MG Comet EV first drive review

India’s smallest and cheapest electric car is here. Should you buy the MG Comet EV over the Tata Tiago EV?
MG Comet EV is India's Smallest EV
MG Comet EV is India's Smallest EVShot by Rohit G. Mane for evo India

The MG Comet EV is a radical concept for India. A tiny, city-only car that, in keeping with the times, is also full electric. It’s a concept that goes back two decades to the Reva and Mahindra E2O, even the Tata Nano was on similar lines, but for various reasons none of these really succeeded. Can MG succeed where others haven’t? Can the Comet EV offer an alternative to the Tata Tiago EV that was, up until now, India’s cheapest electric car?

You have to give MG Motor India full marks for putting into production something so out of the box as the Comet EV. But in the same breath Rajiv Chaba, president and MD of MG Motor India says, “We are not going to sell this car at a loss.” At an entry price of Rs 7.89 lakh, assume Rs 9 lakh for the fully loaded version we are testing here, it is far from being India’s cheapest car. This is targeted at an evolved audience. Rajiv even goes so far as saying, “We are very serious about not selling this car to certain people.” He adds, “We will do a vibe check when you book the car. And if your answers are outside the boundary line you will get a call. [We will] counsel that this is not for you.”

It’s unquestionably a brave strategy. And so too is MG’s communication which screams, “Cut the crap.” And so keeping with the theme, here’s our no bullshit test drive review of India’s smallest car.

Radical styling of MG Comet EV

Say what you will about the styling, fact is you will have an opinion on the MG Comet EV. This will not blend into the crowd. Jostling for space in manic Delhi traffic with a Thar on the left and a Mercedes-Benz S-Class on the right, it was the Comet EV that people were staring at. Now what I think about the styling is immaterial because styling is a personal subject, but if you simply must have my opinion, it’s not love at first sight. This has that typical tall-boy styling like those Japanese Kei-cars, and I’ve never been a fan of them — not the Wagon R, not the very first Santro either. It’s not cute and cuddly like the Tata Nano was. But it is in your face, and that’s where I’m afraid car design is barreling towards these days.

You get a short stubby bonnet that, surprisingly, you can open and have a peek inside the electric gubbins underneath. The bonnet is really short because this is an EV-only platform and there’s no need to accommodate a combustion engine up ahead. Typical to EV platforms the wheels are pushed to the absolute extremities of the car to liberate as much interior space as possible. And those wheels are super-tiny 12-inches shod with 145-section Ceat Energy Drive tyres. These aren’t alloys but steel wheels shod with wheel caps and the piddly tyres do give it a bit of an awkward stance, a tall body perched on shopping-cart wheels. But the designers have attempted to break the monotony of the tall boy with full-width light bars front and back while a floating roof attempts to do the same to the profile.

The MG Comet EV gets a short stubby bonet
The MG Comet EV gets a short stubby bonetShot by Rohit G. Mane for evo India

Strangely the light bar is not a DRL and doesn’t stay switched on all the time, you have to switch on the park light for it to light up. And there’s no auto lamps so you have to keep remembering to switch it on and off every time. The lights on this top end version are full LEDs and the MG logo on the nose also lights up, so plenty of lighting drama. And this being an MG, you have plenty of badging including that Internet Inside badge. And, like the Hector, you can even option huge Morris Garages lettering to be plastered across the nose. Like I said, styling is a very personal subject.

The glass area is pretty substantial and that means you’re never incognito while driving the Comet EV. Like it or not you’re on display for the world to see. And everybody turns their heads to check out the Comet. Over 5 hours of driving it, countless motorists tapped on the window asking me to roll it down and given them the down-low.

Space inside the MG Comet EV

The Comet EV is in fact even smaller than what the Tata Nano was! Measuring just 2974mm long this is tiny but the wheelbase is substantial at 2010mm and that liberates plenty of space inside. And I really do mean that. I am 5-foot-9-inches and with the driver’s seat adjusted to my driving position, which is as far back as the seat will go in the MG Comet EV, I could still fit in at the back. Four of me can fit in the Comet EV, all four have proper three-point seat belts, and the doors are so massive that getting into the back is actually pretty easy. Getting in is actually easier than getting out of the Comet and a lady in a sari or skirt will not appreciate being asked to climb into the back. And your elderly parents will find it impossible. “But that is not what it is intended for,” clarifies Rajiv, cutting the crap. The boss of MG Motor India is an avid golfer and he points out to the rear seats that fold flat and then you can throw in a golf kit. Two golf kits in fact. And, yes, the tailgate opens.

Boot space, you ask? With the rear seats up there’s only space for the charging cable and a lightly stuffed knapsack. And the only reason you have at least this much space is because the rear seat back has a very slight recline angle. In fact, it is way too upright to be comfortable for more than a short city commute. That said the large quarter glass ensures you don’t feel claustrophobic.

