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Long-term tests

MG4 Trophy Long Range: long-term test review

Final report: MG has a long and rich heritage but how does its latest, all-electric model go down with enthusiasts of the brand’s older cars?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

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Verdict

I’d recommend the MG4 without question, while the latest MGs still capture some of the magic of their predecessors. Quality is questionable in places, yet value wins out – this is a very talented EV. 

  • Mileage: 12,302
  • Efficiency: 3.8mi/kWh

Some manufacturers like to celebrate their heritage, while others turn their backs on the past, burying previous models without a trace. Ostensibly, MG is a century-old brand with an illustrious history of making good-value sports cars – but if you look at its current range, the connections aren’t all that clear.

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Or are they? Wanting to delve a little deeper, I took a trip to visit the MG100 centenary celebrations at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, Hampshire to compare our MG4 with models dating back to the 1920s. The event, organised by the MG Owners’ Club, saw 434 cars congregate outside the museum for fans of the brand to gawp at all afternoon.

From the moment I pulled in, I felt like a sore thumb. Expecting a smattering of EVs among the classic sports cars and saloons, I counted just one other MG4 on site, as well as an MG HS and a couple of older MG3s. While “MGs of all ages” were welcome, the big-selling, ultra-modern stuff was somewhat conspicuous by its absence.

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No matter, because there was clearly interest in my Volcano Orange hatch. As soon as I’d parked up, I overheard one man say (admittedly with a degree of bias) that he’d “have one of these over a [Tesla] Model 3” and that he’d “love to read a comparison test” between the two. Something for a future issue of Auto Express, perhaps?

And before I’d even lifted my daughter from her car seat, another intrigued onlooker walked over. He didn’t know the MG4 was electric, although he seemed pleasantly surprised when I told him I was regularly getting 240-250 miles on a charge. He was keen to tell me he was signed up for an exclusive preview of the forthcoming Cyberster very soon; it’s cars such as this that will truly win over the brand diehards.

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As I wandered the rows of MGBs and MGFs, it struck me that, almost unwittingly, the maker’s newest EVs somehow manage to recreate their predecessors’ playful personality. The engine was never a particular highlight of the classic MG recipe, but the sweet, rear-wheel-drive chassis was – a layout that helps make our long-term test car one of the finest handling models on the market.

I’ve really enjoyed driving our MG4 over the past four months and 4,000 miles. Not only can it put a smile on my face on the right road, it’s also comfortable and composed on the motorway – much more so than you might expect for a car that costs this little. 

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I have noticed a worsening whistle from the passenger side as time has passed; first it sounded like an issue with the climate control, but now I wonder if it’s a bit of loose trim somewhere around the nearside door mirror. If the car weren’t due back to MG so soon, I’d be booking it in for inspection.

Another parallel I was able to draw when wandering around Beaulieu was that of build quality. You need to make concessions when buying at this price point, but there are some areas I’d hoped might be showing fewer signs of wear and tear. The bonnet, for example, has several stone chips right down to the bare metal. There’s a small bubble in the cabin, too, where the dash material seems to be coming away. The other thing I noticed is how the pattern on the seat bases doesn’t flow seamlessly across each of the squabs – you wouldn’t get that in a VW or Vauxhall.

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Overall, though, living with an MG4 has been an enlightening experience. You can absolutely understand why this car is so popular – it’s admirably efficient, great to drive and virtually unbeatable for value. I’ve also found it is just the right size for a family of three. All this, added to the fact that for just over £30k I get alloy wheels, heated seats and touchscreen infotainment. I’d recommend one in a heartbeat.

MG4 Trophy Long Range: second report

MG’s tweaks to the MG4 since we got our car bode well for the firm’s success in the UK

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  • Mileage: 10,661
  • Efficiency: 3.8mi/kWh

We've grown used to the cars we buy being subject to incremental improvements while they’re on sale. Tweaks designed to bolster standard kit or make our vehicles easier to live with mean model-year updates are now pretty commonplace.

Less than 12 months since the electric MG4 went on sale, two more variants have already been added to the hugely popular EV line-up. There’s now an MG4 Extended Range, with a 77kWh battery and 323-mile range, as well as a 429bhp XPower hot hatch.

So, naturally, being the current custodian of our Volcano Orange MG4 Trophy, when the invitation to drive the aforementioned hot version landed in our inboxes, I was the only person for the job. I saw it as the perfect opportunity to not only assess what an extra motor and double the power might feel like, but also to dissect how MG’s business as a whole is integrating itself in the UK.

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The answer to the second part of that assignment is: very well indeed. At the start of the year, MG was targeting 70,000 registrations in 2023 – up from just 19,000 over the previous 12 months. The maker hit 45,694 units in the first six months of the year, with certain variants 50 per cent up year-on-year. MG’s total market share currently stands at just over four per cent – slightly behind Hyundai and Nissan, but ahead of Skoda and Peugeot.

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Delve deeper into the numbers, and it’s clear MG is on a roll. A little while back, before management got a grip on the brand’s unprecedented rise, you’d have waited up to a year for a ZS EV. Today it has models in stock, ready for delivery. The MG4 is now the second-best-selling electric vehicle on the market, only behind the Tesla Model Y, and more than 14,000 MG4s have been registered since September last year.

I won’t dwell on what the MG4 XPower is like to drive. In short, sorting the fundamentals (chassis, space, value for money) from the off provides a great base; the XPower isn’t quite as deft as a petrol hot hatch, but it’s entertaining enough in its own right.

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No, the things I noticed driving the fastest MG ever were the small changes the designers have made to the standard
car that, as I mentioned earlier, make our 4 easier to live with day-to-day. Not wishing to rest on its laurels, MG is constantly listening to user feedback and implementing key changes to boost customer satisfaction.

