I recently drove 344km in a Australian MG4 Essence 64 2023 RWD electric car around Sydney. There were lots of short less than 10km trips as well as a 184km drive from Marrickville to Wollongong return, taking the coastal route A6/M1 on the way there down and back inland via B69, M31 and M5.
The MG4 brakes, tyres, windscreen wipers and regen capability were well tested and functioned well as I drove down the Mount Ousley descent on the way to Wollongong and back up the Mount Ousley ascent on the way back home.
The Australian MG4 2023 comes in 5 versions, with WLTP range and battery capacity as follows:
- Excite 51kWh – 350km
- Excite 64kWh – 450km
- Essence 64kWh – 435km
- Essence 77kWh – 530km
- Essence X-Power 64kWh – 385km
NSW prices range from $40,709 driveaway for the base Excite 51 model up to $57,709 driveaway for the Essence 77 Long range. The most powerful and expensive option is the X-Power which has just been announced at $59,990 + driveaway costs.
I think the middle model Essence 64 I reviewed (NSW $49,709 driveaway) is the best balanced option considering the features and range you get for your money.
Disclosure: The car was loaned by MG Australia for 7 days to review. I agreed to meet all the associated running costs e.g. tolls, charging etc.
What I Liked
DC Fast Charging Speed
At the Australian media launch of the MG4 that I attended 2 months ago, MG Australia promised that the Essence spec “is capable of recharging at up to 140kW, meaning a charge time of only 26 minutes from 10-80% using a 150kW DC rapid charger“.
I recharged the car from 25% battery status at the new Evie IKEA Tempe 150kW charging location, so I could see if the charging rate claim at the media event could be proven true.
Since IKEA Tempe is near where I live the car was only driven a few kilometres to get there, battery pre-heating was off and the outside temperature was only 20C. None of these conditions gave any advantage to the car for this test.
TLDR Spoiler: the result is great and much faster than the MG4 Excite 51 which has a top charging rate of only 88kW and the competing and BYD Dolphin which DC charges at the slow maximum rate of 60-80kW depending on the version.
My suggestion based on this test is don’t bother charging an Australian MG4 Essence 64 at a 150kW or faster charger past 80%, unless you really really need the extra range or a longer break from driving eg: to finish a meal or stretch your legs for a walk.
Regen Braking, Range and Efficiency
Many car reviewers like to drive review loan test cars hard and fast. In comparison I drove the car all the time in CUSTOM mode with Energy Recovery set to High and One Pedal Driving (OPD) On.
Annoyingly OPD has to be manually turned on every time you start the car. Putting that aside I found OPD was quite strong helped reclaim a lot of energy going downhill as well as meaning I barely had to use the mechanical brake at all.
At it’s strongest setting and with OPD drive on MG4 easily has the best and strongest regen of any affordable price range electric car in Australia. Clearly better than the MG ZS EV, BYD Atto 3, BYD Dolphin and GWM Ora.
During the week I had an MG4 Essence 64 on media loan to review, I drove it for 322km during the first few days draining the battery from 100% to 25% with a mix of 184km largely on motorways and the rest following the path through slower suburban roads set by Waze and built-in MG Nav software.
That calculates to an estimated range from full to flat of 430km which impressively is only 5km less than the promised range of 435km for the Essence 64.
I found that in mild weather of about 20C efficiency of 14kWh/100km or less is quite achievable with air con off. Air con on changed that to 16-17kWh/100km.
Having a passenger during some of my drives didn’t impact on efficiency noticeably. Obviously if there were 4-5 people onboard and a boot full of luggage the added weight would reduce efficiency a bit.
Note: The Essence 64 has 15km WLTP less range than the Excite 64 model. The Essence 64 adds a split twin rear spoiler and has bigger wheels than the Excite, both of these are likely the causes of reduced range.
Driving Experience and Design (Exterior look and Interior Front Space)
A small tight turning circle, 360 cameras, shorter length, rear wheel drive motor and feeling of being close to the road rather high up like in an SUV meant the MG4 was fun to drive, easy to parallel park, do a U turn and manoeuvre through tight inner Sydney streets with cars parked on both sides.
The MG4 exterior looks modern, sharp, angular and sporty, it certainly doesn’t look cheap and boring.
Personally I would only change 3 small things which I argue would improve functionality but others argue would impact on looks.
1 and 2 – I know many buyers prefer the look of a spoiler and big wheels and that explains why MG has made the choice to include them. However I’d remove the Essence twin spoiler and drop from 18 inch to the Excite model 17 inch wheels, to gain 15km more range.