Up front though there’s plenty of space, though you will be rubbing shoulders with your passenger whether you like it or not. If you have an amply endowed bottom you might find it spilling out of the seats too, these are small seats, there’s no side support, and very little under thigh support too. The wheel well also intrudes into the foot well and that’s something your passenger will immediately notice, having to sit a bit skewed to the right. The driver will not notice that, because their attention will be riveted to the lack of a dead pedal. With no place to rest the left leg this does become uncomfortable after a while and then you end up sitting a bit skewed to the left. But the flat floor and no central console means you can slide from the driver to passenger seat easily which is great when you park it a very tight spot and need to slide to get out of the door on the other side. There are even baggage hooks so you can dangle your handbag between the seats.

Ease of parking is another huge shouting point for MG and I have to agree that, measuring just 1505mm wide, this is a breeze to squeeze into super-tight parking spots. But, to cut the crap, I should also point out that parking spots aren’t going to magically open-up for the Comet and the struggle to find a parking spot isn’t going to disappear.

The MG Comet EV gets dual 10.25-inch screens inside
The MG Comet EV gets dual 10.25-inch screens insideShot by Rohit G. Mane for evo India

Apple aesthetic borrowed for the interior of MG Comet EV

Those little white controls on the steering wheel of the MG Comet EV are inspired by the Apple iPod. So too is the white panel on the door pads and the extremities of the dash. And then you have that slab of digital real estate, two 10.25-inch screens for the infotainment and the digital cluster, and because this is tiny that screen looks even bigger. It’s all relative! And this cabin has nothing in the way of obvious cost cutting. The panel in front of the passenger is a nice fabric. The silver-finished central panel feels of good quality. Even the top of the dash, which you will rarely ever touch, is not a hard, scratchy plastic.

The two-spoke steering wheel is leather wrapped and feels very nice to hold. It only adjusts for rake and the seat isn’t height adjustable, but I found the driving position to be perfectly acceptable.

The key, also white, is designed to look like a fidget-spinner and you can even personalise it with your name. And the top end version gets two digital keys so you don’t need to carry the physical key at all.

Because width is at a premium there’s no space for cup holders in the centre, but that’s not to say MG have forgotten about it. They’ve made space in the extremities of the dash for cup holders. And this is positioned right in front of the air-con vent so if you’re picked up a Coke at the drive-in, that will stay nice and cool. But, if like me, you use the cup holder for a cup of coffee and that won’t stay hot for very long. There’s no way to shut individual air-con vents. Speaking of the air-con I should point out that the vents and even the climate control knobs feel and operate with a very nice quality feel. And the chrome surround looks very nice indeed.

Sticking with the air-con, we tested the MG Comet EV in peak Delhi heat, 40-odd degrees Celsius, and the performance was adequate. For the most part I had to run the blower at 8 or the maximum 9 setting and that’s probably down to the generous glass area that does let the mid-day sun pound you mercilessly.

The MG Comet EV borrows its aesthetic from Apple
The MG Comet EV borrows its aesthetic from AppleShot by Rohit G. Mane for evo India

This being an MG much noise is being made of the 55+ connected car features, none of which we could try because the voice assistant is disabled when you use CarPlay or Android Auto. And you will definitely be pairing your phone to the car because it works so seamlessly and, best of all, this is wireless connectivity. The screen resolution and responsiveness is as good as in mid-size SUVs, there’s that embedded e-SIM, and most surprisingly the music system sounds rather good with pretty good bass. And you will need to turn that up, to drown out the noise from the bus or bike revving next to you because there’s not much in the way of sound insulation. If the biker next to you is talking on the phone, you will be privy to that conversation.

As for your phone, there’s no place to keep it. The seat squab is too shallow to stick your phone in the regular, and inadvisable, crotch area. I stuck my iPhone in the cupholder, but it isn’t big enough for an iPhone Pro Max. There’s a tray in front of the passenger but your phone will slide around if you leave it there. And with space being at a premium there’s no wireless charger. That said the doors have huge pockets, running almost the entire length but the bottle holder is a tad too small to accommodate one litre bottles.

MG Comet EV has a range of 230km

Incredibly we’ve gone through 1500 words without even talking about the drivetrain and that just tells you how much MG has thrown at the Comet. This is not a cheap car, not by a long shot.

The Comet EV is based on parent SAIC’s GSEV (Global Smart Electric Vehicle) platform which is claimed to be the fastest EV platform to clock one million sales. Small car means small battery, 17.3kWh, and there’s no fast-charging capability. A full charge will take you 7 hours on the 3.3kWh home charger, while 10 to 80 per cent will take you 5 hours. The claimed range is 230km on a single charge, which means around 190-200km in the real world. This might not sound like much but, remember, this is a city car and nobody does 200km every day in the city! We spent the entire day the car, from Gurgaon to Delhi and back to Gurgaon and still had 40 per cent charge left over. And I was driving in the Sport mode almost all throughout.

