Could this segment-first electric estate be all the real-world EV you need?

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The vast majority of car makers will tell you that 2020 has been a terrible year – but MG Motor UK Ltd isn’t one of them.

This was the UK’s fastest-growing car brand in 2019, registering just over 13,000 cars. This year, it surpassed that volume threshold before the end of September. At the end of August, in a wider UK car market down on sales by almost 40% year on year, it had grown by more than 30%.

Many who see an MG 5 on the road may, if they know what it is at all, assume it’s simply a bad car – but that’s just not true. There’s an almost undetectable roundedness about it that can’t have been easy to engineer in.

Betting on very attractively priced electric and hybrid cars has fuelled its growth. We brought you verdicts on the MG ZS EV crossover and MG HS SUV last year. But now along comes an electric family car that’s even cheaper than the ZS, with just as much on-board space and even better usable range: the MG 5 SW EV, which, as MG rather proudly crows, is nothing more or less than the market’s very first all-electric estate car.

The new 5 is, on the face of things, a decidedly ordinary compact estate car in all respects bar one. Interrogate and scrutinise it more deeply, though, and you’ll find it has secrets to reveal. It’s also certainly a stronger operator, in some important respects, than you’d expect one of the cheapest pound-for-pound electric cars on sale could possibly be. But is it one of the best small electric cars?

The MG 5 line-up at a glance

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Like other budget brands, MG Motor UK keeps the buying process simple and offers this car in only two equipment specifications: Excite and Exclusive. Standard equipment on Excite includes a touchscreen infotainment system with Apple and Android smartphone mirroring, a rear-facing parking camera and cruise control.

Exclusive trim adds leather-style upholstery, heated front seats, factory navigation, roof rails and automatic wipers. The only cost options are paint colours.

Price £26,995 after government grant Power 154bhp Torque 192lb ft 0-60mph 8.0sec 30-70mph in fourth na Fuel economy 3.3mpkWh CO2 emissions 0g/km 70-0mph 68.0m


MG 5 SW EV 2020 Road test review - hero side

Having begun by acquiring the rights to MG Rover’s old 25, 45 and 75 model platforms more than a decade ago, the current owner of the MG brand, SAIC, has given us a mix of cars since MG Motor UK set up shop in 2011 – but most of them have been based on model platforms either adapted from those old MG Rover ‘floorplans’ or created afresh.

The first reason that the MG 5 SW EV is different is because it is sold in China not as an MG but under the other Chinese-market brand established in the wake of the Far Eastern takeover of MG Rover all those years ago: Roewe. And so what is a 5 SW EV to UK buyers has been known elsewhere as the Roewe Ei5.

SW EV stands for ‘station wagon electric vehicle’. As such, the first-of-a-kind MG 5 beats the mighty Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo to European showrooms by literally months. Have that, Zuffenhausen.

The car is built on a licensed General Motors Delta II platform (which also underpins Chinese-market Chevrolets as part of a Chinese joint venture, as well as the current Vauxhall Astra) in a factory in Zhengzhou, while export-bound MGs are built on different underpinnings elsewhere. That platform endows the car with all-steel underbody construction and pretty conventional suspension consisting of struts up front and a torsion beam at the rear.

MG Motor’s UK technical centre hasn’t just taken the Chinese Roewe and stuck new badges on it, though. Work has been done to improve and refine the car’s ride and handling for UK roads and a new electric motor has boosted power by 40% to 154bhp, enough to shade what you might get in an equivalent electric Nissan, Peugeot, Renault or Hyundai.

The car’s drive battery, meanwhile, has a lithium ion chemistry and is liquid-cooled. Carried along almost the full length and width of the cabin but under the floor, it has a nominal capacity of 52.5kWh, almost 49kWh of which is ‘usable’. That trumps what most of the car’s nearest EV rivals offer and is nearly 20% more energy storage than the marginally more expensive MG ZS EV offers.

Styling isn’t the car’s crowning glory, with most testers agreeing that it looks dowdy, oddly proportioned and predictably derivative in its features and detailing. Without knowing anything about the car’s GM platform, one tester rather aptly described it as “a vision of the Mk3 Vauxhall Astra Estate of the future that someone dreamed up 25 years ago”.

The Volkswagen-style grille and Kia-homage brightwork are plain to see; likewise the dated-looking, extra-tall glasshouse. But the slightly frumpy, confused looks are clothing a car of such clear and rational selling points that very few 5 customers are likely to be buying it because of the way it looks anyway.


MG 5 SW EV 2020 Road test review - cabin

There’s a clear air of cheapness about the resonant, undamped ping made by the MG 5 SW EV’s passenger doors as they close. The baseline material quality of the fairly hard plastic mouldings that you’ll find at lower levels of the cabin doesn’t pander much to the senses, either.

Still, our upper-trim-level test car wasn’t without the odd attempt at richness: it had leather-style seats and matching faux leather decorative trim on its dashboard and door panels and plenty of secondary controls done out in flashy chrome plastic. Given the choice, we’d rather embrace the car’s value and simplicity and buy the cheaper version shorn of some of those things, but owners might feel differently.

