Test Drive | MG 5 Scorpio: What an ANCAP 0 star car is really like

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For many people outside China the MG 5 is an electric wagon, but what’s known in Europe as the MG 5 is in fact a rebadged Roewe Ei5. The real MG 5 is actually a small compact sedan and the car is not only known as this in China but in a number of other markets including Australia. Late last year we brought you a story about how this car got tested by ANCAP and achieved a big fat zero for safety. So what is an ANCAP 0 car actually like?

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The current MG 5 is the second generation car with the first generation MG 5 being a Golf sized hatchback that looked somewhat like a Toyota Auris. Introduced in 2012 it never did well and MG didn’t dare take it to the UK, the car died an early death in 2016.

European and Chinese versions of the MG 5 are much more closely related than many realize, it is not just the name that’s shared. The common denominator is a rather anonymous looking petrol powered sedan called the Roewe i5. Both the i5 and Ei5 were launched around 2018 with the Ei5 being an electric wagon version. In electric form the Ei5 immediately found customers from taxi companies and ride-hailing schemes whereas the i5 sedan struggled to gain much in the way of sales.

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By 2020 SAIC were beginning to work out that there needed to be some difference between Roewe and MG for the Chinese market and so they had a brain wave, to make MG look more sporty! One of the first cars to benefit from this was the new second generation MG 5 which despite being based on the Roewe i5 actually looked quite attractive when shown at the 2020 Beijing Auto Show.

“The MG 5 is for young people who haven’t much money but want to show off their personality and aesthetic taste” said Shao Jingfeng, SAIC Motor Technical Center’s Vice President of Design.

Most noticeably this translated into a new grille and large MG badge utilizing the third generation of the MG frontal design language. More pronounced styling lines on the sides together with more muscular haunches added to the look. At the back the car got a more coupe like angle to the roofline flowing into the back making the car very much the replacement for the MG GT, which was essentially a sedan version of the first generation MG 5. Such cosmetic changes transformed the Roewe i5 into a far more desirable looking MG 5.

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To make matters even more confusing, so confusing that my MG PR representative didn’t even know, there are actually now two versions of the MG 5 which are marketed separately in China. My test car was actually the MG 5 Scorpio introduced in 2022. While it is still based on the MG 5 there are some notable differences. Firstly the front grille while more aggressive still than the regular MG 5 it is actually simpler. Overall the car is 20 mm longer at 4695 mm versus 4675 mm, the wheelbase though remains unchanged at 2680 mm. Width remains the same at 1842 mm while height is up by 7 mm at 1480 mm. Visually the car differs from the regular MG 5 by the new front grille, rear spoiler and diffuser together with the quad exhausts.

Our test car was the top of the range Trophy Sport Flagship version which gains a panoramic roof whereas lower spec versions make do with a regular sunroof. Scorpio versions of the MG 5 gain more adventurous colors such as the passion lemon on our test car over the already quite bold colors on the regular MG 5.  

Interior & Infotainment

The biggest surprise with the 2023 MG 5 is the interior. With the Scorpio it really takes it up a notch with the feel of materials and is probably the best we’ve seen to date on a Chinese MG – in fact it is better than the Chinese version of the MG 4 (Mulan) which is galling seeing as the latter is significantly more expensive.

The interior of the Scorpio is very different to the bog standard MG 5. Most noticeable is the screen setup. Although higher spec versions of the regular MG 5 do use two 12.3 inch screens they are not as a continuous dual screen display as seen in the Scorpio. Instead the instrument screen is in a traditional housing while the separate infotainment unit is angled towards the driver.

Not only is the screen setup different but so is the whole front of the dashboard. On the Scorpio you have the center console reaching the dashboard higher up with the gear selector replaced by what MG refer to an aircraft style lever. Along with a wireless charging pad there are two drink holders, hidden under a sliding cover, and a center storage compartment. It is a floating design which underneath hides a Type A and Type C USB port along with a 12V outlet.

