First drive: LDV Mifa 9

  • LDV MIFA 9
  • Price range: $79,990 (Clean Car Discount: $8,625) to $119,990
  • Powertrains: Single front-axle-mounted permanent magnet synchronous motor with a 90kWh battery, 180kW/350Nm, 430km range (WLTP), FWD.
  • Body style: MPV, 7-seater people mover
  • On sale: Now, arrivals expected late February

As part of their transition into a mainly (and then totally) electrically powered commercial and passenger fleet, NZ LDV distributors Great Lake Motor Distributors (GLMD) have released their all-new and all-electric 7-seater people mover, the MIFA 9 – and we got to drive it.

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LDV sees an opportunity in the rise of EVs, particularly with the public shifting away from 'traditional' brands.

Dave McLeod/Stuff

LDV sees an opportunity in the rise of EVs, particularly with the public shifting away from ‘traditional’ brands.

The thirst for electric vehicles in New Zealand has gained plenty of traction over recent years and the government’s Clean Car Discount has only added fuel to this seemingly unquenchable fire, with EVs now becoming regular entries into NZ’s top 10 ‘models by volume’ list.

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What’s more, when it comes to EVs, it would seem that the NZ public are becoming more liberal in terms of brands, happily switching off from what they particularly know, and embracing this new technology from a myriad of ‘lesser known’ marques – And this is where LDV sees an opportunity.

Already having a strong lineup of electric models in the commercial space (a vanminibus and even a ute) LDV is now looking to capitalize on NZ’s rapid EV market growth in the passenger sector by launching their Mifa 9 people mover.

LDV says the name stands for Maximum, Intelligence, Friendly and Artistic, with the 9 representing premium and it’s the world’s first, full-size pure electric MPV.

Available in New Zealand in three specific variants, Elite, Luxury and Premium, (so from great to exceptional), the new Mifa 9 offers features and refinement that are good enough to make some of the most premium of Euro brands sit up and take note .

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Boasting a clean design and distinctive lines, all three variants come with slim LED headlights and daytime running lights, plus a gaping lower valance that all combine to create a somewhat unique visage. Signature rear LEDs, dynamic indicators, and a power tailgate (model-dependent) give additional credence to this EV’s modern flavor.

The Miifa 9 is powered by a 90kWh Ternary Lithium battery that’s been produced by China’s largest battery maker CATL. This in turn drives a front-axle-mounted permanent magnet synchronous motor (180kW/350Nm) that will take this nearly 2.5-tonne MPV from 0-100kph in 8.9 seconds and offers a claimed range of 430km. It has both AC (11kW) and DC charging up to 90kW, offering a 30-80% charge in around thirty minutes.

Behind it all, Mifa 9 sits on an advanced, modern, skateboard platform and either 18 or 19-inch wheels that have self-sealing tires if you grab the Premium mode. Dimensionally it is much bigger than it first appears, with an overall length of 5.27m, 2m width and a height of 1.84m, however, it’s this EV people mover’s 3.2m long wheelbase that is worth highlighting as it allows for a large and spacious interior – and we hear that space is the new luxury.

The rear doors are powered in Luxury and Premium models.

Dave McLeod/Stuff

The rear doors are powered in Luxury and Premium models.

Entry to the Mifa 9 comes via wide opening doors in the front or twin-sliders in the rear (powered in the Luxury or above) and once inside you’re in for a treat – especially if you opt for the Premium, so let’s stick with that.

A front and rear sunroof illuminates the spacious cabin and helps highlight the MPVs premium fit and finish, including (but certainly not limited to) a multi-function, leather, heated steering wheel, digital rearview mirror and wireless mobile charging pad.

The electric MPV’s flowing dash is ideal for those who like a minimalist cabin, with virtually all the apps and features being controlled by a 12.3-inch touchscreen, complete with wired Apple CarPlay and smartphone connectivity, while the key vehicle data is delivered to the driver via a seven-inch digital instrument cluster. There are seven USB-C ports throughout the cabin, a 220V power outlet behind the console and the option of a six, eight or 12-speaker sound system.

