Pricing, specification and charm of MG 4 make it a convincing choice for buyers
Rapid shift to electrification has left gaps for up-and-comers to fill
Certain cars come to define their category when it comes to public perception.
For decades, it’s been a case of think sports car, think Porsche 911. Land Rover’s towering Range Rover fulfils the same role in the plush SUV class and the Mini, both before and after BMW’s 1996 acquisition, is the city car that has always sat front and centre in buyers’ minds. As for the C-segment hatchback – bastion of European family transport until very recent times, when crossovers have arrived as usurpers – that’s also an easy one: it’s the Volkswagen Golf.
The one attribute all these models share is a long history. Consistently high standards have allowed them to become the de facto choice among their rivals and the most widely known.
However, in the incipient EV era, no model yet has this luxury. There simply hasn’t been enough time. Even the most senior player in the mass-market EV ranks, Nissan Leaf, has been around for barely a decade. It means outsiders have a rare ‘in’. The hierarchy of many classes is still up for grabs, and for early runners, the rewards of being considered ‘class leader’ are possibly greater now – when EV production costs stay stubbornly high but reputations among the public are still very much being forged – than they ever will be.
It’s why MG Motor has pulled a blinder with the new MG 4, which is its answer to the Volkswagen ID 3. We put the two cars head to head recently, and while the VW proved stronger in terms of refinement and space, its victories were marginal and the MG was far cheaper, just as technologically capable (not least with greater driving range) and, crucially, had some personality and joie de vivre about it. It ran out the winner and comfortably so. It can therefore perhaps be considered the segment’s first real ‘hero’ and, objectively speaking, should be the first port of call for shoppers.
Strange that it should have taken this long for a compelling option to surface in this class, though. Because of sales cannibalisation from electric crossovers, the ranks of which seem to swell every week, the electric family hatch has been overlooked by makers and buyers alike, yet it’s still an important format. These understated cars are easier to drive, less expensive and more efficient than their higher-riding cousins, yet when it comes to passenger and luggage capacity, they’re generally on par. They still matter and have much to offer. Don’t be surprised if the tastes of the market return to them in time.
So the excellent MG 4 joins the Porsche Taycan – much-liked benchmark when it comes to sporting EVs – as well as the BMW i4 and Fiat 500 Electric. It’s arguably much more impactful than any of those cars, though.
We’ve come to expect great things from Porsche, BMW and Fiat, especially in their specific areas of expertise (sporting, saloon and small, respectively). But what do today’s buyers expect of MG? Well, if for no other reason than outright lack of awareness, very little. But that will now change. The 4 will be popular because it is good value, and it will be liked by owners because it is, well, inherently likeable. It’ll be a springboard for the Chinese-owned company, which would seem to have timed its run very well indeed.