MG’s dramatic new Cyberster electric sports car lights the fuse on MG’s reinvention

Two-seater is at top end of MG’s planned big new-model blitz, and goes on sale in Ireland this summer

MG Cyberster

A streaming wet day on an industrial road in west Dublin doesn’t sound like the right location to meet a glamour model, but here we are, and here is the MG Cyberster. The new MG might have one of the oddest names in motor-dom, but it has moved from being a dramatic concept to a barely-less-dramatic production car, and it will be on sale in Ireland this summer. It will also not be alone, as MG is planning a big new-model blitz, topped and tailed by this Cyberster sports car at the expensive end, and a new MG3 hybrid hatchback at the other.

The revival of MG has surely been a welcome one. Whatever you think about Chinese conglomerates snapping up historic European brands, the rebuilding of MG has seen the marque utterly transformed.

At an event in Dublin, we got to have a closer look at the Cyberster, almost more of a rival for a Porsche Boxster or Mercedes CLE than what we would normally think of as a traditional MG sports car.

While the company – these days part of the vast Shanghai Automotive Industrial Corporation (SAIC) – The Cyberster will come with a choice of rear-wheel drive 340hp electric motor, or a two-motor, four-wheel drive 544hp high-performance version. We also know that it will be pretty heavy, 1,850kg at minimum and a 77kWh battery. The official range has not yet been released, but MG’s people are talking about at least 500km on one charge. The four-wheel drive model will have exceptional performance, with 100km/h coming up in as little as 3.7 seconds, while the rear-drive version will take a hardly disgraceful 5.2 seconds.

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This is a far more sophisticated MG than we’re traditionally used to. The original MGB roadster of the 1960s was a pretty, but pretty crude device powered by a simple Morris 1,800cc engine. The more recent electric and hybrid models – such as the ZS and MG4 – are up to date in their powertrains, but still have the whiff of cheapness on the inside.

Not so the Cyberster. For a start, there are the dramatic doors. These are electrically powered, and you use a button on the key fob or the edge of the door itself to open them. Press the button, and the doors whirr electrically up and forwards at a dihedral angle, rather like those of a Lamborghini Aventador or a BMW i8. The doors themselves could cause a riot at the kerbside.

MG Cyberster

Inside, there is a compact, flat-bottom steering wheel with multiple buttons and two driving mode switches. On the slim centre console is a relatively small, portrait-style touchscreen (rather like the ones you’d get in a contemporary McLaren supercar) which controls the car’s infotainment and air-conditioning.

In front of the driver, there are three separate screens, the outer two of which are angled inward slightly in the manner of a video game simulator rig. The driver’s seat seemed slightly high to us, but it is very comfortable, and space in the cabin is decent for two people. It’s even more decent in the boot, which, although shallow, is easily long and roomy enough for several soft bags.

On the outside, the shape – created by the company’s head of design, Carl Gotham – has little flickers of recent Corvettes in it (or maybe that was just the yellow paint), but the detailing, from the little front wheel-arch vents to the arrowhead brake lights, is really very good and, like the cabin, a big step up from what we’ve seen recently from MG.

“The dream was to bring back a sports car for the MG brand,” said Gotham. “It was a daunting brief, a massive brief for us, but one that we relished. This car is really important for me – this new chapter sort of really is a statement of intent. The brand is growing year on year. It’s one of the fastest-growing brands in the world at the moment. It’s got a huge journey ahead of it. So, this car will really help to put some more gravity into the brand for people that don’t really know us. It’s certainly going to get the attention and grab some headlines hopefully so people are drawn to what MG is doing and what we’re going to be doing in the future.”

The critical question is how much will a Cyberster cost? So far, only indicative pricing for the UK market has been revealed, which puts the Cyberster around the £55,000 mark. For Ireland, that could mean as much as €70,000 but with luck it might be a bit less.

Does that mean that the MG brand is making a big move upmarket? Yes and no. Mostly what is going to happen is that the brand will expand dramatically in the coming two years. This year alone sees the launch of the Cyberster, an all-new MG HS mid-size plug-in hybrid SUV, this one coming with a range of up to 100km on a full charge of its battery.

For buyers on smaller budgets, there’s a new hybrid-engined MG3 small hatchback to compete with the likes of the Toyota Yaris Hybrid and Renault Clio E-Tech Hybrid. The MG3 hybrid uses a 1.5-litre petrol engine boosted by an electric motor for a combined 194hp – significantly more power than you get from either the Yaris or the Clio.

Indeed, MG claims that it’s the “fastest-accelerating B-segment hatchback”, with a 0-100km/h time of 8.0 seconds. Fuel economy stands at a claimed 4.4 litres per 100km, with 100g/km of CO2 emissions. Inside, there will be standard digital instruments and a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system. As with all MGs it will come with a seven-year, 150,000km warranty.

Andrew Johnson, national sales manager at MG Motor Ireland, said that “the brand-new MG3 is poised to lead its segment, thanks to its blend of efficiency and performance delivered by the innovative Hybrid+ powertrain from MG”. He noted: “The MG3 not only embodies a higher level of refinement but also encapsulates MG’s ethos of delivering enjoyable driving experiences. Moreover, the vehicle comes exceptionally well equipped, both with premium interior features and MG Pilot safety systems.”

Beyond that, the next generation of the Marvel-R SUV will finally come in right-hand drive, most likely in early 2025, while there are significant updates for the MG4 hatchback and ZS small crossover too.

The range will expand upwards, too as the MG7 fastback saloon has been confirmed for Europe – kind of a rival to the Audi A5 Sportback, and currently only available in China with petrol turbo engines – and a new range-topping saloon badged MG9, which will be an all-electric model.

MG is also going to get a sister brand – SAIC also owns a car brand called IM, which stands for “Intelligence in Motion” and which is meant to aim at targets higher up the premium ladder from MG. Although final details are not yet confirmed, IM has been earmarked for an Irish launch next year.

It too will make a European splash at Geneva, showing off a sleek four-door saloon – badged as L6. In China, its sister model – the larger L7 – comes with 11kW wireless charging, but it remains to be seen if IM will roll that out in Europe. IM’s tech credentials, though, are already being copper-fastened by Audi, which has signed a tech co-operation deal with the brand, as the Germans’ own new SSP electric car platform has been delayed yet again.

The IM L6 saloon, which will be a rival to the likes of the Tesla Model 3 and BYD Seal, will come initially with a lithium-ion battery promising a range of up to 600km, while IM is already talking about a version using solid-state batteries, with a range of 800km. No car maker has yet managed to put a solid-state battery model on sale, and IM hasn’t indicated a timeline as to when the L6 with solid-state power might be available.

There will also be a related LS6 crossover, which will be a direct rival to the Tesla Model Y, and both cars will be available with an ultra-high performance twin-motor powertrain that promises almost 800hp.

IM, and the huge influx of new MG models, will mean an expansion of the MG dealer network in Ireland. Currently that stands at eight – in Sligo, Wexford, Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick, and Louth – but there are plans to add more outlets, with MG Ireland claiming that dealers are “banging down our doors” to get in on the Chinese EV gravy train.

Where the Cyberster is concerned, the market for two-seat sports cars in Ireland is vanishingly small, but even if MG manages to sell only a handful here, it is significant in two ways. First, it brings the MG marque back to its two-seat fun car roots. Secondly, it’s the first serious production of any two-seat electric sports car, and thus will set a marker in the ground for others to follow. Let’s hope that the Cyberster unleashes an EV sports car revolution, to cure us of our SUV addiction.

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