Climate control console is unusually ritzy. If you don’t turn off the air-con by mistake on your first attempt to turn on the radio, you’re doing well.

The driving position is higher than in a lot of modern hatchbacks, as is its ride height – both contributing to quite a lofty vantage point. The front seats are a bit flat and formless in the cushion, with a contour to the squab that wasn’t approved of by all testers, although adjustable lumbar support for the driver is present.

In the back, meanwhile, the clear sense of being perched up, and sat on top of the vehicle’s drive batteries as you so clearly are, makes head room a bit limited. It’s fine for children and growing teenagers but too tight for taller adults.

Instrumentation is laudably simple and clear. Analogue dials show you road speed, electric motor load and battery regeneration rate, while there are smaller inset digital grades for battery condition and temperature. The boot, which might well be another selling point for it in theory, is quite basic in its provisioning and a capacity of 464 litres under the load-bay cover is actually only 10% larger than a Nissan Leaf’s. But by loading it to the roof or collapsing the standard-fit 60/40 folding back seats, you would get better carrying versatility here than out of the Nissan.

The lack of a split-level floor arrangement that might provide both underfloor storage and a flat loading level is notable; likewise the absence of any load retention features. There is, however, room to put your own spare wheel into the car under the floor if you want to. (MG provides only mobility foam with the car.) Although there are a few notable blemishes on its scorecard, then, the idea that this car could make a practical, versatile compact family EV as well as a cheap one is just about delivered on.

Infotainment and sat-nav

The MG 5 gets the same 8.0in touchscreen infotainment set-up no matter which trim level you buy and it offers wired USB connectivity for up to four devices, a DAB radio, a rear parking camera and Bluetooth.

The only reason here to have the upper trim level is MG’s iGo factory navigation system. It would be a very tenuous reason, though, because it’s not nearly as sophisticated as the best fitted systems. Finding the map orientation and zoom level you prefer is either difficult or impossible. The mapping detail isn’t great, either, and navigation instructions aren’t delivered that clearly.

The good news is that wired smartphone mirroring for both Apple and Android handsets comes as standard and it seems to be integrated pretty reliably.

You get a six-speaker audio set-up in the car and the audio quality is more than passable.


There are one or two minor annoyances to report in this section, but we should start with some encouragingly competitive numbers.

The MG 5 SW EV’s performance fares quite favourably against that of the two electric cars comparable on price that we’ve tested recently: the Peugeot e-2008 and the Honda E. And, on the basis that our top-spec MG costs £2000 less than the Honda as tested, and £5000 less than the Peugeot, that’s not bad going at all.

I’ve a theory this car is intended for people who feel they ought to have an electric car but don’t really want one. Everything it does is simple, gentle and reassuring

Needing exactly 8.0sec to hit 60mph from rest, the MG proved 1.5sec quicker than the e-2008 – even with its tyres snatching and struggling for traction in damp and chilly test conditions. Take 0-30mph out of the equation to eliminate the influence of the slippery surface and it needed 7.1sec to get from 30mph to 70mph – nearly two full seconds less than the Peugeot, and more than 0.5sec quicker than the Honda.

While it would be tempting to assume that the car’s electric powertrain would make for a refined, responsive and generally relaxing driving experience, we’ve learned not to take that for granted in EVs at the more affordable end of the spectrum; but the 5 delivers in all of those respects. It has a pleasingly commanding and crisp turn of speed when accelerating from town pace and, unlike some electric cars, it has plenty of performance in reserve on the motorway. (This is one of very few EVs not to be limited to around 90mph.) It’s also got competitive cabin isolation, as we’ll come on to explaining.

The car’s driving modes and regeneration settings are toggled via a neat row of silver switches at the front of the centre console. It’s not the most accessible place to locate them and regen control in particular could do with being either on the steering wheel or behind it, as paddles, so you can adjust it without taking a hand off the wheel. But you’d much rather have the adjustment, albeit slightly imperfectly placed, than not, and plenty of EVs still don’t give you enough of it.

As for drivability, Eco mode is probably best avoided (it simply neuters the air-con, desensitises the accelerator and achieves very little) but otherwise the car generally behaves as you expect it to and is easy to get along with.

Electric range is slightly better than the average EV for the price but it’s achieved at least partly in route-one style by the fitment of 16in wheels and low-resistance Bridgestone economy tyres, which provide fairly limited mechanical grip. Traction and stopping distance in slippery conditions therefore isn’t great.


MG 5 SW EV 2020 Road test review - on the road front

The MG 5 SW EV isn’t an electric car of sporting pretensions and the gentleness of its handling and softness of its suspension probably betray that more clearly than anything else about it. So in addition to the limited supply of mechanical grip that we’ve already touched on, the car is fairly quick to begin lolling and heaving on its springs when its chassis is given a more interesting country road to deal with. It doesn’t roll to extremes when cornering, but you still get a clear sense of its weight here, too.

As a result, this is a much more pleasing car to row along gently than it is to hurry. Its ride is supple and absorptive and its steering is fairly lightly weighted, moderately paced and linear so you can position the car without really thinking about it.

