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Bargain EV estate gets a 250-mile range, but is that enough to excuse its flaws?

What is it?

This is the UK’s first and cheapest electric estate, but with a longer range.

The MG 5 SW EV has been around for just under a year, and in addition to being one of the cheapest EVs around at a starting price of £25,095, it’s also one of just two that come with a practical estate body – along with the Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo.

For 2021, MG has added a long-range version of the MG 5 to its line-up, offering 250 miles from a full charge of its 57.7kWh battery, up from 214 for the standard model. The Long Range can also rapid charge at up to 100kW. At a starting price of just £26,495 after the Plug-In Car Grant for the ‘Excite’ trim, that is a pretty good deal when Mazda wants about the same for its much less practical Mazda MX-30, which will do a paltry 117 miles.

Both the standard-range and long-range model get the same 154bhp and 192lb ft motor, giving a 0-60 time of 7.3 seconds. Not a Taycan, granted, but pretty brisk for a cheap family estate. All MG 5s also have a very usable rear seat, 464 litres of boot space and a generous amount of equipment.

You get a choice between the ‘Excite’ for £26,495 or the ‘Exclusive’ for £28,995. All the long range models come with navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, four USB ports, a reversing camera, and the ‘MG Pilot’ suite of assisted driving features. The Exclusive adds heated and electric leatherette seats, automatic air conditioning and heated mirrors. On paper, at least, it almost makes some of the other cheaper EVs look rather expensive.

What's it like?

Almost, because as soon as you get into the MG5, long range or not, you see where the savings have been made. Remember that MG is a brand of the Chinese SAIC and sold in its native country as the Roewe i5 and it makes sense that the resulting experience is just not something you would ever get from one of the more established manufacturers.

You are greeted by a sea of hard, scratchy plastic and vinyl. Some switches feel quite solid, others give the impression they might conk out after a few years. MGs come with a seven-year warranty, so they probably won’t, but the feeling isn’t great.

When you try to adjust the seat down, you also realise that this is an SUV wearing an estate car’s skin, as the curiously high ride combines with a high seat to create a very SUV-like driving position. The seat isn’t particularly supportive in any way and the leatherette is certainly not an upgrade over cloth upholstery.

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The infotainment system looks like an off-the shelf unit, customised to allow you to change the car’s settings. It’s not particularly responsive, large or pretty, but at least its extreme simplicity means it’s easy to find your way around.

Amusingly for an electric car, the gauges are analogue, with a screen between the dials that gives all the information you need – like the economy, which hovers around 3.6 miles per kWh – and some of the information you don’t, such as the charging voltage and the current the battery is delivering.

Things only improve a bit when you start driving. With 154bhp and 192lb ft of torque, and no gears to change, it feels pretty quick, but even on a very warm, dry day, the power overwhelmed the front tyres’ traction with ease, before the traction control steps in quite crudely. It’s not the kind of car to go quickly in anyway. Body control is fairly loose, but the steering is nicely weighted (except on the motorway, where it weights up), while the ride soaks up bumps well.

The other thing that might attract you to the MG 5 is that the Long Range gets MG Pilot, a suite of active safety features including adaptive cruise control with lane keep assist and automatic emergency braking. Again, like the chassis, powertrain and interior, it lacks a layer of polish in a way that wouldn’t get signed off at other carmakers. The lane keep assist is rather clumsy, and the adaptive cruise control leaves braking too late. Fortunately, you can turn the lot off and it will stay off if you want it to.

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Should I buy one?

The MG 5 is good value, but it will never let you forget where the savings were made. If the slightly longer range and bigger boot aren’t an absolute necessity, a basic Volkswagen ID 3 will offer a more thoroughly developed driving experience for slightly less money than the MG 5 Exclusive, and not much more than the Excite.

However, it is possible that for some, those refinements will not matter as much as the added practicality and strong electric range. As long as you stick to the cheaper trim, there is an appeal to the MG 5.

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Comments
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MaxTorque 9 October 2021
I find it incredulous that people think today's MG has anything to do with the historical MG. The 5 you see here is the RHD version of SAIC's Roewe i5 with just a MG badge stuck on front. The same goes for the ZS and HS, which are rebadged SAIC suvs. It is a cynical ploy on the Chinese to curry favour with the UK public and the latter are falling for the trick hook, line and sinker. Today's MG is about as British as the Spanish Influenza was Spanish in origin.

Incidentally, being a state-owned company when you purchase these SAIC cars you are directly helping the enrichment of the CCP and the Chinese Communist state. The same state that is running roughshod over its regional neighbours in its territorial disputes and threatening them with military force.

Clever move, people

Kevin30b 8 October 2021
I was shocked when I read that the roof rails on the MG 5 are for decoration only and should not be used for mounting roof bars! I also read that MG even sell roof bars for this car! What a strange contradiction.

So what's going on? How can a foreign motor manufacture export cars to the UK with dangerous design features? Foreseeable misuse is a legal requirement in the UK that manufacturers must address. Hopefully someone will point this out to MG and the UK body responsible for enforcing it.

I wonder if there are other less visible safety requirements that have also been ignored?

Andrew2021 29 July 2021
All this fool want to express is that id3 is better than mg5, vw is better than mg. Because it is an German badge.....not a badge used to be a British and purchased by China afterwards. Btw, the mg5 facelift looks like classical vw style in my view. When the mg marvel r comes to UK market,expecting to see what this fool will say again. You easily find out that a lot of good point of view for the mg5 rather than a full of bias, nonetheless and unnecessary negative point of view from this author.