11 October 2023

MG5 review: Brian Byrne, Irish Car

With sales of electric cars now approaching one in five of all registrations here, there's no longer a question of when the powertrain will be mainstream, writes Brian Byrne. The next question — what brands are winning the EV race? Probably no surprise that Volkswagen has the lion's share at 18.9pc of EVs sold year to date. Tesla is next at 13pc of EV market share while Hyundai and Kia at 10.5pc and 7.4pc each — in fact combined are snapping at the swishing wheels of the Wolfsburg leader. That the top five placing is filled out by Chinese marque MG and not by any of the mass-market and pioneer electric brands like Nissan and Renault must be a worry to those carmakers. As well as to a range of other European marques which have invested heavily in EVs.

Almost four out of five of those MG sales here are for the compact MG4 hatchback introduced earlier this year, and which I have already reviewed. This week it's the MG5, in Ireland since last year and billed as the first estate car EV to be sold in Europe. Which is maybe why sales haven't been stratospheric in Ireland, given the somewhat strange attitude we have to wagons.

To me, long an estate car fan, the MG5 looks really good. A smooth front, svelte profile lines and a smart rear tailgate where the iconic MG badge in chrome sat very well against the red colour of the review car. The overall looks rival my favourite in the format, Toyota's Corolla Touring Sports.

When Chinese cars first tested the motor show circuit some years ago, I remember the interior quality not being any way close to what would be acceptable by European drivers. That has changed utterly. Sitting into the MG5 is as good an experience as in any mid-range Korean or European car. Maybe a little heavy with the brushed aluminium effect trim on the dashboard and centre console, but nothing brash or off-putting. The style detailing is pleasant, there's good support and comfort in the seats, and even though the car bears no relation to the original sporty brand, there is still something interesting about that MG octagon gracing the steering wheel boss.

The driver's instrumentation is of the EV simple variety, there's not much needed to know apart from speed and range left. The central infotainment screen is probably of the right size and shape to suit most, and is Bluetooth connectible to smartphones. In my review of the MG4 earlier this year I railed against the poor sensitivity of the screen — though similar, this one seemed to be better in that department. There is still an issue in how far through menus you have to go to turn off the more annoying elements of the Advanced Driver Assist system, but this is also becoming an issue with other non-Chinese brands.

The simple concept also applies to the transmission selector, a rotary knob on the centre console. Ahead of it are two switches for drive mode and energy regeneration strength, pleasantly practical to use.

It's a roomy car in all spaces, including for rear headroom, while the longish wheelbase allows passengers there a decent stretch of the legs. The boot capacity of 479L with all seats up is good for most family use needs — you obviously get more with a retracted cover and more again with rear seats folded.

With those ADAS gizmos switched off, the driving experience is smooth and quiet as is the norm with EVs. The overall feel proved almost surprisingly enjoyable, and despite the inevitable heavier car because of the battery, the suspension handled the ride well even on iffy roads.

The electric motor offers 166hp, and the 7.7s acceleration from 0-100km/h is adequately quick, proving that the sometimes outlandish power and torque in many other EV cars is a completely wasted use of resources. The 61.1kWh battery gives the car a rated range of 379km, and over my time with the MG5 I found that to be reasonably close to real-world.

I don't mind saying that I didn't expect this car to be as pleasing as it turned out to be. Maybe that's also what established carmakers on this side of the world are thinking too. If they aren't worried, they should be.

PRICE: From €37,395; review car in Exclusive grade €41,545. WHAT I LIKED: Being surprised by the car's competence.