Maxus is a name usually associated with the light commercial vehicle market, but the Mifa 9 marks the Chinese brand's shift into the passenger car segment with a striking fully electric MPV. Available in either seven- or eight-seat configurations and with a sizeable 90kWh battery, it's a natural alternative to the SUVs that dominate the large electric car market.
In the metal
The Mifa 9 is a large vehicle measuring 5.2 metres in length, so it's longer than the extended Volkswagen Multivan and dwarfs other MPVs such as the SEAT Alhambra and Ford Galaxy. Visually it is every bit as arresting, but the black paintwork does little to disguise its size. With a fully electric powertrain decreasing the need for large front air intakes, it still has a high nose more akin to an SUV's rather than the sloping front more typically associated with people carriers. An LED daytime running lightbar spans the front of the car with additional lighting tucked into the creases of the front bumper.
A chrome splitter on the base of the front rises to meet the inset light clusters adding to the upright nature of the design. That chrome accent continues from the front wings along the beltline and up to the roof via the back of the electrically operated rear doors. Such is the size of the Mifa 9 that the 19-inch wheels appear small. Nevertheless, they are styled to be aerodynamic while retaining enough tyre sidewall to provide a comfortable and quiet ride.
In side profile and from behind, the Mifa 9 is more than a bit van-like, which is unlikely to appeal to the SUV set. From a practical standpoint this car packs a lot in, with large sliding doors making it easy to get in and out of the rear. As is so frequently the case these days, there is a light bar spanning the full breadth of the back, with rear lights that curve downwards along the car's edges.
There are few physical controls inside the Mifa 9, with a cabin setup that features a small digital instrument display directly in front of the driver and a larger touchscreen perched atop the centre of the dash. A two-spoke steering wheel features controls for audio and some driver assistance functions. Climate controls use touch-sensitive areas on the centre console, similar to the Nissan Ariya. A surprising amount of the car's functionality is done through the centre console, even things such as headlights and the blind for the glass roof.
It is a car that's as much about the passenger space in the back as it is that in the front seats. The middle row in this particular specification features two electrically adjustable seats that could be taken directly from the business class cabin of an airplane. With colour touchscreens built into the armrest for adjusting them in every conceivable way, these are some of the most comfortable seats available anywhere in the industry today. There is enough room to walk between them to gain access to the bench seats of the third row. Boot space is compromised when the third-row seating is in use, but there is a fair number of storage areas throughout the rest of the cabin.
Our time with the Mifa 9 was limited on this occasion and confined to a closed circuit, so we will have to wait until later in the year to understand better how it performs on the public road. What was immediately apparent is that the electric motor has ample performance to make the Maxus feel reasonably brisk compared to diesel cars of a similar size. From a standing start, it accelerates cleanly and has a good level of regenerative braking when lifting your foot off the accelerator. Maxus says that the average energy consumption figure is 17.9kWh/100 kilometres, which is respectable given the car's size.
The steering is light if lacking a little in feel, but the Mifa 9 has a sufficient level of manoeuvrability for its size. The weight of the Maxus does make itself known in corners, though, which discourages you from more enthusiastic driving, but that's not what this car's remit is; transporting its occupants in comfort from A to B is, and in that regard, it seems more than up to the job.
What you get for your money
The Irish pricing and specifications for the Mifa 9 are in the process of being finalised ahead of it going on sale later this year. It is likely to be offered in several interior configurations to suit different uses, including the more luxurious setup tested here, which would be popular with the chauffeur market. Given its equipment levels and battery size, a price well north of €70,000 could be likely.
A larger capacity battery is expected to join the offering in 2023, possibly increasing the driving range beyond 600 kilometres. While private hire companies may be keen on the Mifa 9, the public taxi sector could be interested too given the current grants available. However, Maxus has confirmed that the Mifa 9 is not available for mobility conversion at present due to the placement of the battery pack, though the company has said it is investigating alternative options.
The Maxus Mifa 9 is an interesting newcomer to what is a relatively niche segment of the market at present. Its likely pricing and specification puts it more on the radar of business users and companies than family buyers, but it still promises to be a useful vehicle.