Pretty much all touch points are soft plastics including the ridge line where the windows meet the lower door. On the standard MG 5 this is only the case with touch points of the upper dash.

The front seats get heating although this simply seems to be an option of on/off via the screen rather than offering any form of temperature control. In addition the driver’s seat is electric with seats on the Scorpio being synthetic leather sports style which gain yellow seatbelts. There’s a six speaker Yamaha sound system to which the ambient lighting seems synced. Voice control via MG’s Zebra system is standard across the range but it is very much command based rather than the systems from start-ups like Nio and XPeng which will respond to more abstract statements like “I am cold.”

Rear passengers shouldn’t have too many complaints about either headspace or leg space. On the back of the center console is a single Type A USB outlet together with two air vents. Given the price point and the so far quite generous specifications there are inevitably some cost cuts. Firstly there is no fold down armrest in the back and while the seats do fold down they are not split folding. It’s a similar story in the boot which at the top doesn’t have any lining. There is, though, 401 liters of space along with an underfloor space saver spare wheel.

There are few physical buttons with most things being either controlled through the infotainment system or voice control. Along with a reversing image the screen offers a 360° view and a transparent chassis. Navigation of the interface seems relatively easy and is quite responsive. As with higher trim versions of the MG 5 the Scorpio gets a Bluetooth mobile phone key and built in dashcam.

Performance and Driving Feel

Although the MG 5 first went on sale in 2020 the underpinnings are much older and this is likely part of what contributes to the zero ANCAP score. The car rides on the General Motors PATAC K platform which dates back to 2015 and is itself a simplified version of the D2XX platform first introduced in 2012. General Motors and SAIC thanks to the joint venture have quite a close relationship and the Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC) is a jointly run design and engineering center for Shanghai GM products. This relationship has previously resulted in badge engineered cars such as the Roewe 950 and the use of GM engines in some SAIC brand cars. Ultimately the Roewe i5/MG 5 is based on the second generation Buick Excelle GT dating back to 2015.

Scorpio versions only come with a 1.5T (15C4E) engine coupled to a seven-speed wet dual clutch gearbox. The engine was jointly developed by SAIC and GM. Regular MG 5 versions also add a cheaper 1.5 liter engine (15FCD) with a choice of either five-speed manual or CVT transmission. It is a completely unrelated engine and has a slightly higher displacement.

With its turbo engine the Scorpio version of the 2023 MG 5 is quite good fun. At launch the 1.5T in the Scorpio got a more powerful tune, however, current versions of the regular MG 5 also gain the more powerful version of the engine. The Scorpio’s turbo unit has 133 kW of power and delivers 275 Nm of torque to the front axle. This is good enough for a claimed acceleration figure of 6.9 seconds.

There are two drive modes Standard and a Super Sport – selected by a button on the steering wheel. Super Sport stiffens up the steering and keeps the car in lower gears longer than with Standard resulting in a more sonorous note from the quad exhausts. However, in the wet conditions of the test drive the traction control was consistently cutting in at launch to try to control grip.

In Super Sport the steering is reasonably tight and while the car doesn’t have class leading road holding there is an acceptable amount of feedback. With Standard the steering is lighter. Using the screen you can adjust the feel of the steering to three different levels, Super Sport uses the stiffest. You’ve also got paddle shifts which can be used in the Super Sport mode.

One nice touch is that the indicator sound comes from the speaker in the direction you are turning. There was nothing in the way of roads to particularly challenge the MG 5 but it would seem that like most Chinese cars it is mainly set up for comfort despite some sporty credentials.

Where the car is less civilized is at low speed. The dual-clutch unit made the car really grumbly when it was navigating a tight car park. Also it’s not possible to creep the car in reverse and so you end up making rather jerky movements when trying to get it into a parking space.

Sum up

On the face of it the MG 5 particularly the Scorpio version is not a bad little car especially considering the price of it. In China the regular MG 5 has suggested prices of 72,900 (10,100 USD) to 91,900 yuan (12,700 USD) while the Scorpio is meant to range from 102,900 (14,250 USD) to 117,900 (16,300 USD). The reality is even better with considerably discounts available meaning you can get a top spec MG 5 Scorpio for 99,900 yuan (13,800 USD).

