Brand’s all-important second EV has a segment to itself, but unique bodystyle can’t compensate for its biggest shortcomings
What is it?
The latest addition to MG Motor’s range is important for two reasons: primarily because it’s the first electric estate car to go on sale in Europe, and secondly because it will play a vital role in helping the 12-year-old brand to achieve a 50% plug-in car model mix in 2021.
Based on parent company SAIC’s Roewe Ei5 – a big seller in its Chinese home market – the 5 arrives in electric form only. Unlike its ZS sibling, MG bosses deemed the potential European market for a petrol-powered estate to be too small to make its import worthwhile. The brand is quickly transitioning away from combustion power, having shunned diesel some years ago and ushered in a new plug-in version of its HS SUV alongside the 5.
Even before the 5 and HS PHEV arrive in dealerships, MG already has the highest proportional plug-in sales mix of any mainstream car maker with a combustion offering, the ZS EV accounting for 27% of its UK sales. The 5 will play a lead role in the brand’s journey to an all-electric future, working alongside the higher-riding model to bring affordability to a segment that remains predominantly occupied by luxury SUVs, saloons and sports cars.
Brand boss Daniel Gregorious acknowledges that estate car sales have suffered in recent years as buyers flock en masse to higher-riding SUVs, but said that MG is “pioneering a new wave”, with the 5 bringing superior aerodynamics and better handling.
Like its ZS EV sibling, the 5 comes in entry-level Excite trim – from £24,995 – and better-equipped Exclusive trim at £26,995. This puts it roughly on par with similar-sized, conventionally fuelled cars like the Skoda Octavia in range-topping SE L trim and the Ford Focus Estate Titanium, while undercutting its closest electric rivals, the Nissan Leaf and Kia e-Niro, by around £5000.
MG expects half of all 5s sold to go to fleet buyers, with its 0% BIK rating giving a not-inconsiderable edge over its combustion contemporaries, and highlights its 578-litre boot and practical rear seats as an incentive for families on a budget to make the switch to electric.
What’s it like?
While it occupies an as-yet-unexplored niche, the 5 is unable to fall back on the one-time novelty of an electric powertrain to cultivate appeal across its target market. To be as successful as its zero-emission ZS stablemate, the 5 should offer usability and performance benefits that justify its similar price tag, while tempting budget- and eco-conscious private buyers away from smaller and cheaper EVs like the Renault Zoe and now endangered Volkswagen e-Up.
Its success in this respect is threatened on first glance by its rather inelegant styling, with kinked lower window line, lofty ride height and small 16in alloys creating an awkward stance, and chrome exterior embellishments erring on the sides of both excessive and unnecessary.
Things don’t get off to a great start inside, either, where lacklustre fit and finish combines with scratchy plastics and overly firm seats to create an environment that you might be glad to escape every 200-or-so miles when the time comes to charge the battery. The cluttered, ponderous and unintuitive infotainment interface doesn’t help, but happily MG has seen fit not to implement the maddening array of warning bongs and beeps that afflicted the ZS EV before it was subtly updated in June.
Read more: AutoCar
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