Range, then, is enough. But lack of fast-charging is a downer. MG are right in pointing out that 90 per cent of EV owners will prefer to charge at home but in the odd instance when you are worryingly low on charge you can’t hit a fast charger for a quick splash-and-dash. You will have to wait hours to get you enough charge to get back home.

Dynamics of the MG Comet EV

The motor is mounted at the back of the MG Comet EV, and this is rear-wheel-drive. But if you start screaming Porsche 911, I’ll have to cut the crap. The Comet EV neither has, nor makes, any pretense of sportiness. It is so softly sprung that if you shut the door hard the body rocks on its dampers. Give it a gentle push and it rocks exuberantly. Fidget inside the car and it rocks on its dampers. But there’s only so much suspension travel you will get on such a tiny car and speed breakers need to be treated with a healthy dose of respect. Slow down properly and gently does it. The front suspension still goes over it okay but the rear delivers a rather noticeable kickback. And if you don’t slow down you both hear and feel a solid impact from the front suspension — weirdly only the front right side.

As for handling, there’s only so much you can expect from 12-inch tyres, that too optimised for low rolling resistance. It’s easy to push it into understeer and when you give it full throttle mid-corner there’s an extra dose of squeal from the rear tyres. There’s never enough power to get the tail out but it does enough of a jig to remind you to take it easy. And it is prudent to take it easy. At 1640mm the Comet is taller than it is wide. Tall boys aren’t meant to be hustled. And with no dead pedal to support your body while cornering, the driver also tends to get thrown around a bit. The power-assisted steering is super-light and there isn’t any feel either. But for slicing through city traffic this works really well.

The MG Comet EV gets a full-width LED light bar at the rear
The MG Comet EV gets a full-width LED light bar at the rearShot by Rohit G. Mane for evo India

MG Comet EV in Delhi-NCR traffic

I must admit the Comet EV is surprisingly fun to drive. Getting out of the Le Meridian in Gurgaon, 30 of the Comet EVs made their way to the heart of Delhi and, as is to be expected of automotive journalists, all of us planted our foot flat into the firewall. And with traffic yet to pick up, it was solid fun hustling this little car through traffic.

There’s that instant response of the electric motor that makes the Comet EV very eager and enthusiastic. See a disappearing gap and you can scoot into it, almost like you are on a scooter. Because you sit so high up you have a fabulous view of the road ahead. And it’s not terrifying to drive in traffic either.

I was apprehensive about driving such a tiny car next to burly Fortuners and ugly buses but that’s not the case. Sure, you do feel intimidated but that’s with every small car. Get over that and you realise this really is a sharp knife for dicing city traffic. 15 minutes into the drive and the Hector tracking car lost sight of me and I had to send my live location to the driver. Being able to spot and then squeeze into the tiniest gaps means you can get out of traffic hold-ups faster than you normally could have and that does reduce your commute time. As a city car then, the Comet EV works brilliantly, and I am looking forward to spending more time with it in the city to understand more of its nuances.

MG Comet EV prices start at Rs 7.89 lakh

Rs 7.89 lakh is the introductory price for base version of the MG Comet EV that will be available in three variants. Now strangely MG haven’t revealed what spec this base version will be in and we can only assume that it will not have the two digital screens, tyre pressure monitoring system, wireless connectivity, solid sound system, digital keys and the other goodies, though twin airbags will be standard on all versions. The version we are testing will be at least a lakh of rupees more at Rs 9 lakh, maybe even Rs 9.5 lakh with the bundled charger and after introductory prices are done with. Ducking under the psychologically important ten lakh rupee barrier is a good thing, and it also undercut the Tata Tiago EV by Rs 70,000. But for a city-only car the Comet EV is an expensive indulgence.

There is of course the savings in running costs. MG claims it will cost you just Rs 519 per month if you clock 1000km. Take a real-world figure of Rs 600-650 and that still means the Comet EV costs next to nothing, just 15 per cent, of what a comparable ICE would cost to run and that means a terrific saving. But if you are only doing city miles that means you will take years to recover your initial investment over a small ICE car.

Let’s put all that aside though because the MG Comet EV is testing out the waters for a brand-new category of a car. A car that occupies very little space. That is zero emissions and zero noise. That is not constrained by having to be a jack of all trades but can be designed to be an absolute master of just one — and that is city commuting. And it does it while cocooning you in not a bare-bones environment but rather a happy, upmarket, Apple-aping cabin. It is a sensible, practical and most importantly a responsible way of commuting — placing in stark contrast how one person commuting in a Hector is such a waste of space and resource! It will appeal to the smart, evolved audience. One with the disposable income to make socially responsible choices.

Watch our first drive review of the Comet EV down below!

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