MG Comet EV is a small but significant disruption in India’s urban mobility landscape
Navigating through India’s congested and bustling urban spaces can be a harrowing experience, with traffic, pollution, and parking woes making it a challenging task for even the most seasoned driver. Gridlock is a common scene in almost all cities, but the sheer number of vehicles in our country makes navigating through the urban jungle a particularly frustrating task. According to a survey conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment in 2019, around 90% of cars in India are occupied only by the driver during peak hours, and this high rate of single-occupancy vehicles is a major contributor to traffic congestion and air pollution. The need for a sustainable and efficient mobility solution that can tackle these issues has never been greater, and MG Motors has stepped out on the streets to walk the talk. Literally.
The manufacturer’s latest offering, Comet EV, is coming in all guns blazing with a vision of disrupting the very essence of what we see as urban mobility. And after spending some time with what has got to be the most unique new car in the Indian market in a long while, here are our first impressions.
MG Comet EV First Drive:
With a sub-3 metre length and a modern take on the cube-like tallboy design philosophy, the Comet EV’s design is unlike any other car in the Indian market. It’s a 2-door 4-seater, and a head turner for sure. No matter where we took it, we had people stopping us in the middle of the road and at traffic signals to enquire about it. Walking up to the Comet EV, the first thing you’d probably notice is the huge light bar that runs across the front, wrapping around the sides and morphing into the ORVMs. The piano black inserts around the light bar add a touch of elegance to an otherwise quirky and funky design, and the low vertically stacked LED headlamps give the vehicle a peculiar, yet fresh fascia that’s hard to ignore. The charging port at the front, positioned under the light bar, is covered by a glowing MG logo, and the indicator lights housed in the lower part of the front bumper round up a design language that’s sure to elicit love-hate feelings amongst purists.
The profile accentuates the boxy tall boy look and features vertically oriented door handles, airplane-like rear window, and tiny 12″ wheels that give it the toy car vibe. The dual tone white and black paint scheme on our test car made the Comet EV look like a panda, and the contrasting roof does wonders to break the monotony of the side profile. At the rear, Comet is a bit more subdued with its styling, with a full length horizontal light bar once again dominating the design. The LED tail lamps look rather similar to the headlamps, creating a coherent overall design, and the addition of a small roof mounted spoiler livens things up further. But if originality and uniqueness is a priority for you, MG will also be providing loads of customisation options through decals, stickers, and interior trim additions, to make your Comet EV truly yours. The overall design is striking to say the least, although it may not be for everyone. The youthfulness of the design is refreshing and distinct. And whether you love it or not, you just can’t ignore it. (Click here to watch a quick video).
On the inside, MG has done wonders with the Comet EV. Minimalism is the mantra, and it evokes a feeling of zen and calm – thanks to the uncluttered layout of the dashboard, the white & grey colour theme of the cabin and the gigantic windscreen and side windows that let in ample light. It makes the cabin seem refreshingly large, airy and bright. Materials used feel solid and pleasant to touch, except for some scratchy plastics in a few places. We especially loved the knurled metal effect on the rotary drive selector dial, although the manual parking brake feels a bit clunky and is definitely not in line with the rest of the cabin design. The iPod inspired steering buttons give the cockpit experience a gaming console-like appeal rather than a serious set of wheel. Which is a good thing, and adds to its youthfulness.
The interconnected dual 10.25″ screens are the piece de resistance of the cabin, and their design is highly reminiscent of the systems seen in many Mercedes models. (Click here to watch a quick video). The AC vents are finished in a brushed aluminium finish with rotary dials for the HVAC controls placed underneath. However, the placement of the central AC vents is such that some of the airflow to the driver gets blocked by the steering wheel. Both the infotainment system and the digital instrument cluster are high resolution screens with sharp graphics that are easy to view on the move, although once again, the dual spoke steering wheel does block the view of the instrument cluster somewhat. The instrument cluster itself is bright and displays useful information about the car’s range, battery voltage and regen level, in addition to displaying the speed. It would have been nicer if navigation and media playback was also integrated into it. The infotainment system is easy to use, and the Comet EV gets wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, which is a sweet addition in this segment. Other features include a tire pressure monitoring system, rear parking sensors, reversing camera, keyless entry and start. Actually, MG has completely done away with the start stop button, and just pressing the brake pedal twice turns the car on, and putting it in neutral and unlocking the car turns it off. Some missing features include automatic climate control and wireless charging, which would have appealed to young buyers. Thankfully, MG has not skimped in terms of safety, and the Comet EV comes with two airbags, ABS and EBD.
For a micro EV, Comet squeezes in a decent amount of space in the cabin, which is partly due to the fact that this car has been built ground up as a pure electric. The lack of transmission tunnel means front passengers get loads of foot space, although shoulder space can be a bit tight due to the narrow footprint of the car. The front seats are comfortable with enough support and bolstering, but one may feel the absence of a central armrest at some point.
