IAIN ROBERTSON

MG SW

MG SW

Describing the atmosphere as ‘heavy with irony’, Iain Robertson reviews the new MG5 SW and appreciates its ‘compact Passat’ stance, mainly because it is NOT an SUV but is a surprisingly straightforward EV family car that avoids being ‘plug-ugly’.

Be under no false impression, the new-to-the-UK MG5 SW is, in fact, a rebadged version of the Chinese Roewe ei5 model, which has been sold in both saloon and estate car guises in its domestic market since 2017, for around half the just-shy-of-£30k price tag (not including the £3,000 UK EV grant) that MG is charging for its ‘newcomer’ in our market. As it wears a more anodyne grille than the rest of the MG line-up, its new MG-badged but Roewe face could easily constitute another image change for the Chinese MG range.

However, before you presume that I am going to head-off on another anti-Sino rant, please allow me to explain that I actually like the cut of MG5’s jib. Although it presents in an almost VW style, it is actually closer dimensionally to the Toyota Corolla SW; a one size downwards but not backwards step. Interestingly, just as Suzuki, in bed with Toyota, has announced its new Swace version of the Corolla wagon, but not the saloon/hatch variant, MG is following suit by happy circumstance. As it happens, I think that it is a good move for MG.

MG SW

MG SW

While the Roewe is powered by both conventional petrol and diesel engines, as well as electricity in its domestic market, the MG5 is strictly electric for ours. In fact, it is not a bad combo, because the 115kW single electric motor is fed by a 52.2kWh lithium ion battery pack (typical 80% recharge time on a rapid charger takes 50 minutes) that equates to an equivalent power output of 156bhp. This is enough to whisk the MG5 from 0-60mph in a moderate 8.0s, albeit to a notionally limited top speed of around 110mph, which allows MG to boast of a most reasonable 214-miles range (WLTP figure) and the prospect of up to 276-miles running at town not country speeds. There is wind of a possible PHEV version being launched next year, which will rely on hybrid technology instead.

Intriguingly, apart from the aforementioned Suzuki/Toyota hybrid, MG could carve out an unique slice of the EV segment for itself, as estate cars, although popular in China, are clinging onto a healthy chunk of the UK new car scene. Helping the MG5’s case is the careful placement of the battery pack beneath the car’s floor, which allows maximum space to be realised for the load area. With the rear seats in place, a whopping 578-litres of boot space exists and, once folded flat, the area grows to an excellent, market-leading 1,456-litres.

The MG5 is available in two trim levels: Excite (£24,495, including the plug-in car grant) and Exclusive. Typical of MG, the equipment levels are high, the Excite version being fitted with 16.0-inch diameter alloy wheels, remote entry, pushbutton start, air-con, electric windows and mirrors, cruise control, leather-wrapped steering wheel, rear parking sensors, follow-home lighting and three selectable driving modes. Invest the extra £2,500 and the Exclusive includes heated and electrically adjustable front seats, hide upholstery, auto-dimming rearview mirror, rain-sensing wipers and sat-nav. Connectivity and ADAS functions are at expected levels. Of course, all versions gain MG’s no-quibble 7-years warranty support.

MG SW

MG SW

Naturally, price is the key attraction that has made MG’s other EV, the ZS compact SUV, a 27% strong seller in its range. The MG5 SW EV is significantly less expensive than either the Nissan Leaf, or the Kia Niro EV, by around £5,000, although keen lease rates can reduce what appears to be its rivals’ price disadvantage. However, pricing also reflects quality and the MG’s build, while just about acceptable, is lacking in several areas, not least being the ‘cheapness’ of  some plastic mouldings and the lack of support from the seats.

The touchscreen in the dash centre is a touch clunky, even though it is generous in terms of features. Yet, the high-profile tyres and overall ride comfort prove to be exceedingly compliant and, despite the heft of the battery pack, the car feels eager enough, when changing direction, perhaps even disguising most effectively some of the less welcome dynamic characteristics displayed by its aforementioned rivals. Its overall manoeuvrability is helped by a combination of positive steering feedback and a tight turning circle.

Another intriguing feature is the ‘KERS’ button and is the first time that an EV aspect more familiar to F1 drivers has been given dashboard space in a road car. To be fair, it is perhaps not quite as exciting as it could be, because it allows the driver to toggle between one-pedal driving viability and a less sudden method of recovering regenerated energy created by applying the brakes. Still, as a means of recharging the battery (slightly), it can also eke out some valuable extra miles from the ‘tank’.

MG SW

MG SW

Access to EV verve is typically on tap, even to the point of leaving a black hiccough on full-throttle dry tarmac starts (192lbs ft of torque helps a lot) and the age-old range anxiety is not as prevalent in the MG as it can be on other EVs. In general, the car’s deportment is actually very good and both wind roar and road noise suppression are well controlled. It is just a pity that some carmakers, like Skoda and Hyundai, do interiors so much better than MG and, to be frank, I would have thought that whatever influence the so-called British end of the design team can swing in China would have been enough to regauge the MG5’s questionable detailing. If MG wants to make its mark, this is where it must attend to it, quick-sharp!

Conclusion:        It is abundantly clear that the important company car market, notably the fleet sector, will switch on to the MG5, for all the right reasons. However, driver satisfaction is a major demand and, regardless of the relative conventionality of the model, some vital enhancements will prove essential to its future success.

MG SW

MG SW