MG4 Essence 64 car review
MG has recently released its new EV, the MG4, and it’s being touted by motoring writers around the world. Is it as good as they say and easy to live with?
We took an MG4 Essence 64 for a week to find out and the short answer is – yes, it’s very good. The Essence isn’t perfect, but it’s the best car in the MG stable by far and should be taken for a test drive if you’re after an electric car in this price bracket.
- Stylish looks
- Plenty of power
- Good handling
- Long range
- Sleek interior that feels high quality
- Wireless charging was spotty with my iPhone in its case
- Our loaned car had a technical gremlin where the infotainment screen stayed bright at night in certain conditions
- Not much visibility out the back window when reversing
Four MG4 models to choose from
There are currently four models of the MG4 on sale in NZ. All qualify for the full $7,015 Clean Car Discount (while it's still here).
The most basic models are the Excite 51 and Excite 64, which come with 51kWh and 64kWh batteries and cost $47,000 and $52,000, respectively.
The Essence 64 is a visually enhanced version of the Excites, with a higher spec level and a 64kWh battery. It costs $55,000.
Finally, there’s the Long Range 77 for $64,000. Its spec level is the same as the Essence, but it has more power and a bigger battery (that I’ll let you guess the size of).
MG lent us the Essence 64, in bright red, and it was certainly eye-catching. I couldn’t wait to take it home for a week.
I’d seen the pictures online of the car with its distinctive twin spoilers on the boot and liked the look. This rang true when I saw the car in the metal – seated next to an Excite model, it really showed that you need those spoilers or the look is somewhat … spoiled. The sleek exterior and interior say “European” to me, which is what I like when it comes to cars.
The car is the size you’d expect from a hatchback, but the seats are a bit higher than expected. That’s a good thing, as it’s easier to get in and out of –the batteries are under the floor, so it elevates the rest of the car.
The dash is minimalist, with a small shelf that juts out with a wireless phone charger and the dial gear selector. That little shelf means that you don’t have the usual big centre console right next to you, making the cabin feel more spacious. The driver’s display is confined to a relatively small, but perfectly adequate, 7-inch digital screen.
It all feels very modern, right down to the lack of a start/stop button. I’d experienced this absence of a button before when I drove a Polestar, and it is weird at first, but you soon get used to it.
Shopping and longer trips
I’d struggle to achieve the 450km range that the car achieved under the EU’s official testing regime. When I first got behind the wheel of the fully charged car, the dash readout told me I had 480km range ahead of me, which sounded very impressive indeed.
This proved to be rather ambitious. My 140km Remutaka trip used 39% of the charge, and the dash readout dropped to 228km for the remaining 61%. I found it amusing that the MG4 got to know me and my lead foot over the week, and by the end, was saying I had 393km range on a full battery. I do appreciate that the car adjusts for your usage, though, rather than continuously spitting out overestimated numbers.
The boot doesn’t feel particularly big and one week of groceries filled it. That’s enough for my needs, but if you’re going away on holiday, you’ll probably have to pack light. Like the MG ZS EV, you can lower the boot floor to give you extra volume.
The 360° camera makes parking easy, and the driver aids didn’t feel overly intrusive when going on longer trips, which is something to be celebrated. One feature I enjoyed was that the reversing camera also gave you distances to objects. At first, I thought that was unnecessary information, but it’s actually more meaningful than a warning tone.
That camera was really needed when reversing out of parks. The rear windscreen is small and there’s a wide pillar between it and the next window, making visibility very poor when I was looking over my shoulder. I had to retrain myself to rely on the events unfolding on the infotainment screen, knowing the car would warn me if anyone was coming using its rear cross-traffic sensors. It should be noted that the 360° camera and rear cross-traffic alerts are only available on the Essence and Long Range models. The Excite models rely on a simpler reversing camera.
Whenever I unplugged the car from the charger at night to venture out for an errand, the infotainment screen stayed bright. These days, you expect a car to sense it’s dark outside and put the screen in “dark mode”, otherwise it’s harder to see the road. I discovered a work around, by turning the screen off or using the voice assistant to turn down the brightness. Returning to the car when I’d completed my errand, the car would correctly detect it was nighttime and the infotainment screen would be dark. So, there was something peculiar going on with the system when it was plugged in.
I think it may have been a problem with this individual car, rather than across the range, because I haven’t found any complaints about the issue online. If I’d purchased the car, I’d be onto the dealer about getting it fixed.
Folding my 6-foot-9-inch lanky self into any hatch always proves to be an issue. The MG4 was no exception. I found my left knee leaning against the hard-plastic shelf in the centre of the car and my right one against the door handle. I began to notice the knee contact after an hour behind the wheel.
The MG4 Essence was a perfect commuter in my week. It’s easy to use, nippy and looks good while doing it. It can also take you away on longer trips, when required. It drives very well and has plenty of power for steep hills and overtaking. Theoretically, I could travel over 350km on a single charge with the 64kWh battery – which is plenty of distance to cover before you need to take a break anyway.
It seems a bit of a risk to release a hatch in these times of small SUV dominance, and it’ll be interesting to see how well it sells compared to the MG ZS EV. It should outsell it on merit alone, but people may still be swayed by the height of the ZS. The loaned car did have that tech gremlin with the infotainment screen, but I wouldn’t be put off by that. I’d just check that my vehicle didn’t have the same issue if I bought one.
I thought the MG4 was a seriously good car, with its level of refinement setting a new benchmark for the brand. It feels like good value at $55k and even better when you factor in the Clean Car Discount. My wife was really taken by it too, and an MG4 Essence is now right at the top of her list of potential replacement cars, for when the time comes. Hopefully by that time, there are some used ones on the market!
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