Electric Car News: MG4 & Megane EV60 Target Volkswagen ID.3

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Looking through the latest electric car news recently, we noticed two separate headlines about new models from MG and Renault, both of which purport to be challengers to the Volkswagen ID.3 in the European market. One is the MG4 from China and the other is the Megane E-Tech EV60 from France. Volkswagen was an early leader in the market for battery-powered compact 5-door cars in the EU, but no longer has the field all to itself.

MG4 Electric Car Teased

MG4 electric car
MG4, image courtesy of MG.

Car News China reports that MG, the former British brand now owned by SAIC, has developed a new global electric car platform it calls Nebula. The first model to use the new rear-wheel drive platform is called the MB Mulan in China, but will be known as the MG4 in Europe. The company claims a 0 to 100 km/h time for the compact 5-door hatchback of 4 seconds, but offers few details about its newest model.

Previously, Autocar speculated it would have specs similar to the MG5, which is a front-wheel drive car that comes with either a 61.1 kWh NMC battery, a WLTP range of 400 kilometers and a 130 kW motor, or a 50.3 kWh LFP battery with a WLTP range of 320 kilometers, and a 115 kW motor. However the MG5 is built on a different platform, so confirmation of those details will have to wait until the company releases technical details when the MG4 is officially revealed late this year, according to Electrive. No pricing details have been released.

MG expects to expand global sales of all its electric car models this year and is targeting 120,000 units sold in Europe. That target will rise in future years. The company says the Nebula platform will allow its cars to offer Level 3 autonomous technology, 5G connectivity, and a passenger compartment replete with infotainment options.

Renault Megane E-Tech EV60

Megane E-Tech
Megane E-Tech EV60, image courtesy of Renault.

For decades, the Volkswagen Golf defined the ideal daily driver for Europeans. It was fast enough, roomy enough, yet compact enough for the congested streets found in many cities on the Continent. For all intents and purposes, the ID.3 is the electrified version of the Golf. It is a Goldilocks car — not too big, not to small, just right. But just as the Golf spawned a flotilla of competitors, the ID.3 has its own imitators to deal with.

One of them is the MG4 but another is the Renault Megane E-Tech EV60. Recently, the crew at Electrive put one through its paces and came away impressed. “The Renault Megane E-Tech is superior to the ID.3 in terms of software and material quality,” the reviewer reports. “We tested the Megane for two weeks and can say it is a real and recommendable alternative to the Volkswagen ID.3.”

The reviewer was impressed with the smooth functionality of the Megane’s voice activated route-planning software, which relies on the Google Android operating system. “After the voice input, the route is shown in the center display and if the route is longer than the range, the stops — including SOC forecasts — are implemented. [Tesla drivers already enjoy such advanced features.] Drivers can set various filters for the respective charging points, such as the power and the electricity provider. The operating speed is so high that one wonders why VW can’t do the same. [Ouch!] In this respect, the Renault is simply better.”

“This also applies to the automatic preconditioning — heating or cooling — of the battery system before a DC stop on the route. Tesla introduced it, and anyone who has driven an electric car in recent years knows how huge a difference this preconditioning makes. Tesla led the way and BMW, Mercedes, Volvo, and Polestar have since followed suit. Only Hyundai and Kia, as well as the Volkswagen MEB, have not (yet) followed suit.”

The Megane E-Tech comes with a 22 kW onboard charger (except on the base model) and can charge at up to 130 kW. During the two weeks Electrive drove the car, it averaged 18.5 kWh per 100 km, ranging from a high of 32 kWh/100 km during foot-to-the-floor uphill driving to a low of 14.3 kWh/100 km while toodling around town on level ground.

“The character is nevertheless different. For example, the Renault seems incomparably more grown up and of higher quality in the interior. The choice of materials is better — a statement that for decades was only imaginable in reverse for these two brands. The driving assistance systems are also great. All functions are on a level that is only surpassed in higher classes.”

Where the Megane E-Tech comes up short is with its steering and handling. “Feedback and precision require revision. Compared to the (rear-wheel drive) Volkswagen ID.3, front-wheel drive traction is weaker, which is noticeable when accelerating hard out of tight corners. The Renault prefers it smooth and flowing. It is a comfort cruiser, even if the black wheel arches remind you of an SUV, which it definitely isn’t.”

The Renault Megane E-Tech starts at €35,200 with a 40 kWh battery and a single phase charger. The test car in Techno trim starts at €44,700. “Both prices would be too high if there were no subsidies,” Electrive says.

Once the test period was over, the reviewers wrote, “The compact Megane is a tough competitor for the VW ID.3. Apart from tax advantages and deliverability, we recommend that you make up your own mind: An electric car is not just a rational purchase where value for money alone counts. It must also be subjectively appealing. We liked the Renault a lot. It seems conceptually mature and is a pleasant companion in everyday life.”

The folks at Electrive focused especially on battery pre-conditioning. In a crowded field, little things can make a big difference. “In the practical life of the Megane, this leads to a simplicity of operation that also appeals to those users for whom a car is simply an object that is supposed to make everyday life easier. Convenience matters.”

The Megane E-Tech may not have the flashiest styling. It doesn’t scream, “Look at me. I’m electric!” But in the real world where a car needs to be comfortable for everyday driving, it makes up in usability what it may lack in flash. Definitely worth a look, if you live and Europe and want a modern, battery-powered equivalent to the trusty Volkswagen Golf.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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