By Simon Acton, IEVOA Chairperson, August 2021

In late 2020 MG arrived back in Ireland as an all-electric brand, which sets it apart nicely from many of its competitors who still have a lot of ‘baggage’ to ship when it comes to car sales. Earlier this summer I drove the MG ZS for a week in order to get a proper feel for a new car from a once familiar brand.

A little nostalgia

It is probably the best part of 40 years since I last sat in a red MG. As a school boy I was all about the small British sports cars, Triumph, Lotus, Austin and MG, I loved them all. Dad was a big car head and for a while owned a gorgeous red 1970s MGB GT. His Dad, my grandfather, drove a Triumph Spitfire, so fiddling with old sports cars was what the Acton men did in their spare time. Watching and ‘helping’ Dad restore old classics like the MG became very much part of my upbringing and was the spark for my interest in anything with four wheels.

A lot has changed for MG in the meantime as they struggled to remain relevant in a time when most people no longer desired small affordable sports cars and opted instead for practical utility. Through badging ‘sporting’ versions of the Austin Metro, Maestro and Montego in the 1980s (heresy according to Dad) to a brief renaissance with the fun but notoriously unreliable MG F roadster in the late 1990s under BMW ownership. The brand first fell into Chinese ownership in 2006, following then owner Rover going into administration. They continued to produce the F and TF roadster models alongside a number of rebadged Rover saloons and hatchbacks. Finally (for now), MG was taken over by the current state-owned Chinese company SAIC Motor in 2011. Production of a series of bland saloon and hatchback models based on Chinese designs followed which proved popular in the UK but these were never sold in the Irish market.

Fast forward to late 2020 and MG finally re-emerged in Ireland as an all electric brand, to date with three offerings, the plug-in Hybrid MG HS midsize SUV, the fully electric MG 5 estate and the MG ZS EV, a compact SUV and the subject of this review.

First impressions

MG Ireland say ‘The MG ZS EV is Ireland’s first truly affordable, family friendly electric car as a Compact SUV. With five-star Euro NCAP safety, high levels of technology and a seven-year / 150,000km warranty, MG ZS EV is the perfect introduction to electric motoring for new car buyers. Priced from just €28,995’. So, on the face of it there is a lot to like here.

In terms of styling there is nothing outrageous about the MG ZS but it is a good looking car and in my opinion, especially nice in the metallic red.  The ‘stellar field’ front grille with the large MG badge is a nice feature, as is the design of the front and rear lights. For me the diamond cut alloy wheels, whilst an attractive design, are a little too small and do not really fill the arches with 17-inchers standard across the range.  A 19 or 20-inch wheel would really make a statement and it is a shame not to see that as an option at least.

Inside the cabin is surprisingly nice considering the price point, with pleasing use of materials. Everything has a good quality feel from the seats to the steering wheel and controls with everything nicely laid out and easy to reach.  There is plenty of space and headroom both in the front and rear, no issues for adults here, and the panoramic sunroof in the test car gave a great feeling of space and light. There is good visibility for kids in the back with large rear windows and also two ISOFIX points for car seats.  There is decent space in the boot too with 448 litres for luggage and a handy area under the boot floor for tidy storage of charging cables, but strangely no frunk/froot (front trunk/boot) considering the vast amount of unused space I found under the bonnet. 

There are a couple of minor niggles, the dashboard feels a little dated with predominantly manual dials and only a small digital display area in the centre.  It is totally functional and works perfectly well, but this is where you start to see a little where savings have been made. The 8-inch infotainment system is functional but can be a little laggy in comparison with the systems in other cars I have tested. There is also no reach adjustment on the steering wheel which could cause issues for shorter or taller drivers, so it is definitely worth testing that you can get a comfortable driving position if you fit into either of these categories.

Power comes from a 105kW (143bhp) motor offering 353Nm of instant torque and a 44.5kWh battery pack giving a WLTP driving range of 263km. Performance wise acceleration is brisk seeing 0-100km/h in just 8.5 seconds onto a maximum speed of 140kmph. In real-world driving conditions you can expect closer to 240kms of range (depending of course on the type of driving and how you drive, more on this later) which in reality is plenty to meet most people’s daily needs.  If you do need more range, MG Ireland tells me that a larger battery version of the MG ZS is on the way, but we have no further information at this time.

