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First Drive

MG Cyberster review: is MG’s electric two-seat sports car any good?

Published: 08 May 2024

What is it, other than a cartoon name?

MG’s new two-seat electric convertible. A format that debuts well ahead of the electric Porsche Boxster and the Polestar 6, never mind the near-mythical (at this point) Tesla Roadster. And at a significantly lower entry price; the base 335bhp version starts at £54,995, with the 503bhp car costing five grand more.

It’s been released in China for a few months, so we decided to head out to the home of MG’s owners SAIC to have a go. It’s due to land in the UK in August 2024.

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So what are the basics?

Well, this isn’t a very complicated car. No solid-state batteries or hard to understand model ranges here: that would bump up the price, which is very attractive in this potential sector. And it is ‘potential’, because even though the market for two-seat convertibles seems to have softened a little, there are very expensive electric two-seaters coming, and the MG is the first. In comparison to some of them, it’s a bargain.

There are two versions, the smaller 335bhp car that comes with a 5.2-second 0-62mph time, a single motor and rear-wheel drive: that’s the lighter sibling thanks to a 64kWh battery and 316 miles of range (more on realistic ranges in a minute).

Then there’s a big-power version that straps another 201bhp motor to the front axle to give 503bhp/535lb ft, a 3.2-second 0-62 and identical 121mph top speed. But that version gets a 77kWh battery... for only 276 miles of range. Yep, less than the entry car. Meanwhile the kerbweight is getting on for two tonnes. Powerful they may be, but lightweight two-seater fun, this isn’t.

It looks… familiar?

Aha. That’s possibly because it’s a red two-seat convertible with largely classic proportions. But it was designed in Marylebone in London by a team led by Carl Gotham, and you can see a slightly Euro-centric feel. It’s a long car, more F-Type sized than BMW Z4, and at a glance you can impress quite a few different marques on a squinty image. A bit of Alpine, Porsche or Jaguar? You decide.

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But in the metal, it’s actually very nice. Not startling, but have a good look at the profile and it’s slinky without being too OTT. The one-touch roof looks decent enough when up as well, and it drops neatly into the rear at the touch of a button, melding neatly into the rear deck.

Oh, and the scissor doors are electrically-operated for an extra bit of theatre, and they really don’t get annoying. They also have sensors to stop them smacking you in the face if you stand too close; a feature tested by the TG photographer to see if he could get a funny picture of TG’s intrepid reporter getting whacked. He failed, they work. 

How about the inside? 

Again, really good. Access is easy thanks to those doors, which really do help in tight car parks and charging spots. Once in, there’s plenty of room, some lovely seats both in design and comfort, and a feeling that it’s been put together properly. Neat stitching, good panel fit. Nice materials. In front there’s a triplet of screens arranged in a multiplex, with the left-hand side handling car info like tyre pressures and temps, the middle doing immediate-use functions like speed and current mode, the right dealing with radio and multimedia.

There’s another screen in the centre next to the gear selector switches that deals with air-con. It’s not seamless or particularly good-looking. The bank of screens is a bit… rectangular, but that’s a matter of taste rather than function.

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And the graphics are amazing. OK, so changing modes gets a bit gamified - the icon of the car in the central screen has wheels that catch fire in ‘Sport’ mode, for instance, or writhe with animated electricity in ‘Comfort’ - but it’s all super slick. That’s thanks to super-quality processors and chips which make the connectivity top-notch. Chinese tastes are very much into integration with smartphones and general user-interface stuff, and the Cyberster is up there; no 8-bit displays here. And the pulsing green throb when charging is eminently hypnotic; it’s like a meditation app.

Other stuff? Well, you can also option a yoke steering wheel, but the plain old roundish one felt more natural in this case. There’s space in the rear to store some bags, a few little pockets and cupholders, plenty of charge points of various types. And the boot is big, even with the roof stowed. It’s a well thought through car: no massive surprises, but absolutely fit for purpose, and more practical than some.

So how does it actually drive?

Right, the big question. We sampled the cheapest, lightest, rear-wheel drive Cyberster and it was largely lovely. The ride is excellent on the motorway and in town, verging on the soft; especially in ‘Comfort’ mode. Ditto refinement: it’s a quiet and sophisticated-feeling thing when you’re just pottering about, and something a little different for a convertible. You really can get an extra sense of your surroundings, which is new. Not better than having an engine note to play with, but also not worse. 

When it comes to going faster on a twisty road, there’s another surprise: the Cyberster is a well-sorted, fun thing to play with. So the responses are a little bit languid - this is no Lotus Elise - and you’re always aware that it isn’t the lightest, but the idea that the comfort would translate into a pudding when you try and push doesn’t materialise. No, it’s not the sharpest tool in the performance box, but if you drive it like a fast GT car, it’s absolutely good fun.

Being picky, we’d like a bit more steering feel and a bit more whip on turn-in, but that’s the kind of stuff that can be dialled in for a UK car: the basic handling characteristics are neutral. In fact, when you get used to using all of the 335bhp, it’s a demonstrably fast car, with enough grip (or lack of it) to be interesting. We couldn’t figure out how to completely disable the traction control to find the absolute limit (it was in Chinese and no one wanted to be responsible for letting us go crazy), but it was a generous, easy-to-handle kind of speed.

Interestingly, the idea of the much more powerful dual-motor version with 536bhp and 535lb ft really didn’t appeal all that much on the very twisty mountain roads on which we were testing. Some very fast EVs have a front motor that feels like it’s out there doing its own thing while the rear motor has a solo party out back. With no physical connection and slightly unresolved calibration, there’s no relationship to exploit, so they end up doing different things at different times and the car feels unnatural. And unnatural is not confidence-inspiring.

Bluntly, the dual motor version will be quicker. But until we try it, we’re not sure it’ll be better to drive on a very twisty road bar the point-and-squirt acceleration you get with EVs. Generally? Impressed. There’s a lot to like.

How fast does it charge and what kind of range can we expect if we don’t live in a laboratory?

Having charged it up a few times, the Cyberster really does seem to have rapid-charging nailed. It was hard to calculate exact numbers because Han characters are hard to read when you’re from Lincolnshire, but from what we could figure out, a decent charge averaged more than 90kW. And we were getting 250-miles of real-world range from the smaller 64kWh battery: that’s enough for this kind of thing.

Official WLTP figures suggest 276 miles for the bigger battery (clearly the testers think you'll be deploying all 500bhp+ on the regular) and 316 miles for the smaller one. But you don’t get that in real life anymore than a burger ordered at a fast food joint looks like the picture on the menu.

Would you have one over an ICE Boxster?

So that’s an interesting question. The Cyberster isn’t really a sports car in the way that we’ve traditionally thought of it. It might be quick enough and the right shape, but the experience is different; more small GT. If you want steering feel and back-road satisfaction, then the Boxtser would still be favourite. But if you want something a little more relaxed, interesting and offering a broader range of options, the Cyberster has a lot going for it.

We’ll reserve final judgement until we’ve driven the UK-specific cars, but on first appraisal, this looks like a fun, interesting and different option from MG well before the EV Boxster makes an appearance.

Photography: Jonny Fleetwood

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