There seem to be two schools of thought when it comes to designing and engineering modern electric vehicles. There are EVs that are outwardly electric, whereas there are others, like the MG5 EV, which are sound cars first and EVs second.
Cars in the former make it a point to consistently remind you that they are on the fashionable side of the moral and ethics spectrum. This may come at a detriment to other factors that make a car...well, a car.
Then there are automakers, like MG, which prefer a more subdued approach to electrification. They make cars that work well as vehicles. These cars feel just like what you've come to expect from a modern vehicle - it just so happens that it packs an electric motor.
Wait, this doesn't look like any of the other MG cars…
And for good reason. The MG5 didn't actually start out in life badged as such. Like the other 'native' MG models, this is very much a Shanghai Automobile and Industrial Corporation (SAIC) product, but it was originally sold as a Roewe i5.
We guess you can figure out why a rebrand was necessary for markets outside of its native China.
Iffy native name aside, there's little to fault the MG5. Bearing in mind that this is a competitively-priced family estate, it only makes sense that the styling isn't necessarily at the top of the engineering team's priority. Save for a bold fold in the metalwork reminiscent of an older BMW 2 series, the MG5's exterior styling is restrained and simplistic.
From side-on at least, the car looks almost utilitarian, with only a distinct piece of silver trim that runs the length of the roof pillar breaking up the almost feature-less side profile. There's some semblance of what we'd deem as a sloping roofline here, though it definitely isn't as pronounced and intentive as offerings from several European marques.
On the subject of European marques, the rear of the MG5 does seem to be an amalgamation of the design of the entire range of current Mercedes SUVs, with a sprinkling of modern Jaguars - we'll leave you to decide if that's a bad thing.
If you thought the profile was generic, the car's fascia will change your perspective of what 'generic' actually means. You get lights where you'd roughly expect them to be fitted to, and a large grille slapped onto the middle...and that's basically it.
Where the car doesn't disappoint, especially considering its price tag, is with its lights. MG has figured out a way on packing fairly intricate lightwork and design features into the luminary bits of the vehicle - props to them for that!
You'd be disappointed if you came into an MG5 seeking Germanic quality. But then again, you'd expect this to not be as well screwed together, and to be made of premium materials, as a German luxury vehicle.
To be clear, and to be fair to the MG5, this is not a badly-made vehicle. There were no squeaks or rattles as we drove along, and no suspect panel gaps on the inside too. In fact, MG actually trimmed the common touchpoints in either soft-touch materials or leather, for a more upmarket experience in the cabin.
But away from the areas you'll come into contact with frequently, you'll find hard, scratchy plastics liberally applied. Thankfully, this material is low(er)-sheen than some of the plastics other automakers have adopted, which does help to class up its interior.
The dashboard does look unnecessarily over-styled, which really does the interior a disservice as it seems to date the car. Also, whilst the semi-digital cluster is a welcomed addition at this price point, it uses the same low-resolution infotainment screen as in the MG ZS.
Otherwise, the space on the inside is decent, and the flat floor means the middle seat in the second row is actually useable.
This is probably the first mass-market EV that we've driven in which we really didn't experience the dreaded feeling that is range anxiety. We picked up the MG5 EV with an indicated 90 per cent battery capacity and an estimated range of 360km.
Throughout the test, and even with some spirited driving, we achieved an effective 335km.
Perhaps it was psychological. But it definitely was reassuring seeing a range figure that began with a '3' and not a '1'. This allowed us to use the car as we'd use any ordinary vehicle, without having to figure out potential backup plans should the battery run low.
It's all about tempering your expectations for the other facets that make up a car's drive. It has a nicely weighted steering feel (bearing in mind this is a big family wagon), with a front end that, whilst not pin-sharp responsive, does a good enough job entertaining you if you decide to push the performance envelope.
Chucking this estate into the roads of literal estates at slightly cheeky speeds, the MG5 remained composed, even as we gradually applied more lock and power on. Some hooliganism-esque antics with the throttle pedal, and you will induce some tyre squeal and torque steer.
We felt that this had stiffer springs than its compact SUV stablemate, which also translates into less body roll. But this did not come at the expense of ride comfort, as we'd deem the ride to be acceptable on all but the most pothole-y of roads.
The electric powertrain also makes for some entertaining driving when the situation calls for it. Instantaneous torque betrays its 8.8 seconds 0-100km/h estimate - wheel spin with driver aids off is definitely possible if that's what you're into.
Despite having more power than the ZS, the 5 actually feels marginally slower. Still, instant power means that you will out-accelerate all but the highest performance cars on the road.
Electric, affordable and practical
Three terms that are mutually exclusive, at least in the era that we find ourselves in. As the world's established automakers scramble to find ways to put more EVs on the drives of people worldwide, prices are coming down as the technology becomes more commonplace.
But perhaps, not quickly enough. With no legacy to worry about, a newcomer like MG is better able to readjust and reposition their firm to more quickly capitalise on market trends.
Away from the squabble, and with its native market's voracious appetite for electrified vehicles, it is no wonder that SAIC can put together such a compelling and competitive package that seriously undercuts its competitors.
The MG5 EV is not just a good EV, but a decent and practical car overall, period.
Do vote for the MG5 EV in our COTY if you think it is a worthy winner! If you'd like to experience the MG5 EV for yourself, do contact MG Singapore for a test drive!
S$154,888(inclusive of COE)VES Banding: A1
Engine: PM Synchronous Motor
Power: 154 bhp
Torque: 280 Nm from 500 - 3,000 rpm
0-80% Charge: 40 mins
0-100km/h: 8.8 Seconds
Top Speed: 185 km/h
Drivetrain: Front-Wheel DriveBrakes (Front): Ventilated Disc
Brakes (Rear): Disc
Wheelbase: 2,659 mm
Dimensions (LxWxH): 4,544 mm x 1,818 mm x 1,543 mm
Fuel Tank Capacity: N/ABoot Capacity:
Apple CarPlay & Android Auto
Lane Departure Warning
This article was first published in Motorist.