The interior is very smart and minimal.

Dave McLeod/Stuff

The interior is very smart and minimal.

While all this is good, things get even better when you head into the back. The Premium variant comes with captain’s chairs that are heated or cooled, will massage you and have a lay-back recline. They also have fold-out tray tables, footrests, and individual touchscreen controls for the multi-zone climate control too – you seriously may never want to drive the Mifa 9.

The seating configuration is a 2-2-3 and the sliding third row seating allows up to 1010 liters of luggage space, even when all 7 seats are filled. And for those who like to tow things, the Mifa 9 is rated for one ton braked, however, this of course will affect the vehicle range.

Where did you drive it?

LDV claims more than 400km of range per charge.

Dave McLeod/Stuff

LDV claims more than 400km of range per charge.

Our route began and ended at the Hilton in Karaka, with a long loop that took in Castaways at Karioitahi Beach and a gratuitous stop (as the electric MPV didn’t need it) at the Bombay fast charger. We managed to get behind the wheel of all three models, enabling us to get a sense of what each variant had to offer.

The Mifa 9 is essentially a get-in-and-go EV, with no start/stop button to bother with thanks to passive entry and passive start. Drive, Park and Reverse are all selected via a stalk behind the steering wheel. Seat comfort is good, great in fact (up to eight-way electric adjustable) and visibility all round is virtually uninhibited, especially since the luxury and premium models come with 360-degree camera views and the latter having a streaming video rearview mirror.

While on that subject, one thing that wasn’t covered before was the amount of driver and safety aids that the Mifa 9 has, to which the list is huge. GLMD anticipates a 5-star ANCAP rating and with just cause, as this electric MPV has everything from adaptive cruise control to rear cross traffic alert. Most of it is subtle and helpful, however, the lane keeping alert system was immediately way too sensitive and produces a loud and annoying beep that will have the most cautious of you reaching to disable.

Rear occupants get a touchpad to control their seat massage functions.

Dave McLeod/Stuff

Rear occupants get a touchpad to control their seat massage functions.

As an added bonus, at least for some, while you are watching the road the Mifa 9 is watching you, with a driver attention and fatigue camera fitted to the A-pillar. And for those making a call (hands-free, of course) the Mifa 9 will automatically close the windows for you as a courtesy.

As expected, the EV power is instant and propels the MIFA 9 forward at drink-spilling speeds and comfortably continues up to national speed limits. Once there, the road and wind noise is minimal, meaning that conversations can be conducted without the need to raise your voice.

Cornering, even at a reasonable pace, is flat, although if pushed you can get the tires to squeal a little, (I must remember that this is an MPV and not a sports car), and the steering itself offers enough weight and resistance to ensure you feel like you’re in control.

There's plenty of instant torque thanks to the electric motor, although changing the regenerative braking requires figuring out the menus.

Dave McLeod/Stuff

There’s plenty of instant torque thanks to the electric motor, although changing the regenerative braking requires figuring out the menus.

When it comes to regenerative braking there are a couple of levels available, but you do have to go looking through the vehicle menus to select (if there is an obvious shortcut I couldn’t find it), and the menus themselves do take a bit of figuring out – nothing you wouldn’t get used to, however.

What’s the pick of the range?

The answer to this lies in what drives you personally. The top-spec Premium comes dripping with features and luxury and really is the model that you’d prefer to be driven in rather than drive. The Luxury offers almost as much as the Premium, with a great blend of posh and practicality. But for me, the Elite is where it’s at. The Elite comes with the same powertrain and ride, it’s not exactly lacking in specifications and offers the best value when it comes to price – AND gives you the $8625 discount!

Why would I buy it?

This is the first and currently, only pure EV people mover in NZ and (depending on the model), comes with more features than you’ll probably ever use. The range is great, refinement is extraordinary, and running costs are minimal – compared to fossil fuel.

Why wouldn’t I buy it?

Currently, people movers are not a huge vehicle segment in NZ with most families still purchasing SUVs (of all shapes and sizes) and making do. Added to this, a ‘fully-laden’ EV may put pressure on those range numbers.

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