MG's first dedicated electric model, the MG4 hatch, not only packs rear-wheel drive but it's surprisingly refined and mature, showcasing just how quickly the brand is progressing.

Since being acquired by Chinese auto giant SAIC Motor and subsequently relaunching in Australia in 2017 after a bit of a false start four years earlier, the MG brand has been most closely associated with affordable if somewhat unpolished runabouts in recent years, selling them to great success here over the last couple of years especially, but its latest model shows that the brand has matured a lot in a very short time.

Dubbed the MG4, this electric hatchback manages to blend the brand’s penchant for smart pricing and sensible design with a healthy dose of refinement and performance. The range kicks off at just $38,990 before on-road costs, making it the second-cheapest EV on sale in the country, just $100 more expensive than the BYD Dolphin but $1000 less than the GWM Ora.

The version we’re testing here is one I expect will be among the most popular, the Excite 64, which blends the entry-level specification with an upgraded 64kWh battery pack and more powerful electric motor. It comes priced at $44,990 before on-road costs, with the Essence 64, Long Range 77, and performance-focused XPower variants positioned above it.

Being fully-electric means MG has been able to do something fairly revolutionary for this class by making the MG4 rear-wheel drive as standard which serves as an early hint that the way it drives is something that has been considered in depth. If the ZS EV, the brand’s debut electric vehicle, served as a bit of an experiment, the MG4 shows the results of that testing being put into action.

In terms of styling, MG has come up with a pretty original design for the MG4 which certainly stands out next to other hatchbacks. Its notchy tailgate design shows some clear aerodynamic considerations while the aggressive snout doesn’t look derivative in the way that some Chinese vehicles can. It’s definitely a very angular design which may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it works fairly well considering the segment.

The entry-level Excite grade comes with 17-inch alloys wheels fitted with plastic aero covers, LED headlights and taillights, and power-folding heated wing mirrors. The only thing it’s sorely missing to complete its looks is the split rear spoiler fitted to the Essence model.

It’s inside where MG has made a real leap forward, however, as this interior is quite remarkable in its design and build quality. Even with cloth upholstery in the Excite grade, all of the materials you touch including the plastics feel high quality and, to my mind, very reminiscent of what you’ll find in a Volkswagen. Consider that high praise.

The basic seat design is shared across the range, although in the model they are manually adjustable and lack heating, but the design itself is supportive and comfortable. I’m a fan of the somewhat square steering wheel design as well – it’s a bit unusual at first, but it does feel very sporty and you quickly get used to it.

Ahead of the driver there’s a simple 7.0-inch digital instrument display which is somewhat similar to that in the BYD Atto 3 although larger and clearer, while the 10.25-inch infotainment display is quite simple but works fairly well, although the interface isn’t the slickest. I’m not a fan of the climate controls being located entirely on the screen, but it does clean up the dashboard design a lot; more frustrating is the drive mode controls also being located on the screen. There’s also no sat nav in the Excite grade, but it does have wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

The cabin design itself is very spacious and airy thanks to its cutaway transmission tunnel and low floor thanks to a special battery pack designed by CATL which is just 110mm in height. As a result, the ergonomics of this cabin are very much on point which is one of the biggest areas of improvement which MG sorely need to address from its last-generation models.

There’s decent boot space on offer for a small hatch as well, with 363 litres with the rear seats up or 1177 litres with them folded flat. The space is fairly wide, but longer items don’t fit in it quite so well as it’s not the deepest space which is understandable since cabin space for occupants has been maximised.

Both this Excite 64 model and the Essence 64 come fitted with a single electric motor producing 150kW and 250Nm, while the Excite 51 is less powerful with 120kW and the Long Range 77 even more powerful with 180kW/350Nm. What gives credence to this variant’s name is the fact that, rather excitingly, all single-motor MG4 variants are rear-wheel drive. That’s part of the beauty of using an electric motor – it can slot in the back with no need for a prop shaft or transmission, meaning this hatch can be rear driven while suffering none of the usual drawbacks when it comes to interior space.

As indicated by the name, this version comes with a 64kWh battery pack (62.1kWh of which is usable) which offers a claimed 450km range, placing it only behind the Long Range 77 and its 530km claim, making this look like a particularly smart option in the range.

From the second you hop behind the wheel, the MG4 definitely feels like a city-focused car. The steering is very light and admittedly a bit numb, but it’s what you want when trying to dodge and weave in traffic or on narrow side streets. The ride quality also suits it well – it’s comfortable and fairly well-damped, but not so softly sprung that there’s a lack of body control. It’s admittedly a little bit on the firmer side meaning some sharper hits can be detected, but for the most part I found it perfectly agreeable.

In fact, you’ll find quite the opposite if you take it out of the city and pitch it at a twisty country road. By no means is this a hot hatch, but it’s impressive just how nice it is to drive properly. The numb steering isn’t particularly enthusing, but it handles tidily and feels surprisingly tossable.

Having rear-wheel drive in a hatchback like this is truly a revelation – it’ll even step out slightly if you push it hard enough which the instantaneous throttle response allows, with the quick steering allowing you to control its admittedly short powerslides well.

When sitting at higher speeds on country roads or freeways it feels confident and surprisingly substantial for a city car as well, which is a sign of solid engineering.

All things considered, the way the MG4 drives exceeds its price tag, with it feeling refined and mature. I doubt anyone was expecting it to be terribly soul-stirring considering it’s an electric hatchback, but it’s more than pleasant to live with.

In terms of how the impressive range claim stacked up against my real-world testing, the MG4 performed well considering the type of driving I did in it. With plenty of freeway commuting alongside a bit of city driving, I saw a return of 17.2kWh/100km after 517km of testing, equating to a truly realistic range of 361km which is still easily enough to keep range anxiety at bay in day-to-day settings. However, I did find that getting closer to the 13.0kWh/100km claim was quite possible in city traffic, so do keep the kind of driving you’ll be doing in mind.

As with all MG models, the MG4 is covered by a seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty, which also includes identical coverage for the lithium-ion battery pack; those buying their MG for commercial use are covered under a seven-year/160,000km warranty instead.

Being electric, the MG4 also benefits from longer service intervals of 24 months/40,000km. MG offers capped pricing for the first seven services (equating to 14 years/280,000km of servicing) with each alternating between $296 and $907.

It’s not that often you see a car company take this big a leap in terms of quality, drivability, and performance between one generation and another. Yet, that’s precisely what MG has accomplished with the MG4 which marks a major leap forward for the brand.

To deliver an EV that feels this polished for the money is truly impressive, and if you see the brand rocket even further up the charts it’ll be easy to see why. The rest of the lineup might not be quite at this level yet, but if MG can keep delivering next-generation models this good it has the potential to become a true rival to the mainstream brands Aussies still buy most from.

Truthfully, I think this Excite 64 model is probably the pick of the range – at least this side of the sporty XPower – when price, performance, equipment, and range is all taken into consideration since you don’t really need much more car than this if you’re simply after a commuter which is what most buyers will be.

2024 MG4 Excite 64 List Price: $44,990
  • 7.5/10
    Performance - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Ride & Handling - 8/10
  • 7.5/10
    Tech & Features - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Practicality - 8/10
  • 8.5/10
    Value for Money - 8.5/10

Pros: Smooth and efficient rear-wheel drive powertrain, interior fit and finish is at a high standard, agreeable ride quality, usable real-world range
Cons: Styling takes some getting used to, too many functions relegated to the basic infotainment system, numb steering feel

Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by MG Motor Australia for one week with a full charge upon collection.

Patrick Jackson
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