MG ZS EV SUV
"The MG ZS EV could be a surprise hit thanks to its powerful motor, excellent practicality and bargain price"
- An affordable EV
- Improved drive
- Cheap interior feel
- Wallowy handling
- No companion app
You may or may not know that the MG brand was rekindled around a decade ago, or that the MG ZS is the firm's attempt to rival the Renault Captur and SEAT Arona. Regardless, it's this version - the MG ZS EV, that's best placed to put the British marque back on the map, transforming the small SUV from an also-ran into a serious contender.
That's because MG's rather lukewarm petrol engines have been replaced with an electric motor and a battery pack, offering better performance, significantly lower running costs and an altogether nicer driving experience. With 141bhp and 353Nm of torque on tap the instant you prod the accelerator pedal, it's four seconds faster from 0-62mph than the petrol engine version and a whole lot more refined too.
Under the floor MG has fitted a 44.5kWh battery pack, that's good for a 163-mile combined range and around 231 miles in the city. This roughly matches the entry-level Nissan Leaf, and 50kW charging means it can be topped back up to 80% in just 40 minutes. Those aren't bad figures at all, but it's the ZS EV's price that's likely to attract buyers in the first place, undercutting the rival Leaf by around £3,000.
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It's inside where MG's cost saving measures are most obvious, with some cheaper looking plastics and a steering wheel you can adjust vertically, but not pull closer or push further away. The basics are here, though, with an eight-inch touchscreen complete with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity as standard, along with 17-inch alloy wheels, DAB radio and sat nav. The top Exclusive trim level adds a panoramic sunroof, rear-view camera, heated seats and leather-style upholstery.
Practicality is a strong point too, thanks to a 448-litre boot that's unaffected by the move to electric power and seating with lots of headroom. It's a family EV with few compromises and the top trim even has roof rails to attach your bikes, kayak or camping gear. More safety equipment than the standard MG ZS also pays dividends, improving its Euro NCAP safety rating from three to five stars.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The MG ZS EV is offered with just one size of battery pack, but with a 44.5kWh capacity it should be well-suited to the car's target audience. It enables a driving range of up to 163 miles, which is almost exactly the same as the Nissan Leaf (168 miles), but quite a bit down on the more expensive Hyundai Kona Electric's 200-mile range with a 39kWh battery pack. Interestingly, the ZS EV's quoted WLTP range for city driving is 231 miles, so if you don't regularly drive on faster roads it's possible to go quite a bit longer between charges.
When its batteries are low, the ZS EV is compatible with charging at up to 50kW, so it can be charged from flat to 80% in around 40 minutes at public rapid charging stations. However, the CCS/Type 2 charging port is found under the flip-up front grille, so if you like reversing into spaces you'll be out of luck here. There are no Renault ZOE-style battery leasing costs and a home charging unit is also included for free, adding up to a great value package.
Like all electric cars, VED (road tax) costs nothing, and company-car drivers will like the ZS EV’s 0% Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax liability too. A seven-year warranty is generous, while servicing costs should be lower than petrol models, as MG says maintaining electric cars is “easier and less expensive”.
Engines, drive & performance
The MG ZS' petrol engines and gearboxes are our least favourite parts of the standard model, so swapping them for smooth, powerful electric motor and single-speed transmission is nigh on transformational. Its single motor produces 141bhp and 353Nm of torque, all sent to the front wheels which gets the MG from 0-62mph in 8.5 seconds - almost four seconds quicker than the petrol. Its top speed is 87mph, allowing for easy motorway driving, but reminding us that high-speed cruising isn't necessarily an electric car forte.
Acceleration aside, its driving experience is unremarkable - but that's no bad thing, it's simple and easy to get around in. Most bumps are dealt with by the soft suspension, but this also means the ZS EV can feel slightly wayward at times, with a bit too much body lean.
Interior & comfort
If you're a lover of soft-touch materials, intricate stitching and metallic trim that's reassuringly cool to the touch, look away now. The ZS EV' interior is best described as functional, with hard scratchy plastics and a steering wheel that adjusts for rake but not reach. Whether you mind this or not likely depends on your acceptance that these foibles are the reason the MG ZS EV is so much cheaper than its rivals.
An eight-inch infotainment screen takes pride of place on the central console, and MG's decision to make it compatible with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is sure to go down well with smartphone devotees. It's mounted slightly oddly, though, behind a glass panel that seems badly prone to distracting reflections. There's also no mention of a companion smartphone app for the MG ZS EV yet, so anyone used to checking up on their EV's charging status remotely, or even pre-conditioning the cabin, will be left in the cold.
Considered a part of the wider MG ZS range rather than a standalone model, the EV is offered in Excite and Exclusive trim levels. Both are well equipped, with adaptive cruise control, 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, rear parking sensors, sat nav and DAB radio. Exclusive costs around £2,000 and adds roof rails, a panoramic sunroof, folding door mirrors, leather-style upholstery, heated front seats and a rear-view parking camera.
Practicality & boot space
We're used to hybrid and electric cars being compromised slightly by bulky battery packs, but not so in the ZS EV. You do feel slightly perched in its high-set front seats, but passengers in the back in particular, will certainly be glad of the ZS' space compared with a Renault ZOE or a Vauxhall Corsa-e.
The ZS EV is one of the larger small SUVs on the market, and its 448-litre boot and roof rails should certainly appeal to potential EV buyers who don't want to sacrifice practicality. With 1,375 litres of luggage room with the rear seats folded down, the MG is more roomy than a Nissan Leaf and similar to the more expensive Kia e-Niro. The boot is a useful shape and you can move the floor up and down to prioritise either a level surface or maximum space.
Reliability & safety
It's great to see the MG ZS EV gets more safety kit than standard models, and it will be interesting to see if its electric powertrain can also make it more reliable.
When independent safety experts Euro NCAP tested the regular MG ZS, it only managed a lacklustre three stars out of five, trailing many of its rivals. However, MG's latest safety technology is fitted as standard to the EV version, elevating its crash result to a full five stars. Called MG Pilot, both Excite and Exclusive trims benefit from a suite of driving aids including autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control.
The petrol MG ZS finished a respectable 55th out of the top 75 models in our 2020 Driver Power survey, with positive results for its infotainment, practicality, comfort and exterior design. Running costs and reliability were rated poorly, so it will be interesting to see if the EV can help turn these areas around. More worryingly, 31.1% of all ZS owners reported a fault within the first year, most commonly with electrical gripes.