3 – Since the media review loan car I was given is black, you can’t tell that the Essence 64 has a two tone colour scheme with a black roof. The photo below at the media launch shows what I mean, the Blue Excite spec has a blue roof and the Orange Essence spec has a black roof.
I would remove the black roof on Essence spec and make the car paint the same colour throughout because black roofs get quite hot during Australian summers. Certainly much hotter than a white or light silver roof, if you chose one of those colours for your MG4.
Despite my height of 1.91m as you can see below I found that the interior front space and legroom was great, I didn’t feel cramped thanks to the MG4 being a electric only design.
In comparison the competitor BYD Dolphin is more cramped due to a more bulky central console. Check out my photos of sitting in the MG4 vs Dolphin.
If you’re wondering how much boot and frunk storage space the MG4 Essence 64 has see my photos and test results.
What Could Be Better
Remembering Settings, Proper Custom Mode, iSmart connectivity
While there is a CUSTOM mode, several key settings don’t get remembered so I had to change them every time I started the car which was annoying:
- Driving Mode – change from NORMAL to CUSTOM.
- Lane Keeping Assist – change from Emergency Lane Keeping to Alert.
- Front Collison Assist – change Alert Sensitivity from Medium to Low.
- One Pedal Driving – turn On.
- Energy Saving Mode – turn On.
I have spoken a spokesperson for MG Australia and they said that they will consider trying to make CUSTOM mode remember these settings but they can’t guarantee this will be made possible in a future update.
The MG iSmart app interface looks basic but has quite a lot of features, especially compared to the Polestar 2 app I used recently which looked nice but has very few controls/car status displays.
EV brands choose which mobile network their car and smart app are connected for you eg Volvo is Optus and MG is Vodafone.
As readers who live or often drive outside of big cities know, in Australia Telstra’s mobile network is the biggest by far, then there’s Optus with medium sized coverage and last with the smallest coverage area is Vodafone.
The MG iSmart app worked fine for me living inner West Sydney but I noticed during the drive down to Wollongong through the national parks area that the car didn’t get any Vodafone signal.
Basically this means if you buy an MG EV in Australia and you live/drive in an area with poor or non existent Vodafone coverage then you won’t be able to use the iSmart app much/at all.
Lane Keeping Assist, Front Collision Assist and OPD while battery above 90%
As I mentioned above I preferred to set Lane Keeping Assist to “Alert” and Front Collison Assist to Alert Sensitivity “Low”.
The reason for this is because I found the Lane Keeping Assist default of Emergency Lane Keeping was too aggressive, occasionally jerking the car to one side or the other unnecessarily.
Reader Alex has an Essence 64 and lives in a rural area. Alex told me:
“Lane keep assist overreaches too much. It ranges from mildly annoying to almost dangerous IMO. It has trouble on our country roads, and gets fooled too easily by turn out lanes. It needs to disable itself on roads without good line markings”.
Regarding Front Collision Alert it is also over active. Autonomous Emergency Braking (also known as phantom braking) happened unexpectedly to me twice at highway speeds, when no braking was needed as no car was in front of me.
My guess is that Front Collision Alert was triggered in error as it was confused by sensing vehicles in the next lane to mine. If someone had been tail gating me there could’ve been a rear end accident.
As you can see below in my photo the confusing popup message “unavailable, low charge power” appeared when I tried to turn on OPD while the battery was over 90% full.
An MG Australia spokesperson explained to me that message means OPD regen has to stay off off due to the battery state of charge being greater than 90%. The battery cannot take more energy at 90%+ status as it could possibly over charge the battery, it’s part of the battery management system.
The spokesperson said MG would work on improving that popup message to make it easier to understand.
Rear Vision and Rear Seat Features
The photo below is what the rear vision mirror view looks like from an Australian MG4 drivers seat, with 3 headrests in the way of the rear window. You can just see the car approaching from behind but not properly see much else.
For most buyers who only have 2 back seat passengers the easiest partial fix to improving rear vision is removing the back centre headrest and storing it away at home.
Read my article 2 easy options to improve MG4 rear window visibility a lot to see the results of experimenting with different options for how you can improve MG4 rear vision.
The back seat features of the MG4 are basic. It’s a place where MG has cut costs and it shows eg: only 1 USB socket and no rear air con vents.
There is some storage at the back of the front seats and in the centre console but there is no centre arm rest, therefore no cup holders in the centre.
If you never have passengers in the rear of the car or if the passenger is a baby, toddler or young child in a car seat then these missing back seat features probably don’t matter.
However if you do have older kids or adult passengers it depends on what features they are used to getting in other cars.