large extent. Riding on Continental Premium Contact 215/50R17 tyres, the Excite offers keen, sweetly balanced handling with a surprising degree of rear-end adjustment thanks to its narrower tyres, rear-wheel-drive layout and respectable punch.
Featuring a 51kWh battery with 125kW and 250Nm (plus 350km of range), the base MG4 Excite 51 is strong enough to reach 100km/h from standstill in a brisk 7.7 seconds.
On paper it seems barely any different to the marginally faster Excite 64 (with 25kW more power and a 7.2sec 0-100km/h time), which means that even the cheapest model in the MG4 range offers enough dynamic reward to satisfy anyone who enjoys driving.
Obviously, the 150kW/250Nm Excite 64 – the variant we drove at the MG4’s Sydney launch – dials all that up a notch (at a $6000 premium) and provides another 100km of electric range (450km) as well as even more poke, yet it’s understandable why MG Motor Australia expects the $39K Excite 51 to be the highest-selling MG4 variant. In an instant, it makes the flawed MG ZS EV now completely irrelevant.
Like the base MG4s, the Essence 64 ($47,990) and Long Range 77 ($55,990) also share specification, apart from their powertrain outputs and overall range.
Riding on fancier 18-inch wheels with fatter 235/45R18 Bridgestone Turanza T005 EV tyres, the Essence 64 and Long Range 77 feel grippier and a touch meatier in their steering which offers directional precision, finessed weighting and pleasantly consistent response with 2.9 turns lock-to-lock.
The 180kW/350Nm Long Range 77 also feels quicker with a 0-100km/h sprint in 6.5sec, though the difference is only really apparent when charging off the line or during rolling acceleration at speeds beyond 80km/h.
The rest of the time, they all share a silky-smooth, consistently strong, nicely refined approach to making progress, which enhances the MG4’s feeling of sophistication.
Only in the ride department does the MG4 betray its handling bias, with firmly controlled damping that’s never harsh, nor is it plush. Given the focus of the MG4’s general driving dynamics, it’s the correct tuning decision.
That said, the MG4 is also not quite as refined on the freeway as other small EVs such as the adaptively damped $60,000-plus Cupra Born.
In terms of design, the MG4’s exterior is quite successful too – particularly the sharply cut-off rear end with its interesting LED lighting signatures. Combined with a solid stance on the road thanks to broad tracks and a long 2705mm wheelbase, it appears all-of-a-piece, like design and engineering were communicating throughout its development.
As for space, the MG4 is again impressive. Its sporty tail hides a voluminous 350-363 litre boot (the larger capacity for Excite variants) while inside, four of its seating positions deliver great back and shoulder support, and really good under-thigh support.
Only the driver gets height adjustment – meaning relatively limited foot room for the rear-seat passenger on the right-hand side if the front seat is at its lowest position – but even the front passenger doesn’t feel like they’re sitting too high.
Trim quality is good and the rear seat is genuinely spacious, though minimal door storage (especially in the rear), and no rear-seat air vents expose the MG4’s price point. At least it offers four proper door grab handles, and there’s a rear USB-C outlet.
Up front, the driving position is mostly excellent, with a handsome and great-to-hold two-spoke steering wheel, clear display screens, easy functionality and a large rubberised lower storage tray joined by a smaller upper one.
But the raised centre console section can dig into the driver’s left leg, all cabin plastics are hard and look inexpensive though nicely assembled, and the processing speed of the 10.25-inch touchscreen can lag at times.
It also takes a while to scroll through all the MG4’s active-safety features and downgrade their sensitivity, because on high-alert they can be highly intrusive.
Having the climate control embedded in the centre screen also takes time to get used to, though there’s an on/off switch next to external demisting switches, a home switch and volume-control switches.
Finally, to the MG4’s range efficiency. Of the two variants we road-tested the most (an Excite 64 and a Long Range 77), the Excite averaged 18.4kWh/100km over 157km of fairly spirited road testing, meaning approximately 338km of range. Its official WLTP range claim is 450km (or 435km for the Essence on 18s).
Over a longer and more varied distance, which included a brisk freeway drive back to Sydney, the Long Range 77 averaged 17.4kWh/100km, which calculates to a range of 428km based on its useable battery size. Its official WLTP range claim is 530km.
While neither of those efficiency figures match the MG4’s combined factory claims, they involved minimal city driving, which also means minimal regenerative braking feeding energy back into the battery. In ideal EV conditions, there’s every chance the MG4 may come close to its supposed range potential.
As it stands, though, the MG4 is much more impressive as an all-round vehicle than we expected. It’s attractive, roomy, reasonably well-equipped and very well-priced. It’s also genuinely fun to drive and being able to say that about an MG is something we haven’t said in nearly 20 years.
And while the 10-80 per cent charging speed of the base model is an average 37mins (at 88kW maximum charge speed), the Excite and Essence 64 models can achieve the same charge level in 28mins (at 140kW), while the Long Range 77 takes 38mins (at 144kW).
So while the MG4 is no Porsche Taycan or Hyundai Ioniq 5/6 when it comes to refilling its battery, it’s also massively cheaper than any of those EVs, yet offers a more than decent level of comfort and driver appeal. And we like that very much.
19th of July 2023
2023 GWM Ora Standard Range Review
Like or loathe it, the odd-ball GWM Ora is well-priced and enjoyable city-centric EV
17th of July 2023
2023 MG4 Excite 51 Review
Lower price, claimed 350km range and RWD define new MG4 Excite 51
All car reviews
Click to share