By Scott Newman, carsales.com.au
Electric cars are primarily all about going green. But MG has taken a metaphorical turn and is hoping to make traditional hot hatch fans green with envy with its MG4 XPOWER.
The power potential from batteries and electric motors has revolutionised the performance landscape in everything from large SUVs, limousines and million-dollar hypercars. And now, MG is leading the charge (pardon the pun) on making go-fast EVs more affordable with a high-performance flagship version of its MG4 hatch, which recently won the carsales 2023 Car of the Year award.
Dubbed the MG4 XPOWER (presumably all in capital letters makes it look even quicker), it delivers muscle car power and supercar acceleration for a fraction of the price. But is it just a one-trick pony?
How much does the MG4 XPOWER cost?
The 2023 MG4 XPOWER costs from $59,990 plus on-road costs. But, depending on where you live, you may be eligible to get some of that back through various state government electric vehicle rebates. Or potentially save on fringe benefits tax if you decide to lease one a novated lease given the federal EV discount.
In any case, the price tag is a relatively small $4000 premium over the MG4 77 Essence Long Range that tops the mainstream model line-up considering the huge increase in performance. And positions the MG4 XPOWER against the likes of the Cupra Born hatch (from $59,990 plus ORCs) and the entry-level Tesla Model 3 (from $61,990 plus ORCs), although both are nowhere near as powerful.
What equipment comes with the MG4 XPOWER?
The 2023 MG4 XPOWER is, basically, an upgraded version of the MG4 64 Essence with an extra electric motor in the front.
It features the same 64kWh lithium-ion battery pack and matches the standard equipment list with part-leather trim, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, wireless phone charging pad, LED lights and keyless entry/start.
But it does have a host of unique bits and pieces to distinguish it from the mainstream models, including a raft of subtle exterior tweaks as well as orange stitching highlights throughout the cabin and new 18-inch alloy wheels with orange brake calliper covers.
Apart from the additional front motor, mechanically, the XPOWER has larger brakes (345mm front discs and 340mm rear discs), sharper steering, stiffer suspension settings and an electronic differential that can – allegedly – apportion torque between all four wheels.
Seven colours are available at no extra cost, though the hero Hunter Green you see here does cost another $1000, but that’s the only option.
MG’s seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty covers both the car and the battery, and servicing is only required every two years or 40,000km. It effectively alternates between a $296 minor check-up and a more comprehensive $907 service. While that latter number sounds a bit rich, it effectively works out to be the equivalent of spending $300/year in servicing, which is on par with comparable small hatchbacks.
How safe is the MG4 XPOWER?
The MG4’s five-star ANCAP rating applies to only the two-wheel drive variants but, apart from being a little heavier at 1800kg, it’s difficult to see why the 2023 MG4 XPOWER would perform any differently.
The MG4’s ANCAP test results were strong across the board with 83 per cent for adult occupant protection, 86 per cent for child occupant protection, 75 per cent for pedestrians and 81 per cent for safety assist, though it’s worth noting that the MG4 did record a couple of poor results in impact protection.
There’s also a full suite of active safety equipment including adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and departure warning, auto-emergency braking (AEB), traffic jam assist, rear cross-traffic alert and much more, including a 360-degree camera.
In general, the technology works pretty well, though the AEB can occasionally be spooked, and the lane-keep assist can be a bit over-insistent when nothing is actually going awry.
What is the MG4 XPOWER like inside?
The 2023 MG4 XPOWER is relatively minimalist inside, but that’s one of the reasons it costs $59,990 (and the range starts at $38,990) rather than $20K further upstream.
For the most part, it’s fine and it isn’t like there’s swathes of scratchy plastic covering every surface. And there’s plenty of room thanks to the advantages of the EV platform, but don’t expect a particularly premium environment.
The sizeable storage area between the front seats is very handy for odds ‘n’ ends, especially as the sliding cover adds security and you can fit 1.5-litre water bottles in the doors.
There’s also ample space in the rear whether you’re carrying adults or need to accommodate child seats, which along with a decent 363-litre boot (that expands to 1165L with the 60:40-split rear seats folded) makes the MG4 a family-friendly option.
The rear is a no-frills environment, however, with no centre armrest with cup-holders, no air-vents and only the one USB-A port for charging.
What technology does the MG4 XPOWER feature?
The centrepiece of the 2023 MG4 XPOWER cabin is the 10.25-inch touchscreen that incorporates, well… everything really, including smartphone mirroring (wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), digital radio, sat-nav, and all the climate controls and vehicle information.
It works OK, but there are a number of annoying shortcomings that can lead to frustration. For example, the icons are very small and lack sensitivity, which means you frequently either select the wrong thing (especially if you’re on a bumpy road) or it doesn’t select at all.
Sometimes – it’s unclear why – the CarPlay icons are located on the left of the screen, leading to an awkward stretch for the driver, and you can see the climate settings but can’t access the climate screen directly.
Those who are comfortable with voice control may find the lack of hard keys less of an issue but the constant need to go back to the home screen can be irritating. If you’re buying an MG4, a tour of the infotainment system with an expert at the dealership might prove useful – for instance, a number of vehicle settings can be accessed by swiping down but there’s nothing to indicate that unless you know it’s there.
