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Brand's all-important second EV has a segment to itself, but unique bodystyle can't compensate for its biggest shortcomings
Felix Page Autocar writer
25 September 2020

What is it?

The latest addition to MG Motor’s range is important for two reasons: primarily because it’s the first electric estate car to go on sale in Europe, and secondly because it will play a vital role in helping the 12-year-old brand to achieve a 50% plug-in car model mix in 2021. 

Based on parent company SAIC’s Roewe Ei5 - a big seller in its Chinese home market - the 5 arrives in electric form only. Unlike its ZS sibling, MG bosses deemed the potential European market for a petrol-powered estate to be too small to make its import worthwhile. The brand is quickly transitioning away from combustion power, having shunned diesel some years ago and ushered in a new plug-in version of its HS SUV alongside the 5. 

Even before the 5 and HS PHEV arrive in dealerships, MG already has the highest proportional plug-in sales mix of any mainstream car maker with a combustion offering, the ZS EV accounting for 27% of its UK sales. The 5 will play a lead role in the brand’s journey to an all-electric future, working alongside the higher-riding model to bring affordability to a segment that remains predominantly occupied by luxury SUVs, saloons and sports cars.

Brand boss Daniel Gregorious acknowledges that estate car sales have suffered in recent years as buyers flock en masse to higher-riding SUVs, but said that MG is “pioneering a new wave”, with the 5 bringing superior aerodynamics and better handling. 

Like its ZS EV sibling, the 5 comes in entry-level Excite trim - from £24,995 - and better-equipped Exclusive trim at £26,995. This puts it roughly on par with similar-sized, conventionally fuelled cars like the Skoda Octavia in range-topping SE L trim and the Ford Focus Estate Titanium, while undercutting its closest electric rivals, the Nissan Leaf and Kia e-Niro, by around £5000.

MG expects half of all 5s sold to go to fleet buyers, with its 0% BIK rating giving a not-inconsiderable edge over its combustion contemporaries, and highlights its 578-litre boot and practical rear seats as an incentive for families on a budget to make the switch to electric.

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What's it like?

While it occupies an as-yet-unexplored niche, the 5 is unable to fall back on the one-time novelty of an electric powertrain to cultivate appeal across its target market. To be as successful as its zero-emission ZS stablemate, the 5 should offer usability and performance benefits that justify its similar price tag, while tempting budget- and eco-conscious private buyers away from smaller and cheaper EVs like the Renault Zoe and now endangered Volkswagen e-Up.

Its success in this respect is threatened on first glance by its rather inelegant styling, with kinked lower window line, lofty ride height and small 16in alloys creating an awkward stance, and chrome exterior embellishments erring on the sides of both excessive and unnecessary.

Things don’t get off to a great start inside, either, where lacklustre fit and finish combines with scratchy plastics and overly firm seats to create an environment that you might be glad to escape every 200-or-so miles when the time comes to charge the battery. The cluttered, ponderous and unintuitive infotainment interface doesn’t help, but happily MG has seen fit not to implement the maddening array of warning bongs and beeps that afflicted the ZS EV before it was subtly updated in June. 

Once under way, the advantages brought by the 154bhp electric powertrain quickly override any initial frustration. Around town, being first away from the lights and zipping assuredly around cyclists makes for a relaxed driving experience. The 5’s thick sidewalls and raised suspension go some way to compensating for the heft of its underfloor battery, meaning it doesn’t thump uncomfortably over potholes and speed bumps.

The steering feels strangely weighty in low-speed manoeuvres but this is largely alleviated by the car’s tight turning circle, which, together with decent all-round visibility and a standard-fitment reversing camera, makes the 5 easier to live with in the city than its size might suggest. 

An excitingly labelled ‘KERS’ toggle switch lets you vary the intensity of regenerative deceleration, which in its most extreme setting makes pre-emptive stop-light coasting rather uncomfortable, but has a tangible impact on remaining range and essentially allows for one-pedal operation. With Eco Mode activated as well, the 5 stands a good chance of achieving its maximum rated range on a warm day.

On more open stretches of road, the low centre of gravity means corners can be taken fast and relatively flat, but be under no illusion that this is any more engaging to pilot than the loftier ZS EV. Cornering roll is vastly reduced compared with its stablemate, but there’s an inherited numbness to the steering that puts paid to any spur-of-the-moment B-road antics, and limits the appeal of Sport Mode to the grin-inducing acceleration granted by its sharpened throttle response. But MG, if you hadn’t noticed, hasn’t been a performance brand for 15 years, so it doesn’t do well to dwell on the 5’s dynamic shortcomings - so long as they aren’t carried over to the firm’s long-awaited electric sports car due next year

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More inexcusable are the limitations of the 5’s traction control system, which are as prevalent here as they are in the ZS EV. Even on dry roads, anything more than moderate throttle input off the line or out of slow bends elicits a chirp from the front wheels. Should you see fit to deactivate the traction control completely, it’s possible to spin the driven wheels for several seconds from launch, and the resulting torque steer can be somewhat unnerving. Really, buyers of a 154bhp family estate shouldn’t need to be well-versed in the art of controlling a vehicle at its limit. 

