Dual-motor MG 4 could be the electric hot hatch we’ve all been waiting for. So is it?

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Like the sound of last week’s Tesla Model S Plaid, but don’t have £113,000 lying around? Well, the new MG 4 XPower has quite a similar vibe to it, offering staggering performance for the money in an otherwise very practical and sensible package.

SAIC, MG’s owners, have revived an old MG-Rover name for the dual-motor version of the MG 4 electric hatchback. The XPower is propelled by a 201bhp motor on the front axle and a 228bhp one on the rear axle, for a total of 429bhp. The result is 0-62mph in 3.8sec. That’s faster than a Volkswagen Golf R, but while the hot Golf has long since smashed through the £40,000 barrier, the MG can be had from £36,495.

To deal with its new-found potency, the MG 4 gets ventilated 345mm disc brakes front and rear, springs that are 15% stiffer at the front and 10% at the rear, retuned steering, wider tyres and brake-based torque vectoring. Notable by their absence are a proper limited-slip diff and a set of sports seats that hold you in place during hard cornering. You have to make do with slightly grippier microsuede upholstery. Curiously, MG’s choice of ‘performance tyres’ are Bridgestone Turanzas – quality rubber, just not a performance tyre.

Alongside the XPower, MG is introducing an Extended Range version with a 77kWh battery, a 241bhp single motor and 323 miles of range, for the same price as the XPower.

The visual changes are quite limited too. You need to look very closely indeed to distinguish an MG 4 XPower from a standard car. Your spotter’s guide is as follows: unique 18in wheels, gloss black lower accents, a black roof, some aluminium pedals and those microsuede seats. The Racing Green paint you see in the photos is also unique to the XPower.

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So is the XPower a Q-car, or a slightly half-baked hot hatch? The standard, single-motor MG 4 actually remains the discerning driver’s choice, because the XPower has lost that car’s sweetness. If you’re here for the devastating power, though, you won’t be disappointed.

It’s properly ‘push you back in your seat’ quick. Of course it is, with 429bhp. It delivers this performance with no drama too. Just plant your foot and go. The front tyres occasionally have a bit of trouble hooking up if the surface isn’t perfect or if the steering isn’t completely straight.

That’s exacerbated in the corners, because if you turn the stability control off and get on the power, it’ll be the front wheels that spin up first. Four-wheel drive has well and truly banished the standard MG 4’s oversteery streak. As much as that adjustability is enjoyable to some, the XPower’s safer character is probably a good thing for most drivers.

Particularly as the torque vectoring is quite clever. Leave everything on and the systems will keep wheelspin firmly in check while nipping at the inside brakes to subtly rotate the car into corners. The MG 4’s fundamental balance remains.

The same is true of the suspension. MG maintains a UK engineering team, who actually have quite a lot of input in the finished car’s set-up. That was abundantly clear from the way the standard MG 4 negotiates a bumpy B-road with compliance and control. The XPower maintains most of that and remains quite nicely damped, but the firmer springs mean it’s a touch busier over some bumps.

The ‘retuned’ steering doesn’t have a ton more feel. It’s just heavier in the sportier modes. Like the stiffer suspension, it might help to conjure a ‘sportier’ vibe, but it doesn’t feel entirely essential.

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Inside, the MG 4 is much as it was before, so it’s roomy and practical and has a good driving position, but the flimsy door cards remain, and this performance version could do with some sport seats.

There are a few changes in this XPower that will appear on the standard MG 4 as well. There’s now a rear windscreen wiper and the middle rear passenger gains a headrest. Some of the infotainment bugs we noted in our road test seem to have been exterminated too. It’s still not a great system, but once you learn its quirks, it’s mostly inoffensive. A final model-year change is the addition of a one-pedal mode. That’s very welcome, but there’s a delay to the retardation kicking in, which makes it harder to control than it ought to be.

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Naturally, the additional power comes with a range penalty. The combined WLTP range drops from the Long-Range Trophy’s 270 miles to 239. The XPower’s efficiency seems particularly sensitive to driving style, because we saw everything from 2.5 to 3.5mpkWh. We’d expect an average of 3.0mpkWh and a range of 185 miles.

The standard MG 4 is an excellent electric hatchback. It does all the sensible stuff well: space, range, equipment, comfort – you name it. But it also shines with unusually delicate and adjustable handling. We would have liked to see an extension of that, but instead the XPower adds sledgehammer power.

It’s not a traditional hot hatch in the same way that the Tesla Model S Plaid is not a traditional super-saloon. MG has probably guessed that acceleration will be a bigger draw than all the touchy-feely handling stuff. It’s probably right, but the search for the first proper electric hot hatch continues.

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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.