It’s tuned more for comfort than agility and its efficiency-biased tyres give up purchase without too much provocation, but the stability and traction controls work well

Having said that, the MG will still tolerate being driven hard vicelessly enough, thanks in large part to effective traction and stability control systems. The electronics keep close tabs on power-on understeer, allowing you to be as unrealistic with your ambitions for carried speed and brutish with your pedal inputs as you choose to be, and then saving you very neatly from the consequences.

For the sake of disinterested company car drivers in a hurry, it would perhaps have been safer if those electronics hadn’t been made fully switchable, because if you do disengage them and then boot the accelerator mid-corner, the physics lesson that the car promptly gives you is quite unsympathetic. Plough-on power understeer has never been quite so easy to cue up, or quite so pronounced when it comes. We rather suspect, once most have sampled it, they won’t be rushing to fiddle with the car’s ESP settings again.

Comfort and isolation

MG Motor UK clearly knows its audience. You get the feeling that the vast majority of the chassis tuning work carried out at the firm’s Longbridge technical centre on the 5 was done to the improvement of its ride comfort and its rolling refinement. This is certainly a better-mannered, more refined and rounded-feeling car than you might expect to find in the EV market’s bargain basement.

The car has a soft, supple gait that swallows up town roads without fuss; and the best thing about it is that the car’s secondary ride doesn’t feel ‘sproingy’ or brittle, as small cars made heavy by the addition of drive batteries sometimes can. Sleeping policemen occasionally cause a scrape of the underbody trim under the car’s nose as it returns to terra firma, but usually only when you’re experimenting with how quickly the longish-travel suspension will deal with bigger inputs.

The damping isn’t particularly deft-feeling, so it does often become a little restless over choppier surfaces out of town, but it is seldom annoyingly so.

Cabin isolation isn’t exceptional, although it’s certainly competitive. A Peugeot e-2008 is noisier at both 50mph and 90mph, and a Honda E is noisier across all of the speeds at which we record. Some wind rustle is detectable around the A-pillars and mirrors, but otherwise the car seems quiet from within.

Assisted driving notes

When we road tested the MG ZS EV, we were quite critical of that car’s often quite flaky and distracting lane keeping and autonomous emergency braking systems. Well, it may be that owners have been, too; or it may simply be that the MG 5’s particular architecture doesn’t allow for the same technology to be fitted.

Whatever the explanation, this MG doesn’t get either of the above even as an option. You can expect it to be criticised by Euro NCAP in its safety tests as a result of that – although we’d much rather the firm left second-rate driver assistance systems on the shelf, if that is indeed what it has done, than fitted them for the sake of appearances and actually made drivability and safety worse in the process.

The car does get anti-lock brakes, hydraulic brake assist and electronic stability control. It also has manual cruise control with a speed limiter function.


MG 5 SW EV 2020 road test review - hero front

A WLTP-certified 214-mile electric range is likely to be a key attraction for MG 5 SW EV owners. So is it genuine? Well, for those who drive it exclusively around town and at limited speed elsewhere, 200-plus miles might just be. Our average energy efficiency test result for the car suggests that, even when driven at motorway speed, it will return 160 miles. Dip your cruising speed to 50mph and that figure rises to 176 miles.

We didn’t have occasion to test the car in freezing conditions, but there was no evidence to suggest that it should suffer worse than other EVs do in the cold. And, quite critically, few other EVs you can buy for less than £30,000 will get you so close to 200 miles on a charge in our experience; and the ones that will can’t match the MG for practicality. Meanwhile, there’s simply nothing else available for less than £25,000 that will.

CAP doesn’t expect a pretty showing for the 5: a concerning drop of over 50% of showroom value in year one.

The 5 can be rapid-charged via a CCS-style public charger connector at a maximum 50kWh, putting an 80% charge back into the drive battery from flat in about 50 minutes. With the various PSA Group EVs offering 100kW charging, that’s not a selling point but, especially given that rapid charging remains an option on the likes of the Renault Zoe, it’s certainly better than nothing.

From a driveway wallbox, it will charge at up to 7kW, enabling empty to full in around eight hours.


24 MG 5 SW EV 2020 Road test review static

The MG 5 SW EV isn’t the kind of new car to get out of the garage on a Saturday morning just for the neighbours to admire. Its design brings plenty of European-made compact estate cars to mind; and the fact that so many of them went out of production at least a decade ago says much about its antiquated, awkward visual presence.

But this is not an unlikeable car and, as a cost-effective route into electric car ownership, it’s not an unappealing one. You could easily spend 25% more on an affordable EV and end up with a car that has quite a lot less usable space and dependable range; that is less easy to charge and use; and that is also less easy to drive and simple to operate, and less comfortable on the road, less pleasant, and less assertive and refined in its performance.

MG’s second EV does cheap motoring much better than the first

The 5 is also a car that hits an only adequate standard for build quality and interior fit and finish and it has very limited ambitions in other departments as well. But it would work better as simple, functional, zero-emissions transport than a great many of its affordable electric rivals – and, now especially, there’s still plenty to be said for an EV that simply works.


Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

MG Motor 5 EV First drives