Is the electric hatchback a good car for the money, or a good car in its own right?

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The MG 4 represents MG Motor switching gears, which is perhaps ironic given that the sub-brand of Chinese giant SAIC has in recent years become known for selling EVs. This is something it has been rather successful at, too, thanks to long ranges and keen prices.

So far, though, modern-day MGs have been purely rational purchases, as everything other than range and price tends to be average at best and most praise qualified with ‘for the money’. In these inflationary times, there is lots to be said for value motoring, of course, but all things being equal, you would prefer a car that inspired some joy.

The rear light clusters and the integrated boot spoiler are a striking piece of design. The testers unanimously wished for a rear windscreen wiper, as the rear screen is horizontal enough for water to sit on it and vertical enough to gather muck during winter time.

The MG 4 EV is different. It’s the first of potentially many good cars to come from MG. It impressed when we first drove it, and proved to be the superior electric hatchback when we tested it against the much more expensive Volkswagen ID 3 last year, so it’s high time we strapped the timing gear to it, ran the tape measure over it and dived into the tech for a full road test to see if it ranks among the best electric cars.

Range at a glance

Mg4 extended range rear

The MG 4 was launched with two powertrains and two trim levels. The standard-range model, called simply MG 4 EV, has a 51kWh battery and 168bhp, while the Long Range model gets 201bhp and a 64kWh battery. About a year later, those were joined by the 77kWh MG4 Extended Range and the dual-motor, four-wheel drive MG 4 XPower, of which we've got a separate review here.

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The latter comes in entry-level SE trim, or can be upgraded to Trophy for an extra £3000. The standard-range car is only available as an SE.

MG 4168bhp
MG 4 Long Range*201bhp
MG 4 Extended Range✝︎241bhp
MG4 Xpower429bhp

*Version tested ✝︎Pictured above



02 MG Motor MG4 EV Long Range RT 2023 front cornering

Unlike previous electric MGs such as the MG ZS EV and MG 5, the MG 4 was designed as a ground-up EV. It’s the first car to use the brand’s new Modular Scalable Platform, which is natively rear-wheel drive, supports wheelbases ranging from 2650-3100mm and batteries from 40-150kWh, as well as an additional front motor for high-performance four-wheel-drive versions.

The battery forms an integral part of the car’s structure and is designed to be just 110mm thick to make sure that hatchbacks and saloons actually feel like low cars.

Plastic wheel trims are back in style in 2023. Only now, their purpose is to enhance the aerodynamics of the 17in and 18in alloy wheels, rather than cover up steel wheels. Only the XPower shows you its naked aluminium.

Intriguingly, MG claims the architecture is also designed for 800V applications and to integrate with battery swap systems, such as the one that Nio is starting to roll out in Germany.

For the time being, the MG 4 is less ambitious, as is only fair for a mid-sized hatchback. It sticks with 400V and is powered by a 51kWh (50.8kWh usable), 64kWh (61.7kWh usable) or 77kWh (74.4kWh usable) battery. The smallest pack is a lithium-iron-phosphate unit, while the two bigger ones are nickel-cobalt-manganese.


Most versions are also rear-drive only, thanks to a single rear motor with 168bhp in the case of the standard-range model, 201bhp for the long-range version or 241bhp for the Extended Range. If you need four-wheel drive, or simply want to accelerate very, very quickly, there is also the 429bhp, dual-motor MG 4 XPower.

The design of the MG 4 is notably more hatchback-like than a lot of its crossover-leaning rivals. At 4287mm in length, it is also a fair bit shorter than the Kia Niro EV, and the VW ID 3 and Cupra Born twins. Its closest analogue is the Renault Mégane E-Tech Electric, but the Citroën ë-C4 and Peugeot e-2008 are gunning for the same buyers too, as will the electric versions of the Peugeot 308 and Vauxhall Astra when they hit the market.

In this crowded segment, the MG 4 needs to stand out, so its design represents a big departure from the slightly derivative styling of the SAIC-era MGs we’ve seen so far. The small wheels mean there’s still an air of budget car to the MG 4 in the metal, but with its big headlights, busy slashes and strakes and the bold black unit that incorporates the rear lights and the boot spoiler, it certainly makes a statement.


10 MG Motor MG4 EV Long Range RT 2023 dashboard

Ever since MG’s relaunch under SAIC, it has been positioned as a budget brand, and it is arguably a greater challenge to create a good budget car interior than it is when there is the latitude to cover every surface in metal and leather. It is an art that Dacia has mastered, but MG is still learning. With that said, the MG 4 is a world away from the original MG 5.

