We drove MG5 and lived! And why we’re not at all surprised

Dean Evans
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MG5: not for NZ

  • Great all-rounder
  • Sharp pricing
  • Economical and swift
  • Zero ANCAP rating stigma
  • Lacking some safety tech
  • Fake exhaust tips

The MG5 earned an unenviable title last year when ANCAP (Australasian New Car Assessment Program) awarded it a zero-star crash rating, just the third car to receive that score, along with the 2023 Mahindra Scorpio 4WD and 2021 Mitsubishi Express. Pitchforks and anti-social media behaviour was fuelled by those who love a negative headline and piling on.

But just how bad is the MG5? Is a car made in 2023 really that unsafe? Will it combust or crash into the first obstacle it fails to see and immediately kill all those aboard? Does it even matter, given MG New Zealand has stated the MG5 isn’t planned for our local showrooms?

Morbid curiosity and genuine interest called, and for a short (medically related) trip to Australia, we took the opportunity to request a test drive of an MG5 - given the MG4 Electric recently won our NZ Car of the Year. So, with an up-to-date will and enduring power of attorney sorted, we said one last goodbye to the family and headed abroad, with the apparent risk of never returning.

So, why is it zero-star? In a world of five-star becoming standard, what actually makes the MG5 a zero-star car is down to tech as much as crash protection. ANCAP publishes a detailed report on the base model it tested, noting MG5’s lack of driver monitoring, lane support, speed limit information and child presence detection, among others. While it does have autonomous emergency braking, it doesn’t work at junctions, crossings, potential head-on collision or reversing. All this meant it earned just 2.48 points from 18 (13 per cent) in the Safety Assist section. It also scored low (37 per cent) in Adult Occupant Protection crash testing, a result of things like lack of seat-belt pre-tensioners, while the results were average/reasonable in the two other evaluated areas: 58 per cent for child occupants, and 42 per cent for pedestrian/external people protection. 

Objectively, it does appear quite odd that a modern car like the MG5 can still result in a zero-star crash rating, inferring its lack of safety; all up, MG5 scored 73 points from a total 170, or 43 per cent. That’s how the ANCAP scoring and scales work, and MG has since committed to its fixes and improvements. 


The badge on the nose says MG, but it could easily stand for MB, as the most common question we encountered after a few days in the MG five, was, is that the new Mercedes-Benz?

Social media haters will (and did) scoff at that notion, but in silver or grey, the resemblance to a Mercedes-Benz CLA is uncanny. Possibly if we ignore the wheels... 

While MG4 is the reigning New Zealand car of the year champion, and the MG3 remains one of the most affordable cars to buy New Zealand, the MG5 holds the title of Australia’s cheapest four-door sedan. 

With expectations matching its ANCAP stars (zero), we were quite surprised to be rather impressed with the MG5, especially given its starting price is around $25,000AUD.

With an animated racecar driver figure who greets you upon start-up, that money buys the base model 1.5-litre normally aspirated petrol burning four-cylinder; the car we drove was the top-spec $29k Essence, in optional $700 Braxton Blue, which comes with a few extras including a turbocharger on the 1.5, the very missed 1989s style TURBO badge on the boot (and quite a big boot at that), a rather big (for a smallish sedan) 401 litres. It also comes with front seat-belt pre-tensioners.

While the swooping nose and tail-down styling does reminisce of the Mercedes-Benz CLA, the 17-inch wheels on the MG5 Essence give the game away. Though 1in larger than the MG5 base model, they could easily go plus one, even two.

While looks are subjective, the MG5 drives surprisingly well. The engine is incredibly quiet and smooth, especially at idle, to the point that only the tacho’s 800rpm idle speed confirms the engine is actually running. It's actually one of the smoothest four-cylinder engines on sale. The top spec model does have a dual clutch seven-speed gearbox, which is actually its weakest link: fine and fast with shifts on the move, as is typical, it needs Sport mode to both keep it more alert and to also allow use of the manual paddle shifts. In D mode, it’s lazy and laggy off the line, with a sudden explosion of power… relatively. Though it’ll jump to 100kmh in the 7-8 second range.


Even the ride quality is rather good, soft enough for the suburbs with only the biggest potholes highlighting a little firmness at the extreme. 

Like most MGs, there’s no telescoping steering range, the infotainment is a little user-unfriendly, but the cabin offers just enough room and storage, tech and comfort with a row of tactile buttons for most of the important controls. 

Even the rear seat is fine for adults of the six-foot type, though they do have to share a single centre vent and USB port. 

Most notable by their absence are some of those ANCAP tech elements that often contrive to reduce the enjoyment of driving, like lane assist and incessant random beeping for seemingly no reason. Thankfully, ironically, they’re largely absent in the MG5 - and to think it loses ANCAP points as a result, for things most people would prefer not be there, or switch off, anyway.

What the MG5 does well is a lot of things, and at a reasonable price. Its low ANCAP ratings are significant in a world of increasing vehicle safety, but it requires deeper digging to fully understand the score.

With MG NZ having no plans for the 5 joining the local line-up, that is a slight shame and moot for us Kiwis. At least for now, it will remain just an overseas number that we can’t reach. But one that we returned from to tell the tale with some better memories than we’d predicted. 


MG5 Essence 
ENGINE: 1.5 turbo four 
GEARBOX: seven-speed DCT 
POWER: 119kW/250Nm 
0-100KM/H: 8.0 secs (approx) 
ECONOMY: 5.9l/100km 
PRICE: $28,990 


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