There’s a story which I am all too familiar with, concerning the public and browsing for new cars. Whether it’s a friend, an acquaintance, or one of them retelling the story of another, the narrative tracks the same way.

Whoever it is, found themselves considering an EV only for their eyes to pop once they’d seen the asking price. Even with favourable assumptions and semi-convincing assurances from salespeople of “you’ll save on petrol in the long run”, cost remains one of the many hurdles for EV adoption. 

The Clean Car Rebate did temporarily soften the blow, but with it ceasing to exist from 2024, one may expect the demand for EV’s to grind to a halt. 

Although, the discussion doesn’t quite finish there. Late 2023 saw the introduction of a few affordable EV newcomers, one of those being the MG4. The MG4, an all-new ground-up EV, offers reasonable driving range, plenty of space and features, and few other compromises all at an affordable price. This exact formula has afforded MG great success overseas, being Europe’s top-selling electric vehicle in 2023. It sounds rather promising, doesn’t it?

So, could the MG 4 be the answer to the EV cost hurdle for New Zealanders?

What We Like and Dislike About The 2023 MG4 Essence

What we likeWhat we don’t like
Affordable
Stylish exterior
Spacious cabin
Improved in-car tech
Competent handling
Ride quality
Funky colour palette
Good at nearly everything it does
Poor rear visibility
Re-gen settings difficult to adjust
Shabby stereo
Strange side camera orientation
Wireless charger likes to eject phone while driving

What’s In the 2023 MG4 Range?

There are four variants of the MG 4 available for New Zealand buyers. The range starts with the entry-level Excite 51 climbing up to the Long Range 77.

There’s also the MG 4 X-Power, a high-performance variant of the MG 4, but MG considers it part of its own range.

ModelBattery
Capacity
(kWh)
MotorsPerformance
(kW/Nm)
Claimed
Range
(Kms)
Price
MG4 Excite 5151Single125/250350$46,990
MG4 Excite 6464Single150/250450$51,990
MG4 Essence 6464Single150/250435$54,990
MG4 Long Range77Single180/350530$63,990
MG4 XPower64Dual300/600400$69,000

2023 MG4 Essence Standard Equipment Highlights

The entry-level Excite 51 offers:

  • 17” alloys
  • 4-speaker Audio
  • 4-regenerative brake modes with one pedal drive
  • 4-Way Manually Adjustable Passenger Seat
  • 6-Way Manually Adjustable Drivers Seat
  • 7” Digital instrument cluster
  • 10.25” Infotainment with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth
  • Auto-headlights
  • Central Locking
  • Cloth Upholstery
  • Electric and heated side mirrors
  • Keyless entry
  • LED daytime running lights
  • LED headlights
  • LED taillights
  • Reverse Camera
  • Tyre Pressure Monitoring System
  • Vehicle to Load Charging (V2L) 

In addition to the Excite 51, the Excite 64 adds:

  • Active Intake Grille Shutter

In addition to the Excite 64, the Essence 64 and Long Range adds:

  • 18″ Alloy Wheels
  • 360° Camera
  • 6-speaker audio
  • 6-way Electrically Adjustable Seat
  • Auto-Dimming Rear View Mirror
  • Electric folding mirrors
  • EV Trip Planner
  • Heated front seats
  • Heated steering wheel
  • Rear Privacy Glass
  • Rear Spoiler
  • Sat-Nav
  • Voice Control
  • Wireless Charger

The XPower adds:

  • 18” Alloy Wheels (XPower exclusive design)
  • Launch Control
  • PU Leather & Alcantara Seat with Orange stitched seating
  • Sport Pedals
  • Track mode
  • Upgraded brake callipers and discs
  • XPower Exterior trim kit

All MG4 variants come standard with MG Pilot – the catch-all for its driver safety technologies. This includes:

  • 6 Airbags
  • Adaptive Cruise Control
  • Automatic Emergency Braking
  • Forward Collision Warning
  • Intelligent Headlamp Control
  • Lane Departure Warning System
  • Lane Keep Assist
  • Speed Assistance System
  • Traffic Jam Assist
  • Unsteady Driving Warning

The Essence, Long Range and X-Power adds:

  • Blind Spot Detection
  • Door Opening Warning
  • Emergency Lane Keep Assist
  • Lane Change Assist
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert

There are seven standard colours available for the MG4. There’s also one extra speciality colour available for the X-Power.   

