The Irish Times Car of the Year for 2023: And the winner is...

This is a practical all-electric hatchback that’s fun to drive – and you can’t look past its competitive price

In the end it came down to an MG and a Merc – two new EVs at either end of the motoring budget.

The Irish Times Best Cars 2023

Be under no illusion, the MG badge may try to tap into motoring heritage, but it’s a marketing ploy. This is just a familiar European façade to the Shanghai Automotive Industrial Corporation.

Forget the cheap-and-cheerful MG SUVs of the recent past – the MG4 is a far more sophisticated device, and it’s got the Volkswagen ID.3 and Renault Megane E-Tech firmly in its crosshairs.

Like them, it’s a mid-sized family hatchback with lots of room in the cabin, screens for instruments and infotainment, and a single electric motor. Like them, it has two different battery sizes, giving you a choice of 310km or 450km ranges according to your needs and your wallet.


Unlike them, the MG is a sub-€30,000 car. Or to put it another way, about €10,000 less expensive to buy than the cheapest version of the Renault.

Does it feel €10,000 cheaper? Not really. There are a few cheap cabin fixtures, but you could say that about an €85,000 Mercedes EQE, the other new car this year that was vying for our best-buy pick.

The Merc is sublime, luxurious and easy to drive. If you had the money, it’s the one to go for; but that price tag means its limited to the well-heeled.

The MG4 brings electric power to the wider motoring masses, while delivering on family functionality as well. True, it’s not the crossover that everyone seems to desire, but it’s the better for being a hatchback, both in terms of its driving dynamics and efficiency.

The MG4 offers affordability and practical space. It then goes on to deliver surprisingly good driving habits that will suit family motorists. It has the range. It has the tech, from driving assistance aids to safety systems. Earlier this month, it achieved the top five-star rating from Euro NCAP, an impressive achievement given the increasingly stringent criteria being set in its tests.

The new MG4 all-electric family hatchback
The new MG4 all-electric family hatchback
The new MG4 all-electric family hatchback

And the MG4 is undoubtedly a major threat to the established brands, offering a snapshot of what may be coming our way from China in the coming years; and explaining why its European rivals are so worried.

It’s far from flawless. The MG’s infotainment system is fiddly and can be awkward to use. But the same is true of the VW ID.3, and anyway you’ll just plug in your phone and use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

The boot is slightly small, but that’s relative to other family hatchbacks and it certainly shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. And none of these foibles counteract that ultra-competitive price point.

Apart from its colossal price advantage over the likes of the ID.3 (some buyers could use the change to pick up a used petrol car for days on which plugging in is too much hassle…) the MG is also quite good fun to drive – it has surprisingly sharp steering and seems to enjoy being hustled along a twisty back road.

We reckon this car is going to be a disruptive force in the coming months and years. Expect a great deal of debate over pricing practices, tariffs for Chinese-built cars and arguments over the morality of buying cars from certain countries to erupt. MG owners won’t care about much of that, though. They’ll just be enjoying driving a very impressive car at a relatively affordable price.