There are a lot of interesting things about the LDV Mifa 9 – it's the first all-electric people mover to launch in New Zealand; it’s from a brand that is primarily known for its light commercial vehicles; it packs a 90kWh battery and has a range of 430km; it’s absolutely packed with technology and luxury; it looks the way it does – but all anyone asks first is “what does ‘Mifa’ mean?”
Well, the Chinese manufacturers sure do like themselves a good acronym, so of course ‘Mifa’ stands for “Maximum, Intelligent, Friendly, Artistic”. Which is quite... something, really.
But while you may well question what in hell “friendly and artistic” have to do with a car, the Mifa 9 certainly nails those first two: at 5.2 metres long, 2 metres wide and 1.8 metres tall, it is it is most assuredly maximum, while the vast level of technology jammed into it (particularly the top-spec Premium model) definitely marks it as rather intelligent as well.
The Mifa 9 comes at a time when LDV is heading full steam ahead into the electric transition and, between its range of eDeliver electric vans and the eT60 electric ute, the company actually has the largest range of full BEVs eligible for the Clean Car rebate in New Zealand, with the Mifa 9 adding to that by only coming here as an electric model, despite being offered in petrol form by LDV Australia.
Far from being a light commercial vehicle with extra seats jammed into it, the Mifa 9 is a full-on luxury people mover, offering up seven full-size seats across three rows in the traditional 2/2/3 arrangement. And while it is clearly a quality effort, boasting excellent build quality and fit and finish, as well as impressively high-quality materials, LDV have managed to sneak a single model in under the $80k Clean Car rebate cutoff, with the entry Elite model kicking off the Mifa 9 range at $79,990 drive away.
That entry model packs the same powertrain as the rest of the range – a 90kWh ternary lithium battery that is good for a WLTP-tested 440km of range hooked up to a 180kW/350Nm electric motor on the front axle – as well as LED lighting all around and a full safety suite of driver assist and monitoring systems.
While the higher-spec $99,990 Luxury and $119,990 Premium models get the same powertrain, their ranges drop slightly (to 435km and 430km respectively) due to the extra kit they pack. And while gruntier audio systems and other additions like LED interior ambient lighting, electrically-operated sliding side doors and rear hatch, a panoramic sunroof and a 360-degree camera system are all well and nice for the driver, the Premium model goes all out in the rear with some truly impressive Business Class-style seats in the second row.
While all seven seats in the Premium are leather (the other two get different levels of pretend leather), the second-row gets truly special with a pair of fancy pews that are fully electrically adjustable (side-to-side, as well as the more traditional fore-and-aft) from a touchscreen in the armrest that also controls the heating, cooling and massage functions of the seats, as well as rear climate control.
The seats also feature fold-out tray tables in the armrests and will fully recline, Business Class-style, for relaxing during those long, boring trips. Seriously – you may never actually want to actually drive the Mifa 9 Premium...
Which is fine, because the passenger seat is the best place to experience the Mifa from. The Mifa 9 is all about maximum space rather than carving through corners. But it does feel agile and responsive enough on the road (for a large MPV, that is), even if the ride is a little brittle for a luxury people mover.
The Mifa 9 is a “hop in and go” style BEV, similar to the likes of Tesla and Polestar where there is no start/stop button in sight and you simply climb in and drop it into drive to move off.
The power comes on in a somewhat relaxed way, pushing the big MPV forward at a respectable rate (it will hit the open road speed limit in 8.9 seconds), without any of the internal-organ rearranging drama of those aforementioned BEVs. Which is good news for the kids in the rear seats.
Inside, the Mifa 9 has a clean, minimalist dash, with most of the functions taken care of on the 12.3-inch touchscreen, save for a few touch sensitive surfaces for the HVAC controls. While the screen is lovely to use and nicely responsive, the layout and menus are somewhat confusing and unintuitive the first few times you go to use it. It does make more sense after you spend a bit of time with it, however, and is rarely an issue after those initial interactions.
All three models are fully-stocked with the latest driver assist and monitoring systems, most of which are excellent, but one you will be reaching to switch off all the time is the lane keep alert that suffers from a combination of being both way too sensitive and installed on a large, wide vehicle. Seriously, it is actually possible to chain the regular alerts together into one long, painful howl of outrage as it announces the white lines on your average New Zealand country road...
Still, this annoyance aside, the Mifa 9’s safety systems are good and generally not intrusive in the slightest (apart from that horrific noise, that is...), and LDV’s New Zealand distributor, Great Lakes Motor Distributors, expects the Mifa 9 to nab a full 5-star safety rating in ANCAP testing.
The Mifa 9 comes to New Zealand in the smallest of small segments – people movers have plunged in popularity with the rise of seven-seat SUVs, while the all-electric powertrain and premium positioning makes it even more niche – but it offers up an impressive package for buyers shopping in that tiny segment, particularly when you take into account the healthy rebate on the $79,990 Elite model that actually sees it undercutting the pricing of its most obvious competitor, the diesel-powered Kia Carnival, that also has to have on-road costs and a small Clean Car fee ($690) added to its $74,990 asking price.