  • Dover White
  • Brixton Blue Metallic
  • Diamond Red Metallic
  • Black Pearl Metallic
  • Volcano Orange Metallic
  • Camden Grey Metallic
  • Sterling Silver Metallic
  • Hunter Green Premium (+$1,000, X-Power only)

For more information on MG4, check out the MG New Zealand website.

How Does The 2023 MG4 Essence Compare To Its Competition?

The EV segment still has limited offerings, although it is growing quickly and prices are reducing. Half of the options on this table were not available in 2022. Note, there are two further options omitted from this table – the BYD Atto 3 and the MG ZS EV. Both are SUVs, but are equivalently priced. 

Make/ ModelBattery
Capacity
(kW-hr
)


Power/Torque
(kW/Nm)


0-100km/h
(seconds)
Range (WLTP)Boot
space
(litres)
Price
(excl CCP)
Tesla Model 3 Standard Range62.3208/3756.1491649$67,990
Nissan Leaf e+ 59kWh59160/3406.9385405$58,990
Peugeot e-20850100/2608.3382311$56,990
BYD Dolphin Extended60150/3107.0427345$55,990
MG4 Essence 6464150/2507.2435350$54,990
Opel Corsa-e50100/2608.1383309$49,990
GWM Ora Ultra Extended63126/2508.4420228$47,990

First Impressions Of The 2023 MG4 Essence

Well, this is rather striking, isn’t it? In a good way, of course.

From the front, the MG 4’s conveys a sporting aesthetic. Its nose, headlights, and fascias are sharp and angular. The bonnet has u-shaped sculpting, imitating the lines of hood aero venting.

Emphasis on angles reduces moving towards the rear, but the features stand out. The MG 4 features a high-mounted, thick LED light bar with constellation styling to accent it. Higher trim MG 4’s, such as our Essence test vehicle, also receive a sharp-looking double-hoop roof spoiler. 

Although considered a hatchback, the MG 4 visually looks more on par with a small SUV. Electric vehicles sit atop their batteries, which means they naturally look taller from the ground. The sculpting helps shrink the dimensions, but it doesn’t fully hide the extent of the MG 4’s larger frame. Again, this isn’t a bad thing.

To me, the only naff part is the 17’’ alloys, which have an aero cover with faux-spokes etched onto it. It’s fine from 20 metres, but not up close. All in all, the MG 4 is a sharp-looking machine. I like that they’ve taken risks, and I especially like all the funky colour options available for it.

So yeah, I like it generally. Top stuff, MG.

What’s The Interior Like In The 2023 MG4 Essence?

Compared to the outside, the MG 4 is considerably more pared back on the inside. Inside, the layout is clean and functional. The colour palette is a blend of neutral shades, offset by some blue stitching finishes on the front seats, dashboard and doors.

As we’ve mentioned, the MG 4 is the brand’s second EV to arrive in New Zealand, but it’s the first built on a dedicated EV platform. This brings with it a handful of advantages such as having a longer wheelbase and a flat floor, providing the MG 4 with plenty of usable cabin space.

There’s ample amounts of head and legroom for every occupant, whether in the front or rear. Fewer protrusions from the floor (from where a transmission might be) provide a greater sense of openness in the cabin and allow for additional storage spaces.

The sense of openness is enhanced by the MG 4’s low doors sills and glasshouse design. Plenty of light filters through the cabin, meaning it never feels dark despite its interior hues. 

Although technically a hatchback, the MG 4’s driving position is naturally on the higher side. Ingress and egress from the cabin is an across-and-upward movement, similar to entering a small SUV. It’s beneficial for those amongst us who are older or have old people problems. 

The front seats themselves aren’t anything spectacular, but they are comfortable despite their light bolstering. I have heard complaints regarding these seats, but I reckon they’re clutching at straws.

If there is anything to complain about from a design and layout perspective, it’s out the back in the boot. The boot is the exception to the MG 4’s plentiful cabin space. It measures 353 litres, which is less space than many of its internal combustion hatchback equivalents. Speaking of out the back, rearward visibility is not good. Fortunately, The MG does have plenty of cameras, but more on this later.

Anyway, as much as design is important, build quality is another important factor. This, I can imagine, will be a point of concern for a few. After all, the MG 4 is an inexpensive electric vehicle, wearing a badge from a reemerging brand that’s owned and manufactured by SAIC, in China. So yeah, I suppose I can appreciate some reservations.

