MG EV Concept first drive review

New EV Concept could provide a much-needed boost for MG, if it gets the right price tag

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.5 out of 5

MG's EV Concept suggests a radical new approach could be on the cards from the SAIC-owned manufacturer, and the early signs are promising. Some might be put off by the underwhelming range if it went on sale today, but there’s a lot to like about the styling and how it feels on the road, providing the price is right.

Given the ever-increasing popularity of electric vehicles – see Tesla and the BMW i3 for more details – it’s little wonder MG has become the latest manufacturer looking to get in on the act. 

Not that the reborn British brand is going to rush things: this EV concept doesn’t yet preview a production car. MG is first keen to gauge feedback from its customer base before making a decision, and where better to do it than the marque’s 90th birthday celebration weekend at Silverstone?

Auto Express was given the chance to climb aboard prior to the MG EV's public debut, for a few laps round Silverstone's smaller Stowe circuit. Approaching the four-seat electric city car, we we're greeted by a compact and surprisingly charming design. The interior takes a minimalistic approach that looks futuristic on a budget, aside from the steering wheel, which is borrowed from the MG3. It’s a comfortable place to sit, and four average-sized adults won’t struggle for head or legroom, the only clear trade-off being a miniscule boot.

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Press the accelerator and there’s a momentary pause before the electronic handbrake disengages to offer access to the 70bhp electric motor’s decent low-speed torque. This drive is fed through the front wheels via a CVT transmission. The car feels nippy through the corners, too, the low centre of gravity helping to minimise body roll; impressive considering the 1,080kg prototype’s set-up hasn’t yet been tweaked for the UK.

For this reason, it’s probably a bit early to say how the MG EV would deal with our bumpier roads, although round the smooth track it rode well – an unnaturally high floor was alone in signalling the under-seat 18KWh lithium iron phosphate battery back. The regenerative braking system was less impressive and could do with kicking in a bit more to limit the need to manually brake.

Although we weren’t able to check, in a straight line the MG EV should top out at 81mph, and a claimed 0-62mph time of 14.6 seconds felt about right. That sprint is 2.2 seconds slower than the VW e-up!.

The charge time is slightly more competitive: getting back to full power is said to take up to six-hours from a standard power source but an 80 per cent charge can be achieved in 30 minutes from a rapid charging point.

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Where the MG EV really falls short of rivals at the moment is range, unfortunately also a key benchmark for all EVs. The official NEDC figure stands at 75 miles, a figure some way off the i3’s 118 miles or the Nissan Leaf’s 120 miles. MG, however, argues the range is more than sufficient for city use and the average daily commute (roughly ten miles per day), the idea being to possibly pitch its EV as a functional second car.

Getting the price right is therefore going to be key, but at the moment MG refuses to be drawn on where a production model might sit, emphasising the need to wait for more comprehensive charging infrastructure and standardisation. If it does sufficiently undercut the main competition, performance shortcomings will be easier to overlook, and the EV could point to a bright future for the brand.

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