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Mg4 in orange on the road

2023 MG4 First Drive: Australian Launch

Can an electric vehicle really be cheap AND cheerful? Chinese-made EVs have dominated our automotive market for the last 16 months with vehicles like the Tesla Model Y overtaking household names like the Toyota Camry in sales volumes. However, the vast majority of these vehicles cost upwards of AUD$60,000. They’re not cheap, but they’re selling in high volumes.

Until now, our market has never had a radically cheap EV to test the appetite of all Australians. Is the MG4 the car that will pull Australians away from compact petrol SUVs and into something electric? I attended the Australian launch to find out.

RELATED: Read my in-depth Polestar 2 review here.

Mg4 australian launch
MG4 Australian launch | Image: Supplied

The first thing to note is the price. MG has priced the base MG4 as close to the petrol alternatives as possible, starting from AUD$38,990 plus on-road costs for the 51kWh Excite model that has 350km (WLTP) of range and up to AUD$55,990 plus on-road costs for the 77kWh Essence grade with a range up to 530km.

My pick of the bunch would be the 64kWh Excite model that has 450km of range and starts from AUD$44,990 plus on-road costs. Real-world experience has told me that budgeting an extra 100km of range for weather, road, and charger conditions is worth your money if you plan road-tripping.

MG4 Excite (51kWh)MG4 Excite (64kWh)MG4 Essence (64kWh)MG4 Essence (77kWh)
Price (AU$)$38,990 plus on-road costs$44,990 plus on-road costs$47,990 plus on-road costs$55,990 plus on-road costs
Acceleration from 0-100 km/h7.7 seconds7.9 seconds7.2 seconds6.5 seconds
Combined WLTP rangeRange of up to 350kmRange of up to 450kmRange of up to 435kmRange of up to 530km
Rapid charging time at 50kW DC from 10-80%40mins60mins60mins75mins
Mg4 interior
Nothing points to this being an exercise in extreme cost-cutting | Image: Supplied

So what do you get for your money? I spent a few hours with the car on a drive loop around the Royal National Park in Sydney and the car felt well-built and surprisingly solid. Maybe the best praise I could give it is that nothing specific points to this being an exercise in extreme cost-cutting to reach that sub-$40k end goal.

It’s not boring to look at from the exterior and when you jump inside there’s more than a simple touchscreen tablet-style infotainment in the centre of the cabin. You’ll find a select number of physical buttons below the screen to control volume, defrost, and climate controls.

It’s not the simplest system to use and will require a small learning curve but once you get the hang of the shortcuts (including the shortcut button on the steering wheel) you won’t have any trouble.

Maybe the only real issue with the infotainment is the regenerative braking and drive mode selection that’s buried deep in the menus. You can assign the steering wheel shortcut button to take care of this, but if you switch between regen modes and drive modes regularly this could become a frustration.

How does it compare to the rest of the MG range? Well, I was never the biggest fan of the MG ZS EV after driving it last year, but I’m happy to say they’ve made strides in rectifying many of the issues I had with that car.

Where the MG ZS EV felt like a Chinese-market car with awkward ergonomics and seats too small and uncomfortable, I could see myself happily taking long drives in the MG4.

I had a chance to drive the car on the highway between the Royal National Park and our lunch spot in Bowral and never felt any discomfort with the new seats that have ample cushion and soft plastics and padding around the cabin for elbows and knees.

If I had to point my finger at something, there’s an above-average amount of wind noise coming through the cabin above 100km/h. Strangely, the steering wheel control panels also have rather pointy edges which can dig into the palms of your hands depending on how you hold the steering wheel.

Again, it’s hard to be critical of an EV that costs less than AUD$40,000.

Mg4 interior 2 1
MG4 Australian launch | Image: Supplied

Where I can be critical is in the semi-autonomous driving system that’s activated Tesla-style through a button on the steering wheel.

It combines adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist to steer the car and keep it in the centre of the lane when you’re driving on motorways. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work very well and pinballs you from one side of the lane to the other, even on straight pieces of road.

I wouldn’t be so harsh if either system worked well on its own, but even the basic adaptive cruise control system can’t manage a simple lane change at highway speeds. Pull out from the left lane to overtake and the car will slow down as you merge, which isn’t particularly safe.

Reprogramming the system to speed back up to the set limit when indicating (like most other systems on the market) would fix the problem overnight. These semi-autonomous systems work so well when they work and help so much with driver fatigue, but when they don’t they can be unnerving to use.

Mg4 australian launch road drive
MG4 Australian launch | Image: Supplied

It’s unfortunate because the MG4 drives very well. Much better than I expected and if I was blindfolded, I could honestly be tricked into thinking this is an electric vehicle worth twice the price.

The overall ride comfort and dampening from the suspension is great for the amount of money you pay. And when you throw the car into a few corners, the MacPherson strut suspension at the front and a five-multi-link rear suspension provide ample mechanical grip for a car that’s not meant to be a sportscar.

The feedback to your hands and feet through the steering wheel is also notable. Usually, nothing to write home about in cut-price EVs, the MG4 bucks the trend with precise steering, brakes, and pedals.

Mg4 australian launch 3
MG4 Australian launch | Image: Supplied

To answer my original question “Is the MG4 the car that will pull Australians away from compact petrol SUVs and into EVs?” I think the answer is yes after driving the MG4 on the Australian launch.

Stats from MG back this up too, with the importer telling media it already has 1000 orders for the MG and conservative numbers anticipate more than 3000 orders by the end of the year.

When you combine the sharp price point, low maintenance costs (5-year service cost is AUD$1,182), 7-year unlimited KM warranty, and enough technology to tempt owners of outdated petrol vehicles, I think the MG4 will become the segment leader in sales. I look forward to reviewing the line-up in depth over the next 12 months.

Mg4 australian launch 2
MG4 Australian launch | Image: Supplied

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