Immediately, the MG 4 feels inviting because the driving position is so well conceived. It is unashamedly a hatchback in a world of SUVs and sits the driver low down in the car, legs outstretched and with a generous amount of steering column adjustment. The manually-adjustable cloth seat in our entry-level SE test car are a little basic but feel hard-wearing and far from unpleasant. We prefer them to the electric part-leatherette items in the posher models, which somehow feel of lower quality and aren't quite as supportive.

The unmarked directional pad on the steering wheel controls the media or, after pressing the star, the fan speed and temperature. Unconventional, but it works.

The plastics are mostly hard and scratchy but with a few soft-touch concessions on the dashboard and armrests. Almost everything feels reasonably solid and well screwed together, and switches have a decent heft to them.

The one strange and unfortunate decision is that, while there is some soft vinyl on the door card, the top of the door (where you might occasionally put your elbow) is covered with textured plastic that’s hard and unpleasant yet can be permanently scratched with your fingernail.

At first glance, adjusting the climate control is done exclusively using small, on-screen buttons that are not permanently displayed. However, it’s possible to configure the steering wheel buttons to adjust the temperature and fan speed. It’s unconventional, and we would prefer normal physical controls, but it works surprisingly well.

Oddment storage is reasonably well conceived, with several long bins in the centre console, a decent-size glovebox and some fairly shallow door pockets.

Occupying a middle ground in size between superminis and family hatchbacks, the MG 4 isn’t quite as roomy in the back as a VW ID 3, but thanks to the short bonnet and long wheelbase, it’s still more spacious than a conventional family hatch. What’s more, as the rear bench is angled upwards, it provides a more comfortable seating position than the vast majority of EVs, making the rear of an MG 4 a realistic proposition for adults.

At 363 litres, the boot is about what you would expect of a family hatch, but the floor isn’t quite flat, which makes the false floor you get in a Trophy car a useful addition, particularly as that creates an ideal place to store the charge cables.

Multimedia system


MG’s multimedia system is a fairly basic touchscreen interface, so while it won’t win any prizes, it’s easy enough to fathom. The screen responds reasonably quickly but requires quite a firm prod, and some of the buttons and text are on the small side. There are physical home and volume buttons, as well as a row of virtual shortcut buttons, though annoyingly those disappear when you switch to phone mirroring, as does the climate control panel. Curiously, Trophy-spec cars don't get a climate controls on the home screen at all and require a swipe down to display them

Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto require a wired connection, but there is both a USB-A and USB-C port in the front, with an additional USB-A port in the rear.

SE has no built-in navigation. You have to upgrade to Trophy trim for that but it’s not worth the extra outlay. It provides fairly clear instructions and is easy enough to use but is no match for Google Maps when it comes to traffic monitoring.


21 MG Motor MG4 EV Long Range RT 2023 Driving performance 1

Like so many other EV makers, MG has settled on 201bhp for the MG 4 Long Range (it translates to a nice round 150kW). However, it has less torque than the Renault Mégane E-Tech Electric and Cupra Born, is a bit heavier than the Renault and hits 60mph slightly later than both.

We’re talking tenths of a second here, and 7.1sec is more than quick enough for a family hatchback. It is unlikely that the wet test conditions hurt the MG, as it still stepped off the line with no wheelspin, even with the traction control disabled.

You’ll find very few fake grilles on the electric MG. To improve aerodynamics, this lower intake for battery cooling has slats that close when not needed. The trapezoid shape is mirrored in the high-level brake light and rear diffuser.

While the MG 5 has a frustratingly ham-fisted traction control system, the MG 4’s is more sophisticated and operates close to imperceptibly in most situations. In fact, some drivers might perceive it to sometimes be too permissive.

Performance naturally tails off at motorway speeds and when the battery’s charge is low but remains perfectly adequate at all times. The MG proved only marginally slower to 100mph than the Born and was still accelerating fairly strongly when it hit its electronic limiter.

With its 241bhp (but also around 60kg of extra weight), the Extended Range is slightly faster. The standard car feels brisk enough, so this extra power is a nice extra rather than a necessity.

MG offers four regenerative braking levels: low, medium and high, plus an adaptive mode, which uses the car’s sensors to determine the appropriate level of deceleration for the situation. That last option feels like a slightly token effort, and both one-pedal and coasting modes are absent.

