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CAR OF THE WEEK: Luxury before looks in ‘ugly’ Maxus

March 22nd, 2024 8:00 PM

CAR OF THE WEEK: Luxury before looks in ‘ugly’ Maxus Image

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THERE’S no softer way to say this, but in my eyes the Maxus Mifa 9 is probably the ugliest car I’ve driven in years. Ever, even. But then, there’s no accounting for style tastes. Mine included.

The Mifa 9 is built in China by the SAIC carmaker. In today’s European crossover-centric automotive market, it is an unusual beast as a people-carrier — otherwise an MPV or multi-purpose-vehicle. Leaving its looks aside, I’m not sure where the Mifa 9 fits here.

Launched on its home market specifically as a ‘luxurious electric van’ (read van as MPV, like the American-speak ‘minivan’) it has been rolled out in other Asian markets and Australia.

Ireland-UK is one of the ‘selected’ European markets where it has also been launched.

The vehicle — I hesitate to call it a car — has visual impact. Big, longer, and wider by a significant amount than a Range Rover, for instance, the flat front has a scoopy apron that suggests a relationship with a megamouth shark, a fish which coincidentally averages the same length as the Mifa 9. The slab-sided profile is distinctively bisected by a chrome detail, and the rear is, well, square.

The shape as a rectangular box is good for interior space, especially with that length and the associated long wheelbase. It’s easy for tall drivers like me to get in and out of, with none of the head-banging I too often have to endure. It has good visibility to front and sides, important when operating a big vehicle in traffic and urban spaces.

The dashboard and instrumentation styling is quite simplified, a smallish screen for driver information and a not much larger centre infotainment one.

Main climate controls are haptic types built into a decorative strip on the lower dash. They’re not bad, but I still prefer knobs. As to the infotainment screen itself, I’m still of the opinion that in general Chinese carmakers haven’t got these sorted, but in this case at least there’s a fast access to setting the driver assist preferences before driving off. The interior rear-view ‘mirror’ is a screen from a rear-mounted camera. It suffered a bit from shiny surface-reflected glare, but it did give a wide-view appreciation of what was happening on the road behind.

The Mifa 9’s width allows generous front seats, and they’re comfortable too. A large storage section between them is a kind of double-deck affair. Access to the seats in the rear — the Mifa 9 offers a total capacity of seven people — is via electrically-operated sliding doors.

The middle two seats cause a double-take when first viewed, the immediate thought being of a brace of ‘thrones’, each with solid high arms, and which can be electrically rotated to face backwards for a lounge effect with the other 3-occupant seating. That last can be folded in a 60:40 split if not in use. Those middle seats also have iPhone-like screens in the armrests to manage various configurations, heating and stuff. With all seats in use, even in this very long vehicle there’s not much storage in the cargo area. Flipping the rear seat-backs does allow more space for cases, although with a far-from-flat floor.

The Mifa 9 has ‘luxury’ ambitions and pricing, but while there’s some ‘wow!’ detailing, the overall trim sense does not take it to the level we appreciate from traditional European luxury carmakers. (On the other hand the BYD Seal, which I’ll be reviewing shortly, will show that China does know how to challenge the likes of Mercedes and BMW in this respect.)

The Mifa 9 was launched as an all-electric vehicle, though in its home market a combustion-engined version has since appeared.

The rated range of the review car is 430km, with an energy consumption of around 21kWh/100km. A tested real world range is closer to 365km and a consumption of 23kWh/100km. When I picked up the car, the 100% charge suggested 308m, so I’m reckoning that above lower range is closer to the mark.

Driving the Mifa 9 was quite a positive experience, very together, swift when needed, and silent. It isn’t a vehicle that invites being thrown around, and I never felt an inclination to do so. But for the long motorway haul it is very comfortable, especially for those monarchs in the middle seats.

I still don’t know, though, where the  buyer cohort is in Ireland. Since it arrived early last year, eight have been registered in this country. So it seems the market itself hasn’t sussed it either.

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