Driving

As with most electric cars the MG ZS feels smooth but punchy from low speed .  There are three driving modes to choose from – Eco, Normal and Sport.  Eco preserves range by dulling acceleration and turning down the air conditioning.  Normal mode gives brisk acceleration and Sport mode dials this up further and adjusts the weighting of the power steering. Seperate to this is the KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) aka regenerative braking mode selection, which has three setting levels. It is nice to have this adjustment to dial into your individual driving style and the type of road you are travelling on and I found myself playing around with this quite a bit on cross country roads.  In the most aggressive mode the braking effect is strong but progressive when you back off the accelerator and with a little experience you can get close to single pedal driving other than when coming to a complete stop.   

For an SUV style vehicle with a high seating position the chassis has reasonable poise but feels less dynamic when compared with some of its direct competitors, with a little more body roll in the corners when pushed. But as with all EVs the battery pack under the floor gives a low centre of gravity which still delivers a notable improvement in handling compared with similar style ICE cars. The ride is very good and not at all crashy, probably helped by the smaller wheels than found on many competitors’ cars.

At speed, the MG ZS feels refined and confident on the road, with great progressive acceleration throughout the range which is reassuring when overtaking.  Whilst not as quiet as some competitors there is minimal road noise and the cabin is a pleasant place to be, although road noise increases somewhat at motorway speeds.

I took a trip from Dublin to Galway primarily to test the quoted range. The journey from my home in South Dublin to the Galway retail park was 215kms which I completed without stopping, mostly at sensible motorway speed in the region of 110-115kmph.  It was a warm, sunny day, ideal conditions and I did not use air conditioning. Starting out with a 100% charge I arrived at my destination with no remaining range indicated and as I later discovered when I plugged into charge, 1% remaining battery charge. So it was close, and I did reduce speed over the last 30kms or so to preserve range, but the journey can be done.  A lower average speed or a quick 5 minute top-up at Athlone or the Galway Plaza would have made it more comfortable, or indeed necessary on a cooler day. I returned home to Dublin by a more cross-country route via the new Mayfield charging hub on the M7, but the day was predominantly motorway driving clocking up over 450kms, 2 rapid charges and an average of 19.2kWh/100km which is reasonable considering my speed and type of driving.

You can view the video of my range test here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-fOrVFKiaw

Equipment

The MG ZS comes in two trim levels, Excite from €28,995 and Exclusive from €31,995, this pricing includes VAT, grants and incentives. Metallic and tri-coat paint finishes cost extra but that is it as far as options go.

The Excite specification comes with a number of active safety features known collectively as ‘MG Pilot’ (includes Active Emergency Braking, Lane Keep Assist, Active Cruise Control), cloth seats, automatic lights, rear parking sensors, air conditioning, keyless entry and start, electric windows, eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay & Android Auto, navigation and Bluetooth.

 

In addition to the Excite specification the Exclusive model comes with leather style seats, panoramic sun-roof, silver roof rails, heated/folding electric mirrors, automatic wipers, parking camera, 6-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, blind spot detection and rear cross traffic assist.

 

 

 

Charging

Charging is by CCS for DC rapid charging at up to 50kW or by Type 2 for AC slow charging at up to 7kW. At a 50kW capable rapid charger this means an 80% charge in around 40 minutes, but in reality you will likely charge at home most of the time and a full charge overnight on a 7kW home charger is easily achievable in around 6.5 hours.

The charge port on the MG ZS is located at the front of the car on what would normally be the grille, behind the large MG badge.  Personally I find this to be the best location for a charge port as it is always easy to get connected at public charge points where cable reach can sometimes be an issue for some other models with side located ports. When the charge port cover is released the whole centre section of the grille pops out and hinges upwards, this is a neat design but does feel a little lightweight so it would be wise to treat this with care, it will be interesting to see how this holds up over time. Rubber covers are present for both the CCS and Type 2 port areas.