The first is the lack of a rear wiper – not all that noticeable on a clear summer’s day but something that has bugged me on a number of occasions since taking delivery. But if you order your MG4 now, you’ll be able to clear the screen to your heart’s content. Handy, because all cars now get three headrests in the back – as opposed to the pair my car’s outer seats only.

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There have been some revisions to the infotainment system, too. They aren’t transformative – this is still an area that
lets the bargain MG4 down – but small changes make the system easier to operate. The climate control screen, for example, has a new design that makes smaller adjustments simpler to input.

Further to this, new Trophy cars are more easily distinguished from their lesser SE siblings due to a set of sharp 18-inch wheels (our car is fitted with 17-inch alloys). The new Trophy’s bigger wheels are of a different design to those seen on the XPower model (pictured) but equally pleasing to our eyes. We’d hope for little compromise on ride comfort either, given our experience with the racy range-topper.

The final change, and arguably the most significant, is the implementation of one-pedal driving. While the regenerative braking in my car is quite aggressive, it won’t bring the car to a complete stop. The system in the XPower works really
well – strong enough to shave noticeable speed from the car’s digital readout, but without feeling too severe. It’s certainly a worthwhile upgrade.

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Otherwise, even my 22-plate car has plenty of redeeming features. It’s proving admirably efficient – I’ve seen 3.8mi/kWh over more than 2,000 miles so far, and nudged 2mi/kWh more on a recent crawl along the A406 to north London. Strong economy means I’m seeing a decent 230-240 miles of range, so I’ll be able to visit my parents in Devon without stopping.

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Admittedly, I would like a bigger boot. We don’t use my daughter’s buggy all that much any more, but it’s bulky enough that I need to remove a wheel before placing it in the back of the MG. Carrying passengers is no trouble, though – I’ve had two adults and a child in the rear without complaint.

MG4 Trophy Long Range: first report

New EV joins our fleet with two awards to its name

  • Mileage: 9,626
  • Efficiency: 3.8mi/kWh

We called it late last year, and six months later the MG4 remains one of the very best electric cars on sale. Named Car of the Year by sister title DrivingElectric back in December, the bargain EV has now been awarded the title of Auto Express Affordable Electric Car of the Year 2023.

My new long-term test car is off to a good start then; almost before I’d unlocked the doors, it was a double award winner. But this is no all-singing, all-dancing super-luxury premium SUV – this is one of the cheapest electric cars money can buy.

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The MG costs from £26,995, so only the Smart EQ ForTwo – soon to be discontinued, but still available on the maker’s website – and brand-new BYD Dolphin cost less. Our car is the pricier Long Range model in top-spec Trophy trim, but at less than £33k all in, its value credentials are irrefutable.

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So how about a quick rundown of the specs and some insight into why we rate the MG4 so highly? Base SE cars get LED lights front and rear, 17-inch wheels and rear parking sensors, while inside there’s a 10.25-inch touchscreen with Apple and Android phone connectivity, plus a suite of driver-assistance systems. There are two battery options: 51kWh or 64kWh.

Step up to Trophy and you get that bigger battery as standard, meaning up to 281 miles on a charge. This is not an EV hamstrung by a short urban-only driving range – as was proven when I took it to Cornwall on an 800-mile round trip within days of collecting the keys.

Trophy cars like mine bolster that already-generous kit list with standard-fit sat-nav, a heated steering wheel and heated front seats, wireless phone charging and a 360-degree parking camera. In fact, since we took delivery, new orders now also come with bigger 18-inch wheels and a rear wiper – the latter something I really wish was fitted to the Volcano Orange model you see here.

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Including that trip to the south-west, I’ve now done almost 1,500 miles in the MG and when it comes to everyday use, I’m left wanting for very little. The range is good – I’m managing around 240 miles in normal driving, and have even seen more than 300 miles on the trip readout when driving  around town in Eco mode.

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The MG is plenty quick enough day to day, and its ride is far more accomplished than you’d expect of a car at this price point. The seats are comfortable enough, although I would like a little more thigh support on longer journeys. Further to this, the centre console doesn’t feel as if it’s designed to have your knee resting against it for hours on end – partly due to its shape, but also the hard plastic it’s built from.

Probably my biggest complaint, though, regards the infotainment system. It’s not the most responsive, and you often need to delve deep into the menus to find what you’re looking for. Burying the climate controls almost completely out of sight is a no-no at this time of year, too, even if the system itself is one of the most effective I’ve ever had the pleasure of using – even in the scorching summer sun.

The car refuses to memorise any of my settings, either. I understand the safety implications of having the driver-assistance system switch back on when you start the car, but why the MG can’t default to my chosen drive mode, or remember that I’d previously opted to use the speed-limiter or cruise-control functions, is a mystery.

Overall, though, I’m enjoying the MG4’s relatively compact footprint, as well as being closer to street level, having run two SUVs back to back. The handling benefits of driving a hatchback versus a crossover are clear – as are the efficiency gains. 

It’s abundantly clear why the MG4’s become a serial award-winner during its short time on sale, and who knows, by the time the keys are wrestled from me in a few months, there might be even more silverware in the cabinet.

Model:MG4 Trophy Long Range
On fleet since:June 2023
Price new:£32,495
Engine:1x e-motor/64kWh battery, 200bhp
CO2/tax:0g/km / £0
Options:Premium paint (£695)
Insurance:Group: 29 Quote: £746
Mileage:12,302 miles
Efficiency:3.8mi/kWh
Any problems?Connectivity issues

*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

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Deputy editor

Richard has been part of the team for over a decade. During this time he has covered a huge amount of news and reviews for Auto Express, as well as being the face of Carbuyer and DrivingElectric on Youtube. In his current role as deputy editor, he is now responsible for keeping our content flowing and managing our team of talented writers.

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