Review : MG ZS EV

MG has been on a bit of journey in the UK since we last checked in with the company. Now an importer and without Longbridge as its centre of operations, it’s very much cutting its cloth to suit. Gone are the days of bullish managers telling us it’s going to be a new British Alfa Romeo or SEAT, instead there’s a pragmatism about this new slimmed-down MG – and a plan to start selling cars here that people actually want to buy. Should we be taking more notice?

On the face of it, yes, probably. The hottest ticket in town is the electric SUV. Buyers, it seems, can’t get enough of what we used to call crossovers, and many are at least beginning to consider the idea of getting an electric car. And rather fortuitously, MG has a product to tap the zeitgeist, priced to undercut all of its opposition (of which there is very little right now). If you’re thinking of turning electric and have about £270 per month to spend, you have very few options right now… can MG make something out of this golden opportunity?

Based on the existing ZS SUV, the EV version isn’t changed significantly. The platform was designed from the outset with electrification in mind and, fussy styling aside, it’s pitched to those looking for an electric car, but don’t want to make too much of a statement about it. We’ll return to the value for money proposition because at a cash price of £28,495 (before government Plug-in Car Grant), it’s one of the cheapest EVs on sale right now, and considerably larger and more usable than all of those cars it competes against. There’s a good page on Parkers that shows what it’s up against for the money.

Significantly, the MG ZS EV was the first Chinese car sold in the UK to earn a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating. This is down to the inclusion of adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, lane-keeping assist and lane-departure warning, speed limit assist and traffic jam assist. That’s a significant achievement in the development of the brand, and proof that Chinese carmakers have caught up with the Europeans in this area.

But is that enough? Would we take one over something like a Nissan Leaf or a Vauxhall Corsa-e? Read on…

What’s it like to drive?

Your view of how the MG ZS EV drives will be very much based on whether you’ve driven an electric car before or not. For EV newbies, it’s going to take a little getting used to its silent start-up and instant throttle response. And, as for its performance, it’s very typical EV – quick take-off and acceleration, and beautifully-smooth power delivery before tailing off at the top end. It takes 8.5 seconds to accelerate from 0-62mph from rest, but has a low maximum speed of 87mph. Does anyone need more in the UK?

What this all means is that, like all budget EVs, this is not a car for long motorway trips or a quick dash overseas. If you want that, you’re going to need a Hyundai Kona Electric, Kia e-Niro or Tesla Model 3. However, if you’re likely to drive around town, or have limited long-distance travel, then the MG’s performance and 163-mile range will be more than the ticket (MG says it will do nearer 200 in town driving). And it really is good in this situation – zippy acceleration to 30mph, strong motor regeneration (so you can comfortably drive it on one pedal, barely touching the brakes) and smooth, silent power delivery.

You actually get three levels of regenerative braking, which are controlled by amusingly-named KERS switch (like an F1 car). Unlike the Nissan Leaf or Tesla Model 3, it won’t come to a compete stop on regen only. Its ride quality is pretty good, cushioning the worst urban ruts and potholes, while making a decent fist of faster A-roads, although body control is disappointing considering MG’s heritage. Handling and steering are where you’d expect them to be – safe, uninspiring and perfectly acceptable for a car of this price and anticipated market. In short, it’s not going to set your pulse racing, but neither does it put a foot wrong.

What’s it like inside?

It’s a B-segment SUV, so you know the drill. A high seating position with a good view forward, decent room for the driver plus three passengers, and a commodious boot that beats rival hatchbacks but won’t touch a typical estate car. But then, can you name an electric estate car? Exactly… Up front, there’s a decent amount of space and the driving position isn’t that bad either.

Actually, the front seats are set a little too high and, although that works well for shorter drivers, for anyone over 6ft tall getting comfortable will be a challenge. A steering wheel that doesn’t adjust for reach as well as rake is unforgiveable in this day and age. In the rear, things are tight if you want three in the back, otherwise there’s little else to complain about. Luggage space is good for its class, and there’s no penalty for it being an EV – you get 448 litres of space, which puts it at the top of the compact SUV class regardless of what powers it. It’s reasonably shaped, but if you want a flat loading area, you’ll need to put the split floor on its highest setting.

The infotainment system is actually pretty good considering the price of the car. It’s decently-sized at 8.0in, and simple to use. It’s a world away from the crash-prone mess you had in the original MG6. It’s good, too, that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are supported, if you’re not one for using factory sat-navs or like using your music library or streaming services on the move. Equipment levels aren’t bad, either, with even the entry-level version covering all the bases.

Notice we’ve not fixated on interior quality? That’s because it’s more than acceptable for the price. If you’re one for soft-touch plastics, they’re all present and correct on the dashboard and the rest of the cabin feels solid and long-lasting. Not inspiring or classy, but certainly functional.

Verdict

The MG ZS is a decent-value small SUV that’s been developed into an excellent EV that’s well-priced and could find its way on to a lot of families’ driveways in the coming years. It’s the right product at the right time for the company, especially considering that BIK tax will be zero for EVs from April 2020. It’s not a car that you’re going to relish long journeys in, but you could say that about any of the EVs offered for similar money. What it works well at is as a family car for town dwellers who don’t have long commutes.

