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In-depth reviews

MG ZS review - Engines, drive & performance

The MG ZS has soft suspension and disappointing performance, making it a sedate choice

Carbuyer Rating

3.0 out of 5

Owners Rating

3.8 out of 5

Read owner reviews
Engines, drive & performance Rating

2.5 out of 5

Driven gently, the MG ZS will be adequate for most drivers, with soft suspension that soaks up bumps reasonably well. However, with increased speed, less desirable handling characteristics become apparent – notably a swaying sensation. While this won’t be apparent when simply cruising along, it does cause fairly pronounced body lean when cornering briskly, which detracts from driving enjoyment.

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When fitted with the larger wheels of the range-topping Exclusive model, the ZS can also develop a firmness, struggling to maintain its composure where the Citroen C3 Aircross would remain smooth.

The ZS can also pitch fore and aft when braking or accelerating, so the ZS never feels truly composed when being driven quickly. The steering seems to have been set up for a sportier feel. It's relatively heavy and made even more so if you engage 'Dynamic' mode. Doing this doesn't bring any increase in feedback, so things feel rather disjointed as a result; we’d recommend leaving it set to ‘Urban’ which allows easier manoeuvring and a more nimble feel on crowded city streets.

MG ZS petrol engines

MG ZS buyers can choose from two petrol engines. The least expensive is a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder of fairly conventional design, connected to a five-speed manual gearbox. However, MG expects most customers to go for the more sophisticated three-cylinder 1.0-litre engine, which can now be chosen with a six-speed manual or dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

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This engine was developed jointly with General Motors and produces 108bhp. Performance is adequate rather than sparkling: 0-62mph takes 11.2 seconds (12.4 seconds for the automatic), while a top speed of 112mph means a high motorway cruising speed doesn't pose too much of a problem. It's an impressively quiet engine, too. The downsides are that the automatic gearbox isn't as responsive as we'd like – it hesitates noticeably when you accelerate and occasionally picks the wrong gear. And, perhaps because the engine has to work quite hard, it's not particularly economical.

With less pulling power and being slightly heavier, the 1.0-litre ZS can’t match the equivalent Citroen C3 Aircross or SEAT Arona for pace, particularly when accelerating between 50-70mph in top gear, where the ZS took twice as long as the Arona in our testing.

Electric motor

The MG ZS EV is also offered, and with between 154bhp and 174bhp it’s much faster than the petrol versions, racing from 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds. In reality it feels even quicker, especially around town where the electric motor reacts instantly, and there’s smooth acceleration without the need for gear changes. Read our in-depth review of the MG ZS EV for more comprehensive look at the all-electric version.

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Andy is Carbuyer's managing editor, with more than a decade of experience helping consumers find their perfect car. He has an MA in automotive journalism and has tested hundreds of vehicles.

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