I’ll admit, the MG 4’s material quality isn’t the greatest. Many of the trim plastics are of middling quality at best, and are quite cheap in other places. That said, those plastics are generally well screwed together and the finish is actually pretty good.

Nothing stands out as being particularly flimsy, or of poor quality. Overall, the cabin construction mightn’t feel as robust, nor have the perceived longevity as, say something from a Japanese manufacturer, but generally, I’m impressed given the pricing point of this EV.  

Also, the MG 4 does back itself with a 7-year vehicle warranty from new, which is a strong vote of confidence in my view. 

On the technology front, the 10.25’’ infotainment occupying the centre of the dash is high resolution and has a friendly-to-use tile-based interface. It’s a massive and well-needed improvement over the previous system, which I’d used in the MG HS PHEV. While it’s not nearly as responsive as your smartphone, it’s no worse than anything else in its price range. The climate controls are most integrated into it, which means it can be a slight pain to operate those when you’re moving. 

The system also connects to a series of crisp exterior cameras, which have decent resolution and refresh rates.

There is one strange detail, which occurs when you flick on the indicator. The camera will display a right or left-angle view on the side you’re turning. It doesn’t cover the blind spot like it would on a Tesla or Kia/Hyundai product, making it a bit useless.

The infotainment is connected to a 6-speaker audio system, which is an upgrade for the Essence trims over the Excite trim’s 4-speaker system. Although, it’s not exactly much of an upgrade because these speakers are a bit shabby. In my view, there’s a missed opportunity for a better system here. 

In front of the driver is a 7’’ instrument screen, which has a basic interface and a few configurable menus. It does have a few smaller fonts on the screen, which may be a little tricky for some to see, but otherwise, there’s little to complain about. 

Below the infotainment unit, next to the gear selector dial is another mod-con – a wireless charging pad. It works as expected, but my complaint is that the rubber backing isn’t nearly grippy enough. In other words, your phone will have the tendency to become a cabin projectile if you’re anything less than gentle with the throttle. 

On the whole, I’m generally impressed with this cabin for its cost. So, what about the drive?

What’s The MG4 Essence Like To Drive?

Ya know, I didn’t exactly have high expectations of the MG 4 for its driving experience. Between its electric powertrain, a fairly generous equipment list and funky exterior, my inner cynic had sort-off written it off. Surely, the development dollars had been spent?  There’d be no money to make this perform well.    

Yet, the MG4 happily proved me wrong.

Underneath our MG 4 is a 64kWh battery (62.1kWh usable) supplying a single electric motor outputting 150kW of power and 250Nm of torque. Although these figures are fairly run-of-the-mill these days, the MG 4 won’t leave you wanting for performance. 

Like many EV’s, that torque figure is available near instantly, delivering a healthy thrust of performance from a standstill. Between this and 150kW of power, the MG 4 makes for a spirited wee commuter. There’s enough surplus to make easy work of passing lanes.

Put another way, the MG 4 can make your average run-of-the-mill crossover seem rather lethargic.

Yet, the bigger surprise was the MG 4’s handling. Based on my past experiences with the MG ZS and HS PHEV, I was expecting the MG 4 to have the dynamic competence of a Christmas pudding. Fortunately, the MG 4 is more capable compared to others in its family. Being rear-wheel drive along with a low centre of gravity and close to 50:50 weight distribution, the MG 4 makes for a relatively competent corner hugger.

Its balance and body control in quicker corners is commendable, giving you the confidence to carry a bit of speed through the corners. The steering is quick-turning and has a pleasant linearity. Together, it feels lighter and more agile than its 1.7-tonne kerb weight would suggest.  

Although the MG 4 is far and away from touching any sports saloon with its handling, it is a solid experience, all in all. It does have engaging moments, but it does feel rather inert most of the time.

In other words, I wouldn’t regard the MG 4’s driving experience as ‘fun’. Instead, the MG 4 prefers cornering with a relaxed rhythm as opposed to attacking apexes. But honestly, 99% of owners aren’t going to be corner-carving their MG 4.

Instead, they’re going to be enjoying all the other qualities that make the MG 4 a good daily driver. One of those qualities is the ride quality. The MG 4’s softer dampers manage bumpier surfaces well and its aforementioned body control allows it to manage undulations well at high speed.  