Once up to speed, however, the 5 feels well-planted and pleasingly manages to keep both wind and road roar - common afflictions for larger electric cars - in check, thanks to its skinny tyres, high sidewalls and curvy low-slung form. It’s a competent cruiser, and an extended period at 70mph didn’t knock the indicated range down as quickly as you might expect. Officially, MG says the 5 will travel 214 miles between charges, but our test - which took in country roads, motorways and the city centre - suggests 170-180 miles would be more realistic.

Should I buy one?

If you, for whatever reason, have held off buying an EV thus far because you simply must have an estate car, you won’t be disappointed by the 5. Its range, while not competitive, makes for a perfectly usable family runaround, and that large boot and back seat will make the transition away from combustion power as painless as possible in practicality terms.

You would have to be quite committed to the prospect of zero-emission motoring, however, because the same money gets you into a nicely specified Ford Focus or Skoda Octavia, against which the 5’s value-oriented interior and anonymous styling are unignorable. It’s a car to buy with the head, rather than the heart, and - for now at least - has its own tiny corner of the market cornered.

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Comments
50

25 September 2020

Looks as bad as a Skoda.

25 September 2020
jason_recliner wrote:

Looks as bad as a Skoda.

Which Skoda?  I have owned an Octavia VRS for five years, and twice have had teenagers, within a group of their friends, say "Nice car mate" to me.  That's never happened in any other car I have owned.  And no, they weren't being sarcastic!

 

 

26 September 2020
martin_66 wrote:

jason_recliner wrote:

Looks as bad as a Skoda.

Which Skoda?  I have owned an Octavia VRS for five years, and twice have had teenagers, within a group of their friends, say "Nice car mate" to me.  That's never happened in any other car I have owned.  And no, they weren't being sarcastic!

VRS looks absolutely fine

26 September 2020
martin_66 wrote:

jason_recliner wrote:

Looks as bad as a Skoda.

Which Skoda?  

They all look rubbish, obviously made to look even worse than their clones so that there's a reason to pay more for a VW / Seat / Audi.  This MG is worse, but it's marginal.

(no offence intended)

25 September 2020

Revival of a classic 

25 September 2020
xanderbrown wrote:

Revival of a classic 

I'd rather have a Montego than this dross.

25 September 2020
martin_66 wrote:

xanderbrown wrote:

Revival of a classic 

I'd rather have a Montego than this dross.

You'd need a MG Montego Turbo to keep up with this, and there aren't many of those left, plus there wasn't an estate version of the MG Montego...

25 September 2020

 

[/quote]

I'd rather have a Montego than this dross.

[/quote]

You'd need a MG Montego Turbo to keep up with this, and there aren't many of those left, plus there wasn't an estate version of the MG Montego...

[/quote]

I didn't say I actually wanted one, just that I would rather have one than this.  At least the Montego was more like a proper MG than anything those shysters in China have come up with.

26 September 2020
martin_66 wrote:

I didn't say I actually wanted one, just that I would rather have one than this.  At least the Montego was more like a proper MG than anything those shysters in China have come up with.

 

You reaelly are daft arent, you, the Montego MG was just a standard Austin with a few little tweaks, this car is an MG, in the same way it is a Roewe, so it is NO different to the Autin/MG version, except that this one, is a one off car, in Europe, it is in effect a full MG car, like the MG 3 and ZS/HS, they have nothing in europe to pair it with, within its own company, plus at least the looks have been changed significantly in and out over the Roewe, again, unlike the Autin/MG Montego... Shame you know little about B.L.>>> and MG/Roewe, i have forgotten more than you know, try stop making daft comments you can not back up.

26 September 2020
jonboy4969 wrote:

martin_66 wrote:

I didn't say I actually wanted one, just that I would rather have one than this.  At least the Montego was more like a proper MG than anything those shysters in China have come up with.

 

You reaelly are daft arent, you, the Montego MG was just a standard Austin with a few little tweaks, this car is an MG, in the same way it is a Roewe, so it is NO different to the Autin/MG version, except that this one, is a one off car, in Europe, it is in effect a full MG car, like the MG 3 and ZS/HS, they have nothing in europe to pair it with, within its own company, plus at least the looks have been changed significantly in and out over the Roewe, again, unlike the Autin/MG Montego... Shame you know little about B.L.>>> and MG/Roewe, i have forgotten more than you know, try stop making daft comments you can not back up.

Its perfectly fine to disagree with my opinion (I do all the time!), but there is no need to be rude.

This is NOT a full MG car.  It is an anonymous Chinese box with an MG badge stuck on it.

And what do you know about how much I know?  I will assume that you are unaware of my motoring history, so I will just let you know that I have previously owned 2 MG Midgets, an MGB, 2 MG Maestros and, horrror of horrors, a Morris Marina, so I am quite aware of the history of MG and BL.

Oh, and what use is someone who has forgotten everything?  Perhaps you should go to see a doctor to check if you have Alzheimer's?

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