The small digital instrument cluster contains the basic information you need, though another little quirk is the right-hand steering wheel toggle doing double duty. It’s normally the volume control but pushing the ‘pages’ button next to it turns it into display navigation. It’s quite a neat solution but again you have to be aware of it.
What powers the MG4 XPOWER?
The MG4 XPOWER is propelled by a twin electric motor set-up, with a 150kW/250Nm front-mounted electric motor added to the 170kW/350Nm that drives the rear axle. Using simple maths, that equals a combined output of 320kW and 600Nm, making the MG4 XPOWER the most powerful hot hatch available in Australia today.
MG does state that ‘only’ 300kW is available continuously but thanks to all-wheel drive, 0-100km/h is dispatched in 3.8sec. While we didn’t have a chance to verify that, we’re reliably told that repeatable 11sec quarter-mile times are achievable. Top speed is 200km/h.
How far can the MG4 XPOWER go on a charge?
The 2023 MG4 XPOWER uses the mid-spec 64kWh battery rather than the largest 77kWh unit with maximum range quoted at 400km. Our experience suggests that in the right circumstances – light use in the right speed range – this is quite achievable but expect to achieve around 350km in most day-to-day scenarios.
If you regularly ask for all of its performance expect to cut that figure by half or even a third.
Charging takes up to nine hours (0-100 percent) on a 6.6kW AC charger or as little as 28min (10-80 percent) at its 140kW max. On your typical 50kW DC public fast-charger you’ll need around an hour to top up from 10-80 percent.
What is the MG4 XPOWER like to drive?
Presumably, the first question everyone wants answered is, how fast is the 2023 MG4 XPOWER? Well, it’s damn fast. Mash the throttle from a standstill and you are jammed back into your seat as all four wheels scrabble for traction.
The 3.8sec 0-100km/h claim is easily believable but the 0-60km/h time must be absurd given the way the instant torque fires you off the line with a Jetsons-style whirr.
The rate of acceleration fades as speeds increase into three figures but roll-on punch is still pretty intense. Certainly, the XPOWER would be a strong medal chance in the overtaking Olympics – where even the sharpest ICE vehicle is shuffling gears, the MG is already gone.
However, returning to an earlier question (is the XPOWER simply a one-trick pony?), the answer depends somewhat on your expectations. If you’re expecting an all-electric alternative to the likes of the Renault Megane RS or Hyundai i30 N, then you’re likely to be disappointed.
Up to a certain level the XPOWER still manages to impress. The steering is well weighted and accurate, there’s obviously that all-wheel drive traction, the brakes have both decent power and feel and the balance is impressive, aided by that 50:50 (and low-slung) weight distribution.
These are all attributes of the base MG4, though the XPOWER has more outright grip, and while the chassis set-up is relatively soft and there’s clearly quite a lot of weight to manage (1800kg unladen), the roll and movement has its own appeal if you’re not a fan of the limpet-like grip of so many modern performance cars.
The trouble is, just when you hope it reveals a further layer of dynamic talent, it all starts to unravel. Ironically, its biggest strength – that super-powerful drivetrain – is also its biggest weakness.
The calibration between the front and rear axles is quite crude, with power often being scrappily spun away by the front wheels, dragging the nose wide in the process rather than being sent to the wheel that can use it best. You can drive around it to a certain extent, straightening the car more on corner exit, but it’s still not ideal.
Then there’s the fact you seem to get a different power output every time you hit the accelerator. Initially I thought it might occasionally be the stability control intervention and other times it felt like the motors or batteries adjusting power due to heat, but I suspect it’s almost always the ESC due to an odd quirk.
If the ESC cuts power, it then limits you to that power level for an inordinate amount of time. This became worryingly apparent when pulling out in front of an approaching LandCruiser with plenty of space given the expected acceleration of the XPOWER. However, when one of the wheels spun briefly on roadside gravel it limited power to around 20-25 per cent and would not allow the car to accelerate. Not a comfortable feeling.
This all said, one of the XPOWER’s strengths is that in daily use it requires zero compromise over the standard MG4. The ride remains comfortable and compliant, the steering is easy, the power is progressive, you can use various regen modes – though being able to adjust them using steering wheel paddles would be handy – and it’s a very pleasant car to drive.
Should I buy an MG4 XPOWER?
The 2023 MG4 XPOWER is absolutely worth putting on your purchasing shortlist as long as you go in with your eyes wide open as to what it is. It is a hot hatch of sorts, but if you’re used to the agility and handling of the petrol-powered crowd you might find it a bit underwhelming.
However, if your dynamic demands aren’t too great then there’s plenty to like about the XPOWER. It essentially drives in an identical manner to the regular MG4, making it a great daily with supercar-like acceleration on demand. All for a $60,000 price tag.
You’ve never been able to go faster for less.
2023 MG4 XPOWER at a glance:
Editor’s Rating: 8.1/10
$59,990 (plus on-road costs)
Two three-phase asynchronous electric motors
Five-star (ANCAP 2023)
Single-speed reduction gear
Disclaimer: Images supplied by MG Australia and carsales.
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