It’s also noteworthy for its long warranty. MG clearly understands – now – that in order to build consumer confidence you need to offer more protection than the opposition. Its seven-year warranty, which matches Kia and SsangYong, looks good for anyone new to MG considering making the move. Yes, most owners don’t actually own their car at all, and will lease or PCP them for three or four years, but it shows good faith, and is transferable to subsequent owners. It’s all quite removed from the MG of 2011…

Time, then, to answer our original question: would we have one over one of its smaller but similarly-priced rivals? If we wanted to go ‘green’ and had a growing family, then based purely on its packaging and abilities, it’s hard to argue against an MG ZS EV at its current price.

Keith Adams

17 Comments

  1. MG are getting there and a seven year warranty will tempt some buyers over from Kia. Also the ZS looks very much like a Kia crossover and having an electric version shows how serious MG are about winning new sales. The company certainly has come a long way from the MG6 with its single engine option and dubious quality, but the same could be said of the Koreans in the nineties, who sold some dreadful, crude cars.

    • SUVs don’t do much for me, but MG have found a niche in the market after the failure of the 3 and the 6. Also the dealer in Penrith seems to be doing well (before that, it was a trip to Newcastle if you were desperate enough to want a 6).

      • Just a quick point of information – having only today discovered that a complete list of all the franchisees in MG Motor UK Limited’s Dealer Network is once again available on the company’s website, I checked and found that there is no longer an MG dealer in Penrith. Here’s the relevant link:

        MG Motor UK Limited: Dealer Network – March 2020

        I therefore undertook a little additional research – although Ullswater Road Garage Limited in Penrith was appointed as an MG dealer back in July 2015, the company no longer holds the franchise. However, the company was appointed as a SsangYong dealer in October 2013 and still has that franchise.

  2. Is the MG3 a failure? We’ve had an MG dealer in Minehead for a couple of years and there seems to be quite a few running round here.

    • The MG3 did have a bigger following than the 6, but was never a serious contender. At least MG now have spotted a gap in the market for a cheap SUV with a long warranty and high equipment levels. I know an MG ZS will always mean a sporting version of the Rover 45 to people on here, but the name will probably mean a cheap SUV to younger people. Like it or not, these cars sell in big numbers.

    • Loads round here too, due to the cheap insurance and the good dealer back up. 15 years now since the “real MG” passed. Time to move on.

  3. It’s been getting reasonable reviews in the mainstream motoring press and it’s probably the cheapest, useable electric car out there. But, let’s face it, when you think about this car and its MG badge you think budget offering from China – there is absolutely no association, real or even perceived with the MG that existed pre-2005. By the way, what body control did a leaf sprung, lever-arm-damped MGB have?

  4. I agree with what’s been said here. I was an old school 2003 ZS owner. My sister in law has a recent MG ZS petrol and seems happy with it. A few more dealers seem to be appearing in the north East and I see more MG’s on the roads.

    Yesterday I saw an HS on display in a shopping centre (at first glance it looks same as the ZS). I am not a potential SUV or EV owner but can see that’s the way things are going… like them or not.

  5. I remain very pleased with my MG3 after five years and 45,000 miles. Virtually nothing has gone wrong, it is nippy, handles and steers beautifully, has plenty of room in the back and returns 42mpg. I’m glad mine was amongst the earlier examples that underwent a little bit of assembly at Longbridge.

    • Sadly, despite MG suggesting otherwise, I don’t think any 3s were actually finished off here, in the same way that the current Sales & Marketing Manager had seemingly forgotten that the company had closed down it’s Longbridge technical centre in a recent Autocar interview!

  6. We have two MG dealers within 20 miles of each other here – and we see a fair few 3’s – with the HS and its variations growing in popularity – this is a small Cotswold town and I know of at least 5 sitting on drives right now. I’m amused by the comment about the MG heritage and it’s body control – of the MGB. This is a car that handled brilliantly for (very) little money in its day (about 50 years ago!!!). Forgive me, but why is that be relevant to a modern MG? We’ve looked around at getting a new car (though not an EV) as a back up for our classic fleet – the MG HS is winning hands down at present. We can’t get an EV because I do too many long trips at present.

  7. This electric version is probably the most “competitive” in relation to its competition that any of the Chinese era MGs have been

    A shame about the badge though, it just feels wrong to have such a badge now basically being used to sell a range of budget vehicles

  8. Excellent review, good to read it. So with the discount, like for like, the EV version is about £8000-£9000 more. After looking at a few EV man videos on youtube, it would seem that over 100k miles, the (fuel) cost would level this out to be be broadly the same, so it is all down to usage pattern.

    It will be interesting to see how well the 168 mile range proves accurate. For the last 5 years ( 75k miles)I have been driving a small LPG converted hatchback, the spare wheel well restricts the tank size to give a gas range of between 170 and 200 miles, depending on conditions. So not so very different to these lower end EV’s. A little like charge points, LPG is not available everywhere, but you soon get used to planning longer trips around this fact, it will be no different for the ZS EV. In the 5 years I’ve run out of gas about 3 times, and had to use some petrol to get to the next gas filling place, I guess EV users just have to plan a little more.
    !68 miles should be enough for most peoples daily commute I would think.

Add to the debate: leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.