MG4 XPOWER review

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MG aims to reinvent the hot hatch with this MG4 XPOWER EV. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.

Ten Second Review

The MG4 XPOWER isn't your ordinary EV family hatchback. It accelerates like a Ferrari, yet costs about the same as an ordinary electric compact family five-door. It's got all-wheel drive, has all of the required sporty vibe and spoils you with equipment. There's a lot to like here; but is this a real hot hatch? You'll need to decide.

Background

Chinese conglomerate SAIC have bought back the old MG Rover 'X POWER' badge for the dual motor performance version of their MG marque's MG4 EV. Off the line, this model really wouldn't be that much lower than ultimate velocity six-figure luxury EV is like the Tesla Model S Plaid or the Audi RS e-tron GT. And it comfortably has the legs of a combustion-engined super hatch like, say, a Volkswagen Golf R. It's considerably cheaper than one of those too.

'Cheaper' is possibly not the right word to use for a compact family hatch priced well the wrong side of £35,000, but the fact remains that this XPOWER model's asking price is still below what you'll probably pay for an ordinary EV hatch like a Volkswagen ID.3. So what's served up here as well as extra power? Let's see.

Driving Experience

XPOWER versions of old Longbridge-era last century MGs were really all about straight line speed and not a lot else. Which, to some extent, is an observation you could level at this MG4 XPOWER. It's urged forward by a 201bhp motor on the front axle and a 228bhp motor on the rear axle. The resulting 429bhp total propels the car to 62mph in just 3.8s on the way to 124mph. You'll win virtually every traffic light Grand Prix.

We're less sure that you'll triumph in back road brawling with more deeply developed conventional hot hatchbacks. But MG maintains a UK engineering team and they've done what they can here to keep all that power in check. The springs are 15% stiffer at the front and 10% stiffer at the rear, the steering's been re-tuned, you get launch control and there are ventilated 345mm disc brakes front and rear. There's also brake-based torque vectoring and MG has additionally fitted wider tyres, though not performance rubber. Sports seats and a limited slip differential are notable by their absence too. As with the ordinary MG4, there are five driving modes - 'Eco', 'Sport', 'Snow', 'Custom' and 'standard'. And four regenerative braking modes - 'Auto', '1', '2' and '3'. MG has also added a 'One Pedal Driving' brake regen setting which, when engaged, means you'll hardly ever need to use the actual brake pedal. Driving range is rated at 239 miles, 31 miles less than the ordinary 'Trophy Long Range' model which uses the same 61.8kWh battery.

Design and Build

There aren't many visual changes to set this XPOWER variant apart from lesser MG4 models. Assuming you're comparing with the top spec version of the ordinary car anyway, with its unusual twin rear roof spoilers. The XPOWER derivative gets specific 18-inch alloy wheels, a black roof, gloss black lower accents and, if you want it, a bespoke 'Racing Green' paint job. Inside, XPOWER spec gets you aluminium pedals and microsuede upholstery.

Otherwise, it's all pretty familiar MG4-fare. The minimalist cabin offers a curious steering wheel (flat-topped and bottomed) through which you view a 7-inch instrument screen. Plus a centre 'floating' 10.25-inch infotainment display. And not a lot else. The interior looks lacks the bright and cheery feel of, say, a sporty CUPRA Born. And you could nit-pick about some aspects of plastics quality. But overall, the design here lacks little in either ambition or execution.

Apart from the drive selector and the parking brake, the only physical controls are a row of buttons beneath the central screen. Rear seat space is fine by the standards of Golf-sized compact hatchbacks - couple of six-footers will just about fit. And there's a reasonably-sized 363-litre boot with a false floor, the area extendable to 1,177-litres by the usual split-folding rear bench.

Market and Model

You'll need around £36,500 for an MG4 XPOWER. That's around £4,000 more than the top model in the standard line-up, the 'Trophy Long Range'. Which, given that you're getting 435PS here, is exceptional value. It isn't as if MG has skimped on kit either. Expect a black contrast-coloured roof, rear privacy glass, a twin aero rear spoiler, a microsuede-upholstered interior with electric driver's seat, heated front seats and steering wheel, a Bluetooth key, satellite navigation, a 360-degree camera, wireless phone charging and an MG iSmart system compatible with live services.

You can also tick off automatic LED headlights and rear lights, rear parking sensors, 18-inch alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control and automatic climate control. Along with power-folding mirrors, a 6-way adjustable powered driver's seat, heat for the front chairs, an auto-dimming rear view mirror, a leather-covered heated steering wheel, metal sports pedals and a 6-speaker audio system with 3D sound. The 10.25-inch floating colour touchscreen has satellite navigation, along with 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring. A 7-inch digital driver information display, a wireless phone charger and a height-adjustable boot floor are also included. Plus there's the 'MG Pilot' portfolio of camera safety features, which include Blind Spot Detection (BSD), Lane Change Assist (LCA) and Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA).

Cost of Ownership

Earlier we gave you the driving range figure: 239 miles from the 61.8kWh battery - or 328 miles in town. The 'Trophy Long Range' MG4 manages 270 miles and 358 miles respectively. And the 'Trophy Extended Range' version (which has a 77kWh battery) returns 323 miles and 439 miles respectively. Energy consumption is rated at 3.27 miles per kWh - or 3.32 miles per kWh in city traffic. As for charging, well this XPOWER variant accepts rates of up to 140kW. That's enough to replenish the battery from 10 to 80% at a DC charger in 35 minutes. A 50kW DC charger would require 52 minutes (10-80%). And a 7kW garage wallbox would need 5.1 hours - or 24.2 hours from a domestic socket.

You might worry about depreciation from a budget brand like MG. Actually, the opposite is true. Industry experts CAP reckon that top 'Trophy' versions of this car will retain 61% of their original cost and this XPOWER variant should be similar. And if that doesn't convince you, then the comprehensive 7 year warranty just might. Insurance is rated at group 40D.

Summary

We like the MG4 and, judging by the sales figures, it looks like you do too. We're not sure it needs this much power though. Nor are we quite sure what kind of car this is. It professes to be the market's first electric hot hatch, but around the twisty stuff, this XPOWER variant doesn't really deliver the immersive handling fluidity that a car of that sort would really need.

It's a very decent first stab at the genre though - at a very affordable price. In fact, we can't think of any other car under £40,000 that would hurl you at the horizon very much faster. If that's what you want from a small EV hatch, then by all means try one of these. It's a sign of this Chinese brand's growing ambition. And, in its own way, a quick, aspirational, very ambitious little EV.

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