By default, you switch between the regeneration modes through a menu in the infotainment system that's several layers deep. However, you can also map one of the two configurable steering wheel buttons to cycle through regen settings. Either way, the car defaults to medium every time you restart it. Adjusting it should be easier, and the setting should persist.

We have similar gripes about the braking. You can choose between normal and sport brake feel. Even the firmer setting can be a touch inconsistent, while the soft feel and long travel on the standard setting are downright disconcerting, but like the regenerative braking, the car always defaults to normal and resets the Custom mode to a default setting.

Outright braking performance is actually very good: despite very wet and cold conditions, the MG 4 needed 8.6 metres less to stop from 70mph than the Renault Mégane E-Tech Electric, which we tested on a damp surface. It also pulled up in a perfectly controlled fashion, with not a hint of lock-up.


23 MG Motor MG4 EV Long Range RT 2023 front cornering

As we head into the EV era, car manufacturers are divided about whether to make their EVs front- or rear-wheel drive. Renault, Kia and Stellantis have chosen the former for their smaller EVs as it reduces front-to-rear cabling and allows for a deeper boot on single-motor models. It also means EVs and ICE models can share more components. VW and now MG have chosen rear-wheel drive, which has its own packaging benefits and potentially makes for a sweeter-handling car.

Those advantages might not be very obvious for a lot of drivers, but they are significant if you go looking for them. In the MG 4, the steering is pleasantly uncorrupted by the instant electric torque, and the feeling of being pushed rather than pulled out of corners is always a joy.

Like Volkswagen’s MEB, the MSP platform's battery pack is integrated into the floor’s structure and the main or only motor is at the rear. That results in an even weight distribution of 49:51, front to rear.

With no engine or motor between the front wheels, they have all the room in the world to pivot, which gives the MG 4 a fantastically tight turning circle. The figure of 2.8 turns lock to lock makes it seem like the steering is fairly slow but is simply a result of there being so much steering angle to play with. We did wish for some more feedback through that curious-looking steering wheel, though.

Compared with that other mildly sporting rear-drive EV, the Cupra Born, the standard MG 4 has relatively soft suspension that allows more body movement. As a result, it can feel a bit aloof and less tied down than the Cupra. However, you quickly attune to it and realise it simply takes craggy British roads in its stride.

The driver assistance systems, gathered under the banner of MG Pilot, are a mixed bag. Even entry-level SE models get adaptive cruise control with lane following as standard, but they’re very poor, and you can’t switch to standard cruise control. The adaptive cruise is panicky and jerky, and the lane following will drift to the very edge of a lane and then fight you for control. The lane keeping assist, on the other hand, is totally unintrusive and the automatic emergency braking posed no problems either.

Comfort and isolation

24 Mg motor mg4 ev long range rt 2023 rear cornering 0

With a ride that is simultaneously wallowy and crashy, the MG 5 demonstrated that soft suspension and generous sidewalls don’t always equal comfort. Thankfully, in the MG 4, they do. In general, potholes are rounded off and bumps are smoothed over as well as you could hope for from a car with conventional passive suspension. There is more suspension noise than in rivals and some road surfaces cause a resonance and vibration that’s mildly irksome, but overall this is a pretty comfortable car.

MG makes no mention of suspension changes for the Extended Range version, but whether it's a result of that or the additional weight of the bigger battery pack, the chassis seems to have lost some of the standard car's fluidity. You can tell that it has more trouble calming down the weight of the bigger battery over bumps and feels slighly clunkier through potholes.

Neither of our test cars appeared to suffer from the excessive wind noise that early reviews noted, though the Cupra Born and Renault Mégane E-Tech Electric, and even the Peugeot e-2008, still isolate you from the outside world a touch better.

Unlike with many budget cars, the seats aren’t bad if you’re tall, as the cushion is quite long and at a good angle. Nevertheless, the seats do show some signs of cost-cutting, as not even the more expensive Trophy spec gets adjustable lumbar support. They also lack some lateral support and SE trim misses out on heated seats, which many drivers consider essential in an EV.

Track notes

Mg motor mg4 ev long range rt 2023 track notes

The wet conditions at Millbrook highlighted the MG 4’s only major dynamic weakness. Although the steering is consistently geared and weighted, it lacks any meaningful feedback, which makes it prudent to leave plenty of margin for error on a sodden road or track.

That being said, the MG 4’s balance is fundamentally sound. Lifting off mid-corner will elicit some gentle rotation, as will a decisive prod of the accelerator on the exit of a tight corner. An open differential means it’s liable to spin the instant electric torque away through the inside wheel, but this is a car that inherently wants to rotate.

