Are cars still 'cheap and cheerful' in 2019? We crunch the numbers. And gears...
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I’m seeing another little crossover, which is possibly not what the world needs. You’ve got some persuading to do. It’s electric. Also, for people with long memories, it’s an MG. We oughtn’t to mention sports roadsters and tweed caps at this juncture because it’s just too obvious, but then MG visited these clichés upon itself by calling itself MG when it isn’t really MG at all. It’s a Chinese firm, SAIC, that bought the name. It isn’t like SAIC has anything to hide. This huge conglomerate turns out, among other stuff, some high-tech cars at amazing prices. Is this one of those? Sure is. It’s a full-electric crossover with perfectly decent manners and a realistic 160-plus mile range that, if you’re quick, is £21,495. That’s a base price of £28,495, but you can knock off £3,500 from the Government grant. And then for the early orders MG is matching that with another £3,500 discount.
OK you’ve got my attention. Thanks. MG’s ZS petrol crossover has been around a while now. This is a pure-electric version, and it’s pretty hard to see the compromises. There’s plenty of rear foot space, with no intrusion from battery. Open the hatch and there’s an almost ridiculously big boot. But somewhere under the floor they’ve stuffed in 44.5kWh of cells. Not pretty though… Ah no. That might be its biggest drawback. It’s inherited the small-wheels, long-overhang proportions of the petrol version. A purpose-designed EV could have been a lot easier on the eye. How does it go? At least as briskly as a small FWD crossover needs to: 0-62mph is 8.5secs. Any more and you’d be endlessly invoking the traction control and grappling with torque steer. This is smooth and responsive, just as single-gear EVs all are. Albeit this one sounds slightly whiny. Still far quieter than a combustion car mind you, and fortunately the tyres and wind are acoustically suppressed to match. Are the ride and cornering as good? No. But they’re perfectly decent for a smallish crossover. Fairly taut and accurate in bends, albeit not really engaging. The body motions are well damped and the suspension neither floats like some crossovers nor clangs and chatters like others. You feel the calming effect of that heavy low-mounted battery mass. How do you charge that battery? The usual ways: off an AC wallbox or public charger at 7kW for six and a half hours. Or take up to 120 miles range (ie 0-80 per cent) from a 50KW CCS charger in 40 minutes when you’re on a journey. It’s not the headline-grabbing range of the Kia E-Niro or Hyundai Kona Electric, but then again it’s a lot cheaper. Inside? The roominess is well above the ‘baby crossovers’, if not quite up to the Qashqai set. Visual design is a bit last-generation, but the equipment is right up to date, with a high-res screen running Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a suite of driver assists. OK, some of the plastics are on the scratchy side, and I think I’d prefer the base car’s cloth seats to the ‘leather-style’ on the top spec, but then I beg once again to refer m’learned friend to the price. But don’t tempting cut-price offers on minor-brand cars inevitably lead to catastrophic residuals? Possibly. So let MG take the risk by getting it on PCP. Final numbers aren’t in but it’s expected to be under £300 a month after a smallish deposit. And think of the fuel saving. If you’re sniffing around small crossovers and don’t obsess on dynamics or style or non-stop range, it’s an intriguing proposition. Anyway, if you do obsess on dynamics, style and non-stop range, you probably wouldn’t be sniffing around small crossovers.