At the rear, things are however a bit different, with the seats strictly meant for short haul in-city rides. Headroom is decent at the back and there’s even enough legroom for averagely built adults, but the shallow seat base means there isn’t a lot of under thigh support. Children and smaller built adults would be very comfortable, but for tall passengers, longer drives may feel a bit cramped. Ingress and egress is aided by the extra wide door opening, and a single motion push/ pull lever that slides the front seats forward and back. It takes a few attempts to get a hang of it, but once you have mastered it, you can easily get into the back seat without much stress. (Click here to watch a quick video).
Despite the limited space, the Comet EV doesn’t feel claustrophobic at all, thanks to the addition of clever aircraft-like windows for rear passengers, and a tall windscreen that floods the cabin with lot of light. Storage inside the cabin does suffer due to the compact size, and the Comet doesn’t come with a glovebox or a conventional boot. But it has a horizontal storage slot in the front (to keep your phone and wallet), couple of cup holders, large door pockets, bag hangers, and a bit of space behind the rear seats where you can slide in a laptop bag and store the charging cables. (Click to watch video). The only way to carry any amount of actual luggage in the Comet is by folding down the rear seats, which splits 50:50 and gives you flexibility to seat a single passenger at the rear along with some cargo. With both seats folded, the Comet has adequate space for some light-medium luggage and can actually carry two golf sets at a time.
When it comes to driving, the Comet EV delivers what it promises. (Click here to watch a quick video). MG has been vocal from the outset about its target audience and how the small EV is designed primarily as an intra-city mobility solution. As an electric city run-about, it shines. The Comet EV is powered by a small 17.3 kWh battery pack which sends power to the rear wheels, and comes with 40 bhp, 110 Nm of torque and a claimed range of about 230 kms on a single charge. The battery unfortunately misses out on DC fast charging, and MG claims the estimated 0-100% charge time on a 3.3 kWh charger is about 7 hours, with 10-80% charged in 5 hours. In our short drive of about 100+ kms, the Comet EV showed a range (when fully charged) of about 200 kms, which is pretty close to MG’s claims, although we’d have to spend more time with the car to fully evaluate the battery’s efficiency across different drive and regen modes.
Comet EV isn’t designed for enthusiastic drives, but driving around the city is a breeze. Initial acceleration is strong thanks to the low kerb weight, tapers once you get into mid double digit speeds, after which the acceleration is pretty relaxed. It tops out at about 100 km/h, which is more than enough for most intra-city situations. While it starts to feel a bit anxious at higher speeds, day-to-day driving challenges can be handled with ease. The steering is amazingly light – light enough to use with just a finger, and the manoeuvrability of the car is evident after just a few minutes of driving. It is easy to zip past traffic and fit into the tightest of parking spots, and the 4.2m turning radius is the cherry on top. There are three drive modes – Normal, Eco and Sport; although the difference isn’t overwhelmingly evident. It’s best to stick with Normal for daily driving. Three levels of regen braking is also available. While they do provide progressively more regen, we would have liked the highest setting to be a bit more sharper, when lifting the foot off the pedal.
During our short drive, what stood out as perhaps the only con was the firm suspension setup, which is partly due to the small tires with minimal compliance. While the suspension is smooth and comfortable on good stretches of road and in medium speeds, going over potholes sends reverberations around the whole cabin, and you feel major imperfections in the road quite distinctly inside the cabin. Speed humps were an especially jolting experience, and it’s best to slow down as much as possible when navigating the vehicle over major road irregularities. A minor blip on an otherwise well-rounded product promise.
So what’s unique about the Comet? Well, just about everything. And that’s why it is hard (and maybe a bit unfair) to judge this micro EV with the same yardstick with which we judge other cars. MG, in its own words, has tried to ‘cut the crap’ with he introduction of the Comet EV by providing a select group of prospective buyers everything they might need in a modern mobility solution. It looks fresh, distinct, has a K-Pop like appeal, with a personality that’s cute, bright and upbeat. The cabin, small as it may be, provides ample room for two adults, with nearly sufficient space for two more as well. The interior is well designed and well appointed, and while some value added features may have been given the miss, it has more than what you would expect. What you really need in a car on a daily basis, is all in there. With an easy to drive persona, incredibly low running costs (average monthly charging costs turn out to be just about INR 519 only) and a rather commendable real world range for a car this size, there isn’t much that the Comet EV can’t do.
MG has announced the starting price of the Comet EV, and the range kicks off from INR 7.98 lacs (ex-showroom), with deliveries beginning by mid-May 2023. With this aggressive pricing, Comet EV undercuts its closest rival, the Tata Tiago EV by almost INR 70,000, to claim the position of the cheapest passenger EV in the country. With pricing as attractive as this, MG may just be able to persuade a lot of early adopters to buy into the compact EV lifestyle. Those buying into the experience would most likely be satisfied, as this one is a pro-planet all-rounder that is designed around our city needs of today. If the pricing still feels premium to some, it would average out in quick time, thanks to the next to negligible operational costs.
To sum up, the launch of Comet EV is a watershed moment for the Indian auto industry. Small yet significant. A moment that instantly democratises electric mobility for masses in urban centres. And it is a timely antidote to the many mobility and environmental challenges we are faced with today. (Click here for our first impression video).