The energy consumption is also reasonably good. I say reasonable, because we managed to average 18.6kWh per 100kms. It’s decent objectively compared to others we’ve tested, but not among the best and also a fair margin off the MG’s claim of 13.8kWh per 100kms. Bear in mind, Wellington’s hilly terrain will take its toll on any EV. Also, we do quite a bit of highway mileage in our tests.  

So far, the MG 4 is proving to be properly well-rounded. Sure, it mightn’t be segment-leading in any particular respect, but it does everything well. Its performance, its handling, ride and efficiency all exceed expectations, relative to what you’d expect given its sticker price. 

That said, there are flaws, many of which are tied to settings and configuration choices. First (and rather fittingly), is the start-up procedure. MG has incorporated the start switch into the brake pedal, meaning that the start-up procedure is 1) get in, 2) foot on the brake, 3) select drive and you’re off. Simple, right? 

It works perfectly fine most of the time, but there were a few occasions where it didn’t register, usually after I had been sitting in the car while parked. It also requires quite a deliberate push to register, but you’ll easily adjust to that. Nonetheless, a manual override wouldn’t go amiss. 

Another quibble is with the regenerative braking settings. The MG4 has 4 regenerative brake modes, 1 (low resistance), 2 (mid resistance), 3 (high resistance) and adaptive. Annoyingly, the car will default to mode 3 each time you start the car. 

This wouldn’t have been a problem had MG incorporated steering wheel paddles for changing the re-gen on the fly like other brands have done. Instead, the MG 4’s regen settings are adjusted from the infotainment unit, which like the climate controls, is fiddly to do when driving. It meant I wasn’t able to easily change it to utilise the re-gen on Wellington’s hills. Fortunately, the ‘adaptive’ mode is well-calibrated enough for this, much like most of its driver support systems. Again, I did need to find the lane assistance settings in the infotainment menus (under MG Pilot), because it wasn’t active by default.

Admittedly, I didn’t realise the MG 4 had lane-keep assistance for a few days of driving it. My own ignorance, for sure. But why haven’t I had this issue in any other car? Anyway, it’s only a small quibble, I suppose.

2023 MG4 Essence – Specifications

Vehicle TypeMid-size 5-door hatchback EV
Starting Price$54,990
Price as Tested$54,990
Engine64kWh battery with single electric motor (front-wheel drive)
Power, Torque
(kW/Nm)
150/250
TransmissionSingle speed fixed gear
Spare WheelTyre repair kit
Kerb Weight (Kg)1,672
Length x Width x Height
(mm)
4287 x 1836 x 1516
Boot Space / Cargo Capacity,
Litres
(seats up/seats down)
350/1,165
Energy Economy,
(kWh/100km)
Advertised – Combined – 13.8
Real-World – Combined – 18.6

Low Usage: 6-10 / Medium Usage 11-19 / High Usage 19+
Towing Capacity
(Kg, unbraked/braked
)
500/500
Turning circle
(metres)
10.6 

Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
Warranty7-year/unlimited km vehicle warranty
7-year/unlimited km battery warranty 
Safety informationANCAP Rating – 5 stars 
Rightcar.govt.nz – 5 Stars – QCT606 

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REVIEW OVERVIEW
Driver Technology
8
Economy
8
Handling
8
Infotainment
7
Interior
7
Performance
8
Ride
8
Safety
8
Styling
8
Value
10
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A millennial who prefers driving cars to having avocado on toast.
2023-mg-4-essence-car-reviewBefore writing this, a small part of me wondered whether it was worthwhile reviewing the MG 4. <p><p> I say that because regardless of what I write, the MG 4 will be a sales success, because it is both inexpensive and it is an EV with a decent range. Even if I was scathing, the MG 4 would still sell on these points alone. <p><p> Yet, the MG 4 gave me no reason to be scathing or even remotely negative towards it. The MG 4 is well priced, has plenty of range, space and features and few other compromises. Everything else, it does just fine. It’s built well, the tech is good, it rides well, it handles decently and won’t leave you wanting for performance. <p><p> Sure, the MG 4 mightn’t stand head and shoulders above the competition in any specific area, nor is it particularly exciting to drive, but it delivers exactly on what it says and achieves in other areas to a better standard than you’d expect. <p><p> I didn’t have high expectations for the MG 4 at all, yet I’ve come away genuinely impressed with it. <p><p> So, there you have it. The MG 4 is a good car and represents great value even without the Clean Car Rebate.

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