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MG5 First Drive — Is this the ‘station wagon’ you’ve been waiting for?

There was a time when the station wagon was a fixture of American family life, and frequently featured in popular culture. The fashion for bigger, taller vehicles has seen them all but disappear in the US, at around 1-2% of new car sales. In Europe, meanwhile, the “estate car,” as it’s known, remains a competitive segment, and in several Western European companies represents more than a fifth of new cars sold. In Sweden, the home of Volvo, around a third of the market share there belongs to the station wagon. In the US, the inexorable rise of “cool” crossovers — typically depicted devouring rugged terrain — means that almost half of the new car sales there are SUVs. 

[This is part of an ongoing collaboration between Fully Charged and Electrek.]

Perhaps, the dowdy and domestic perception of station wagons — popularized by Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Vacation — is too much for the US consumer to overcome, but as electric cars enter the mainstream, maybe it’s time to reappraise the situation. Battery electric vehicles rightly ask fresh questions about the aerodynamics and efficiency of cars, and while gas is cheap when compared to European gas prices, if the form factor of vehicles materially affects their range, perhaps the argument for wagons is coming full circle. While their profile is lower, station wagons still offer a similar spaciousness to SUVs, and how often do you “hit the trail” anyhow?

It’s taken time for car companies to bring out an electric estate car to market. The closest we’ve come on the channel is a modified Tesla Model S “Shooting-Brake” as featured on Fully Charged in 2018. At long last, though, MG, the British brand backed by China’s SAIC Motors, has brought the car known as the Roewe Ei5 to Europe as the MG5. As ever, Fully Charged was keen to get to grips with it. Aesthetically speaking, we have to be realistic, it’s not likely to win design awards, but we were really impressed with its performance. Equally, the interior is a little dated, but on the flipside we couldn’t find fault with the build quality.

When it comes to the core metrics, there is also much to admire. Starting from around $32,000, it immediately makes it considerably more cost-competitive than the slew of smaller electric vehicles that are entering the European market. For that, the vehicle offers a 52.5 kWh battery, and a real-world range on the EV-Database of 175 miles, with a vehicle consumption of 275 Wh/mi (for reference, the current range of Audis vary from 365 to 430 Wh/mi, yet this car compares to Renault’s tiny Zoe). While this car is far from breathtakingly quick, its 0-62 of 7.7 seconds isn’t unimpressive. When it comes to charging, though, it’s relatively unremarkable with a top charging rate of 50kW.  

While we can confirm that interest in the UK for this car is set to be high — the Daily Telegraph‘s headline, “Wake up Elon Musk, the £25,000 electric car is already here” stretches that point to breaking — it’s fair to say that this car will make inroads in Europe, and might in time tempt American buyers, too. For now, though, big, brash SUVs trump the more subtle yet substantive station wagons, but perhaps those estates are patiently biding their time? And maybe, just maybe, the MG5 represents the shape of things to come.

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