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MG4 XPower: An electric hot hatch that boasts Porsche-like acceleration for €43,000, but then it starts to trudge

Some of the flaws of the less-expensive MG4 aren’t as easily forgivable in the pricier XPower version

MG4 XPower
MG MG4 X Power
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Year: 2024
Fuel: Electric
Verdict: Fantastic performance, and we love the green paint, but lacks the poise to be truly enjoyable.

MG has managed to make a big success of itself since it was relaunched under Chinese ownership. By hitting the market with a zeitgeist-pleasing mixture of electric crossovers and hatchbacks, the brand once most closely associated with string-back driving gloves and AA call-outs has racked up the kind of sales figures that it could only have dreamed of long ago.

Which means that there is now a significant cohort of MG owners and potential owners for whom the likes of the ZS crossover or the MG4 hatchback represent the MG that they know. Mention an MGB GT V8, or a Montego Turbo and they’ll just think you’re talking gibberish.

Here’s the thing, though – MG does have an amazing history. From its inception, when Cecil Kimber, owner of Morris Garages in Oxford, started modifying Morris saloons for speed, MG came to represent a certain type of affordable sportiness. Its classic “wire-wheel” models – the TA through TF – became the darlings of US servicemen stationed in the UK during the second World War, and kick-started large export successes for MG in the US.

The brand has raced at Le Mans, in the Mille Miglia and has held land speed records – none other than Stirling Moss set class records at the famous Bonneville Salt Flats in the MG EX181 record car in 1957. That’s before you start even considering the likes of the famed MGB sports car – the best-selling two-seat convertible of all time until Mazda’s MX-5 pinched that title – or the likes of the literally fire-spitting MG Metro 6R4 rally cars of the 1980s.

XPower, as a brand, has a somewhat more chequered history. It was coined as the high-performance arm of a rejuvenated MG when BMW finally flogged off an ailing Rover Group, and the company’s new owners needed an injection of sporty appeal.

To be fair, MG’s chassis engineers worked some black-magic wonders to turn the stodgy, ageing Rover 25 and 45 into the MG ZR and ZS, as well as converting the impressive Rover 75 into the truly sporty MG ZT. There was even an assault – a potentially successful one – with Lola Racing Cars on the Le Mans 24 hours race, where the little Lola-MG EX675 was hopelessly unreliable, but fast enough when it worked to spook even might Audi.

That MG (and Rover along with it) all fell apart in 2004, when it finally became clear there was neither the investment nor the customer base to keep the company going. Shanghai Automotive Industrial Corporation, or SAIC, swept in to claim the wreckage as salvage, and has been steadily rebuilding MG ever since.

MG4 XPower

In applying the XPower name to the popular – and Irish Times plaudit-winning – electric MG4 hatchback, MG has played something of a classic game. Take a practical family car and add power. Lots of power. No, like really a lot.

In fact, thanks to an extra electric motor (which, incidentally, makes this the first four-wheel drive MG hatch since that 6R4 rally car) the MG4 X-Power is packing 435hp and 600Nm of torque. Those are Mercedes-AMG-alike figures, but the X-Power comes with a fairly reasonable price tag of €42,995. That might be €10,000 more than a basic MG4, but the basic MG4 can’t truss up a Porsche in a straight line. This one can – it gets from rest to 100km/h in as little as 3.8 seconds.

Dial up the G-meter on the MG4 X-Power’s dashboard and you can easily register 0.9 of acceleration from a standing start. That’s impressive, and deleterious to your chances of digesting your lunch in the right direction.

Painting the XPower a particularly gorgeous shade of matt green not only accentuates the handsome, Lamborghini-esque lines of the MG4, it also seems precisely calibrated to appeal to me. As far as I’m concerned, green cars are always better.

The orange brake calipers don’t hurt either, and neither do the suede-like bucket seats, which sit you pleasingly lower down in the cockpit than you’d expect.

MG4 XPower

It’s not all good news, though. Slightly flimsy cabin quality, which MG gets away with on the less-expensive versions of the MG4, doesn’t seem as forgivable when the price starts at this level. Neither does the irritating touchscreen, with its menu buttons that are far too small to easily and safely use when on the move.

Mind you, we’ve forgiven other cars’ similar infringements if they’ve been able to provide us with an entertaining driving experience . . . Sadly, the MG4 XPower doesn’t quite manage that either. Yes, it’s impressively fast. Reach the apex of a corner, start to unwind the steering, and start applying the accelerator and you’ll think that this is truly a thoroughbred sporting machine, with – forgive the pun – electric responses. Sadly, the time spent between braking and reaching that apex is less impressive, as the over-light steering and slight sense that the front axle isn’t on speaking terms with the one at the back mean that the MG4 XPower is a slightly blunt instrument. Instead of dancing around corners, it kind of trudges, albeit very, very quickly indeed.

There’s also a lack of sophistication to the ride quality, as the suspension is very noisy. That said, the decision to fit 18-inch alloy wheels (good-looking ones too) is to be applauded, as it means that the overall ride quality is relatively gentle for such a potent high-performance machine. Range isn’t too bad either. Against MG’s claim of 385km on a charge, we were seeing a reasonable 320-340km even with some motorway cruising thrown in.

I want to like – no, love – this MG4 XPower more than I do. I have fond memories of those slightly ludicrous early 2000s MG ZR, ZS and ZT models with their pin-sharp chassis and entertaining handling (and never mind that they had cabins even more gimcrack than this).

I’m impressed by the sheer power and performance of this XPower model and seduced by the gorgeous green paintwork, but there’s an issue. MG – especially back in the days of the TA series models, the MGA, and the MGB – knew that power didn’t matter half so much as the tactile delights of great steering and a poised, fluent chassis. Sadly, modern MG, for all its China-backed industrial might, hasn’t figured that out yet.

MG4 XPower: the lowdown

Power: 230kW twin-e-motors developing 435hp and 600Nm of torque, powering all four wheels via a single-speed automatic transmission.

CO2 emissions (annual motor tax) 0g/km (€120).

Electric consumption: 19 kWh/100km (WLTP).

Electric range: 385km (WLTP)

0-100km/h: 3.8 seconds.

Price: €42,995 as tested, MG4 starts from €29,995.

Verdict: Fantastic performance, and we love the green paint, but lacks the poise to be truly enjoyable.

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