MG is an old British sports car brand. It was famous for its open two-seat roadsters. It was born at Morris Garage in the 1920s, one of the many Morris companies dealing with making, selling, and servicing cars and car parts. It merged into Morris Group, Austin-Morris, British Leyland, and finally Rover Group. After the end of the British car industry and a succession of mergers and splits, it ended up as a British daughter of China’s SAIC Motor Corporation (71.2% Shanghai state owned). The fossil fuel powered models are sold mainly in China, Thailand, and the UK.
MG entered the continental European car market a few weeks before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world. On the continent, it is mainly an electric brand. Dealers are salespeople who want to sell. Some try to also sell the older MG models with a tailpipe. I think MG is stronger as a pure electric brand. Selling those ICE vehicles is a good example of the old English proverb: penny wise, pound foolish.
Birth of the BEV
The first MG fully electric vehicle (BEV) was the MG ZS EV. The first European market was the UK in 2018. The introduction to the rest of Europe started in 2020. It was a bit of an sensation, designed in Britain in the MG style, but built in China. This first model did offer a lot of BEV for a relatively small price. It established MG as a great value-for-money brand.
Now MG is repeating its market approach with the MG5 Station Wagon EV, sold in China as the Roewe Ei5. It is the first affordable electric station wagon on the European market. Audi and Porsche have something station wagon like, but their vehicles start at triple the price.
The market has been waiting for an electric station wagon with at least some towing capacity and the range to get to the Mediterranean or the Scandinavian forest if you happen to live near that blue sea. While it is called the Long Range version, I cannot see many central European laborers driving to their jobs in Western Europe on Sunday night and back the following Friday. The battery needs to be 50% bigger to really make it a long range vehicle. On holidays, those priorities are different.
- Battery — 57 kWh, with about 202 miles of range on a full charge.
- Motor — 115 kW and 280 Nm, 4-wheel drive.
- Charging — 87 kW DC and 11 kW AC.
- Safety — Euro NCAP ***** (5 stars)
- Length * Width * Height — 181.1” * 71.6” * 60.7”
There is also a standard range with a 10 kWh smaller battery and a 40 mile shorter range. You save about €2,500 to €3,000.
Contrary to most BEVs in this price range, the top speed is not limited to a cruising speed that the battery is comfortable with and does not produce a flat battery at a quarter of the WLTP range. With a top speed of 115 miles per hour, the driver is in command of his car and the long/short livery of its battery. Perhaps this is possible because it has a continuous variable transmission e-CVT.
The price difference between comfort and luxury is €1,500. For this price, you get a lot of extras, the most important being climate control. The rain-sensor is easy to get used to. The 360° camera makes driving in small spaces a lot easier.
The vehicle-to-load function is nice. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are becoming standard functions on most modern vehicles. Your route planner knows where chargers are located. There are many small nice things that make a complete, enjoyable car.
To my enjoyment, this car did have front-wheel drive. Front-wheel drive is easier for people not interested in training to become race car drivers. It is also safer in bad and winter weather and more attuned to the smaller European twisting roads and old city streets.
It is just slightly bigger than my Zoe, with a 115 kW motor versus my 100 kW motor, the best comparison I can make. It clearly feels like a bigger, more powerful car. Perhaps the influence of the e-CVT transmission comes into play here. The claim for a CVT is 13% faster acceleration where it counts, between 80–120 km/h, 11% higher top speed, and 4% more range. After driving this MG5, I can completely believe these claims.
Depending on the drive mode and regenerative selection, one-pedal driving in calm traffic is possible. For a full stop, you still need the brakes. There’s just a bit more speed control than you can expect in a diesel car with manual transmission.
The sound from wind, tires, and other traffic could be better kept out of the cabin. This is a problem for all silent electric cars. Without the rumble of the ICE, the soundproofing is sometimes less and your ears filter the outside noise less. On a dB meter, it is likely better than in an ICE vehicle, but the subjective experience is it’s a candidate for improvement. People that have the radio on in the car will not notice this.
Infotainment and Driving Assist
I am a bit deaf and do not play games. For me, the radio is a distraction, especially during a test drive. I have my tablet for Netflix when I am bored waiting while charging. So, I have no opinion on the infotainment part of the system.
The driving assist systems worked as expected. When I hit the “Home” destination in the route planner, it did navigate me back to the dealer that provided the test vehicle. Routes to other destinations were also easy to enter and to follow.
Cruise control is, for me, the most important driving assist function. My right leg will protest for days if I over-exercise it controlling the speed pedal. It can cause a migraine for one or two days. That is besides causing difficulty walking. For someone who can enjoy driving 600 miles per day, that is a bit of a handicap. In the MG5, the cruise control worked and I did not pay attention to it while on. What more could I wish for?
Lane keep assist and all the safety features require far more thorough testing. I am glad I had no occasion to see emergency braking in action — much less all of those other safety features that one hopes they never need. But these driver-assist features did earn this car a five-star Euro NCAP rating, so they are there and they are good.
I did have high hopes for this car, and after the test drive, it is at the top of my list to replace my Zoe in one or two years. Everybody has his or her own use case. Those determine the minimum requirements.
Besides the primary use case, there are often alternate use cases, things you would like to be able to do. On top of that, there is the value for money question and the residual value.
On top of the list of capabilities for most European BEV buyers are range and charging speed. Looking around me at the charging paradise I live in, it is still range and charging speed.
Range anxiety is a thing of the past in the Netherlands. For the majority of people — that is, people who cannot charge in their own driveway — there is a public charger fewer than 2 minutes walking distance from their home. For charging while travelling, just drive until you have 15% left and charge at the next Fastned station. With a few exceptions, there will be a Fastned station within driving distance. On most routes, I do not bother to plan my charging anymore.
I am a Grumpy Old Man that likes to travel. Because of physical and mental constraints, I try to avoid public transport, especially trains and planes. Preferably, I travel without making detailed plans. For my use case, I need enough range, charging at a decent speed, and the possibility to take a nap in my car. I never know when I will get sleepy.
My Zoe is lacking in range just a bit, and a bit more in winter. Its charging speed is too slow in summer and even slower in winter. It lacks thermal management for the battery. And sleeping in the passenger seat is not really the best way to spend a few hours.
This MG5 station wagon has just a bit more range. It has thermal management with a heat pump, and a nearly flat space when the back seats are down. It has a space big enough for me to take a nap. It’s not as comfortable as my bed, but it comes close. I’d really like to take this car for a long tour to all the places that are on my to-visit list.
For more-normal people, with more-average wishes, the backseats are very decent. When down, the space is more than big enough for a tuba or contra-bass. Or you can take your family camping.
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