A diversion to the skid pan proved our MG 4 test car could be held in an extended powerslide if you have the space and turn off the stability control. Conversely, even when you leave it on, it permits a surprising amount of lateral movement. It is never unsafe but could be disconcerting to less experienced drivers.

When we tried the Extended Range a few months later, there had been some odd changes to the stability control system. It's still just as permissive with everything on, but had lost the option to turn the system off completely. With the ESC in its 'off' mode, the system will panic when it detects a certain amount of wheelspin and kill the power completely for about ten seconds, which feels very unsophisticated and unnecessary.



01 MG Motor MG4 EV Long Range RT 2023 lead driving

You just can’t argue with the numbers here. The Long Range model in SE trim, like the car in the photos, costs £29,495, a whopping £7500 less than the Renault Mégane E-Tech Electric in comparable Équilibre trim. A Citroën e-C4 gets close, at £31,995, but has a considerably shorter range. If you don’t mind the more frequent charging, there’s the standard-range MG 4 at £26,995.

This car is equally compelling on a monthly deal. On a three-year PCP with 10,000 miles per annum and a £4400 deposit, you will pay £398 for the MG, £447 for the Cupra Born and £481 for the Renault.

Cold weather exposed an unusual niggle with the MG 4: its climate control is wildly inaccurate, and needs to be set about 4deg C warmer than in other cars to get up to the same interior temperature.

The seven-year warranty sounds appealing, too, but isn’t as generous as it seems since it is limited to only 80,000 miles, and there is no additional battery warranty. A lot of manufacturers will guarantee that the battery will maintain 80% of its capacity for eight years, but MG only guarantees 70% for the term of the normal warranty.

The quoted rapid-charging speed of 135kW is competitive for the class and our test car actually exceeded that number, with a peak of 139kW. This it maintained until 50% charge, after which speeds started to gradually drop off. A 10-90% charge took 35 minutes – slightly faster than advertised. As with the Ora Funky Cat, we were unable to charge from some older 50kW chargers, and given those are still pretty numerous, that presents a fairly serious usability issue.

Single-digit temperatures for most of our test didn’t help the MG’s energy efficiency, which struggled to exceed 3.0mpkWh, translating to a test range of 185 miles. However, warmer weather later in the week yielded 3.6mpkWh, or a range of 222 miles – closer to the WLTP figure of 3.7mpkWh and what we observed in the Cupra Born and Kia Niro EV.

If you frequently do long journeys, you might be tempted by the £36,495 Extended Range. However, when we tried that version in much milder temperatures, we were very disappointed that it did barely any better for efficiency. We didn't see much more than 3.0mpkWh on average, which would yield a range of 223 miles – the same as what we'd expect from a 58kWh Cupra Born. Our testing included plenty of 70mph running, and you will get more in town, but surely the point of the Extended Range is to do long journeys, most likely on the motorway? The official figure of 3.7mpkWh isn't stellar, anyway. Given the MG4 charges quite quickly, we'd stick with the Long Range SE and endure the odd additional charging stop.


25 MG Motor MG4 EV Long Range RT 2023 static verdict

The MG 4 EV may not move any technological boundaries, but other manufacturers should undoubtedly see this car as a serious threat, because it does so many things so well, and for such a keen price that it is hard to argue you should buy any other electric hatchback.

It is up there with the Cupra Born for chassis sophistication, in the right specification delivering both a comfortable ride and an enjoyable rear-drive balance. It makes excellent use of its footprint to offer generous interior space and mostly comfortable accommodation. Range, efficiency and charge speeds are all competitive if not groundbreaking.

As long as you’re not after a premium-feeling product, most of the criticism one can level at the MG 4 is a collection of niggles rather than any substantial failings. The biggest issue is that the adaptive cruise control is very poor. There are also some quality issues in the interior that go beyond those excusable by the low price, though the handful of usability quirks and refinement lapses fade into the background after a few days. The MG 4 is simply a well-rounded electric hatchback at a price that appears impossible to beat.

Illya Verpraet

Illya Verpraet Road Tester Autocar
Title: Road Tester

As part of Autocar’s road test team, Illya drives everything from superminis to supercars, and writes reviews, comparison tests, as well as the odd feature and news story. 

Much of his time is spent wrangling the data logger and wielding the tape measure to gather the data for Autocar’s eight-page road tests, which are the most rigorous in the business thanks to independent performance, fuel consumption and noise figures.