But what about that ANCAP zero score? As I’ve already mentioned the old underpinnings of the car are likely partly to blame. However the problems go far beyond this and should have been addressed before going on the market.

When introduced the MG 5 was checked against Australian Design Rules which as legislation lag ANCAP criteria by some margin, but make the car perfectly legal to sell in Australia. Probably of most concern to purchasers was how badly the car did with adult occupant safety getting just 37% (15.09 out of 40). The MG 5 rated ‘Poor’ for injury risk to chest and driver’s legs in an offset frontal impact and for the chest and legs of a rear passenger in the event of full width frontal impact. Loading on the head and neck of child dummies in the MG 5 was significantly higher than seen in most current generation vehicles

Some of the points lost were just careless on the part of SAIC. For example the MG 5 lost points due to seatbelt pre-tensioners and load limiters not being fitted to front or rear seating positions in the base trim variant. The car was also penalized for its limited autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and lack of lane support. This last one is actually offered in the top spec Scorpio model and really should have been offered in Australia.

MG has responded to the crash test by committing to improve the car both with hardware and software upgrades. In terms of hardware the upgrades include seatbelt pretensioners, seatbelt reminders for the rear seats, dynamic load tensioners for the seatbelts and a forward impact sensor. Software upgrades include speed limit information, intelligent speed assist, enhanced AEB recognition, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning (LDW), autonomous emergency braking for turning, cross road, car to car, pedestrian, cyclist, door opening, motorcyclist, and junction assist. Many of these features are already available on the Scorpio in China.

SAIC it seems was too busy trying to produce Australia’s cheapest sedan without much thought to reputation through safety. Is the MG 5 inherently unsafe, no it’s not but it doesn’t meet the latest standards. ANCAP probably best summed the situation up with its headline for the press release which accompanied the zero score by both the MG 5 and the Mahindra Scorpio SUV saying “previous generation safety still fitted to today’s new cars.”


Power & Drive feeling6
Passenger space7
Tech & UX5
Price quality ratio6
The best thingThe car genuinely looks quite sporty
The worst thingSafety is obviously not up to modern standards

Ultimately you get what you pay for and if you don’t pay much, don’t expect much. While the MG 5 is probably never going to get a 5 star ANCAP rating the zero star fiasco could easily have been avoided with better homework from SAIC and all the more so since some versions of the car in China have features needed for higher scores. However, no matter what you do to dress up the car the old underpinnings are eventually going to show through.

My test drive though also shows poor understanding of the products from the company’s PR, not being aware that there was an MG 5 and MG 5 Scorpio and that they were sold separately is poor form. Also eagle eyed reader might have spotted that the rear door in the pictures is a different color to the rest of the car. The test car was from a dealer and apparently the car had an accident resulting in the door being replaced with one of a different color, so much for attention to detail!  

The ANCAP result also must put a huge question mark over how safe the European all-electric MG 5 is, as the car has never been through Euro-NCAP – and the similar era MG ZS only got 3 stars in the test.

Sources: ANCAP, Which Car?, Dongchedi,

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  1. ANCAP is now a joke that only an idiot or somebody completely uninformed would pay any attention to whatsoever.

    You now will get zero stars automatically if you don’t have a bunch of highly intrusive active driver aids that nobody wants to use because they are distracting and don’t work. Worse they now MUST default to on despite the fact they are useless and in my view dangerous.

  2. i have a car, chinese dongfeng forthing t5 evo, it don’t have start stop, lane assist and all other bunch of crappy equipment and i am delighted with it, i also do a power boost and chip tune the engine which now got almost 200 hp

  3. They omitted the seatbelt pretensioners for Australia that have been installed since the 1980s on cars. They are in the other versions of the same car.

    The structure also collapsed in the crash, which hadn’t happened for about twenty years in the crash tests.



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