MG is a classic British marque known around the world, but has in recent years been benefiting from the heavy investment of its Chinese parent company SAIC. Among their recent success stories has been the creation of not only the most affordable range of electric vehicles anywhere on the market today, but also arguably some of the very best EVs.
Cars like the MG4, MG5, and MG ZS EV models have all received rave reviews from the online and other auto media critics. In particular, the stylish MG4, lauded as the “cheapest and best” EV out there and by one prominent online platform as the “VW Killer” for its superiority to the Volkswagen ID.3 — in their view, at least — has truly been making positive waves in the expanding sea of EV options.
While most media about these cars has been extremely positive, there’s one area that we want to look at more closely that some might argue MG have gotten wrong, and that’s the area of one-pedal driving. We’ll also take a look at MG’s common “Auto Hold” — or “Auto Brake Hold” — function, how it works and why it’s important (or not).
Background: What is “True” One-Pedal Driving?
Let’s first be clear on exactly what we mean when we talk about one-pedal driving. It is a technology that many hybrid and electric vehicle producers are incorporating into their vehicles, primarily to make city driving easier and more comfortable.
When driving in traffic, you would normally have to be doing a constant dance, moving your foot from the accelerator to the brake, and then back to the accelerator, back to the brake, and so on. A one-pedal system that uses regenerative braking makes life a lot easier in this regard, by allowing the driver to press the accelerator when they want to go, and then release the pedal when they want to brake.
After releasing the accelerator, the car’s electric motor flips into reverse, activating the automatic braking system and channeling collected energy toward the battery. The car is slowed down, and then using the car’s other sensors and cameras, the system can ensure that it always comes to a complete stop without the driver having to press on the brake pedal at all. That makes life a lot easier when moving at a snail’s pace in heavy traffic.
Tesla and Nissan have gained a lot of marketing mileage with their one-pedal systems, offering greater comfort and convenience to car owners. Other OEMs have also offered similar systems, usually allowing drivers to even choose the strength level of the system, with those operating in heavy slow-moving traffic to use the stronger settings that bring you to a halt, and others opting for lighter settings that help slow you down but will allow you essentially to keep moving, perhaps with slow but steadily moving traffic, for example. But, is it the same across the entire marketplace? MG has a somewhat different approach.
Do MG EVs Offer One-Pedal Driving?
Strictly speaking, none of the three MG electric vehicles currently on offer — the MG4, MG5 and MG ZS EV — offer one-pedal driving in the same sense or degree that brands such as Tesla and Nissan do. However, MG does offer adjustable regenerative braking settings so you can set the strength of regen braking to suit different conditions.
MG fans and drivers have offered a lot of commentary and online testimony to indicate that when set to the highest level of regenerative braking, the slowing effect is quite strong and certainly helps make things easier in most traffic conditions. In whatever way you look at it, though, it’s not a one-pedal driving experience.
Some owners have also commented that applying the regular brake pedal also helps to actually increase the regenerative effect of regen braking before switching to the friction/hydraulic brakes. This configuration isn’t necessarily what drivers prefer when it comes to advanced braking, but it seems sufficient for the many and growing number of MG electric vehicle owners and fans that are emerging.
An interesting point worth mentioning here is that on the announcement of the 2023 MG ZS electric SUV, it was revealed that MG had actually quite deliberately not included a one-pedal driving function. In fact, they had done quite the opposite, dialing back the strength of the regenerative braking somewhat at the higher end because they claim drivers were complaining of nausea.
What is the MG “Auto Hold” Function?
So, MG electric cars don’t have a function that matches the e-Pedal or Tesla’s level of regenerative braking, but they do have their own “auto hold” or “auto brake hold” function. This appears on the center stack by the gear shift as a button denoted by a symbol very much like the parking brake, but with an “A” instead of a “P” in the circle.
To activate this function, all drivers have to do is press the “A” button, and an orange light will illuminate to indicate it is now active. The apparent similarity between the Auto Hold and Parking Brake symbols is actually not a coincidence. The two look similar because the Auto Hold essentially works as an automatic parking brake for the user.
When active, should the driver come to a stop at traffic lights, or when in traffic, they bring the car to a complete stop, and the Auto Hold kicks in and keeps the car in place, even without the driver shifting out of “Drive” or pressing further on the brake or any other pedal. It will hold it there, the effect denoted by the appearance of the green parking brake symbol on the instrument panel display, as opposed to the usual red one. The effect will work whether the vehicle is on a flat road, or on an upward or downward slope.
To move on, the driver need only press on the accelerator, releasing the automatic parking brake and allowing their journey to continue. Whenever they again come to a complete stop, the hold feature will kick in once again.
Pros and Cons of Auto Hold
Pro – Not a Bad Substitute for One-Pedal Driving
One could easily argue that when you don’t have one-pedal driving, a feature like auto hold on the MG is a pretty decent substitute. Once you’ve stopped, you can take your foot off the pedals and relax while you wait. When you’re waiting for longer periods at traffic lights, intersections, or in non-moving traffic jams, it provides a nice alternative to having to activate the full parking brake, allowing you a quick and easy way to move on instantly when the time comes.
Pro – Easy to Use
It might not be quite as simple as one-pedal driving, but it’s far from being a complex or confusing feature. You push the button and it’s active, and it will keep your MG EV securely in place whenever you need to stop and wait somewhere. Brake to stop, wait while on hold, and then hit the accelerator to move on. It’s certainly easier than pushing the parking brake over and over.
Pro – Effective on All Road Conditions
Drivers don’t need to worry about how steep any slopes on the road are. As long as the feature is active, it will hold on up- or downhill slopes, if the road is wet, or icy, or in other conditions. It’s as effective as having the regular parking brake on.
Con – Still Requires Regular Braking
The main downside to this feature is that it requires the driver to still press on the brake pedal to come to a complete stop. This means that if the situation demands that the driver frequently press on the brake and accelerator, then it’s still quite irritating, even if they don’t have to activate the parking brake each time when they stop.
Con – Need to Remember to Push the Button
You only need to press it once and then it’s active the whole time, but you still have to remember each time to activate the function in order to benefit from it. This can easily become a habit, so it’s just a small problem, but it’s still something to potentially forget; still something to potentially go wrong. Car’s with their regenerative braking and one-pedal settings established don’t need to be reprogrammed every time.
Does a Lack of One-Pedal Driving Go Against the MG EVs?
There’s no evidence to seriously suggest that the lack of any “true” one-pedal driving is going to hold back the range of MG electric vehicles. Indeed, the MG4 has been lauded not only as the cheapest, but one of the best-looking and fun-to-drive compact vehicles on the market today, electric or otherwise.
A quick glance at the early reviews for new MG EVs suggest that they’re getting enough right in their car design to the point where the lack of a one-pedal drive system isn’t a problem for them at all. Alternatively, it could be that customers just care about these systems far less than some imagine.
It’s easy to assume that having regenerative braking and a one-pedal driving system is the be-all and end-all to car design when some OEMs have pushed it so hard. MG have clearly made a decision that there are more important things to consider and get right, and that you can offer less than full one-pedal driving and still deliver enough to satisfy drivers.
In fairness, it remains a valid criticism of MG to say that it’s disappointing or a “Con” of the MG EV range to not include one-pedal driving. It’s especially valid when you consider that it has been a pretty standard function of popular models like the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model 3 for a long time now, and it clearly would matter a lot more to those who frequently drive in heavy traffic and thus benefit from the feature. Clearly, however, it’s still not getting in MG’s way.