When the car is charging there is something really cool, which I did not notice until I had the car plugged in charging one night, the MG badge on the front illuminates!

A metaphor for our times…

There is no denying that the MG ZS EV is a practical and competent car which would be an excellent choice for anyone looking to buy a compact SUV, it may also appeal to those looking for something a little bit different.

At this stage I will probably never convince Dad to buy an EV, yet alone one with an MG badge on it because there is too much emotion and history tied up in what a car should be and, in particular, what an MG meant to him. Me? Well, I take a different view, I see it as something of a metaphor.

We live in deeply troubling times where only seismic change in our attitudes and behaviours will at this stage fend off the worst impacts of climate change. EVs alone will not fix this of course, but they can play a big part in the wider ecosystem of clean electrification. So an MG which was once a burbling British sports car has evolved into an affordable, practical, family and planet friendly SUV, with, let’s face it, improved dynamics and performance.  I can live with that.

You can check out my video review of the MG ZS EV here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rylDBxPcLY8

Specification Details

The MG ZS EV starts at €28,995 (inclusive of VAT, VRT rebate and SEAI grant) for the Excite edition up to €32,895 for the Exclusive edition as tested.

 

The MG ZS warranty provides cover for 7 years / 150,000kms incl. drive battery

Excite Features

  • Active Emergency Braking with Pedestrian and Bicycle Detection
  • Lane Keep Assist (LKA) with Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS)
  • Traffic Jam Assist
  • Intelligent Speed Limit Assist
  • LED Daytime Running Lights   
  • LED Centre Brake Light
  • Auto Headlights
  • Follow me home headlights
  • Rear Parking Sensors   
  • Electrically Adjustable, Body Colour Door Mirrors
  • Bi-Function Projection Headlight
  • Front and Rear Aero Wiper
  • Stellar Field Grille
  • Air Conditioning
  • Remote Central Locking
  • Keyless Entry with Push Button Engine Start
  • Speed Sensing Locking
  • 12v Power Socket
  • Adaptive Cruise Control
  • Leather Steering Wheel
  • Rotary Gear Selector
  • Electric Parking Brake
  • 3 Regenerative Braking Modes (1, 2, 3)
  • 3 Driving Modes (Eco, Normal, Sport)
  • Front & Rear Electric Windows with Driver’s one-touch up/down
  • 4-Speaker Audio System
  • Radio and AUX/USB, MP3
  • 8″ Colour Touchscreen
  • DAB Audio
  • iGo In-Car Navigation
  • Apple CarPlay
  • Android Auto
  • USB Mobile Phone Charging Function
  • Bluetooth® Connection
  • Trip Computer
  • Anti-lock Braking System and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (ABS and EBD)
  • Rear ISOFIX (x2)
  • Front Side Airbags
  • Front Dual Airbags
  • Front Passenger Airbag Deactivation Switch   
  • Side Curtain Airbag
  • ARP (Anti Rolling Protection)
  • Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)
  • Electronic Stability Programme (ESP)
  • Hill Launch Assist
  • Emergency Brake Assist (EBA)
  • Driver’s Seat Belt Reminder
  • Automatic Door Latch
  • Front Passenger’s Seat Belt Reminder
  • Front Seat Belt (3 point with Pretensioner and Load Limiter)
  • 17″ Diamond Cut EV Alloy Wheel 215/50 R17
  • Tyre Repair Kit
  • Houndstooth Fabric Upholstery
  • Driver’s 6-way Adjustable Seat
  • Passenger’s 4-way Adjustable Seat
  • 2nd Row 60:40 Split Fold Seat.

Exclusive Additional Features OVER Excite

  • Blind Spot Detection (BSD)
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA)
  • Silver Roof Rails
  • Electrically Adjustable, Folding, Heated, Body Colour Door Mirrors
  • Air Conditioning with odour and pollutant filter
  • Rain Sensing Wipers
  • Panoramic Sky Roof
  • 6-Speaker Audio System with 3D Sound
  • Rear Parking Camera
  • Leather Style Upholstery with Contrast Stitching
  • Electric Driver’s 6-way Adjustable Seat
  • Heated Front Seats.

 

Full details of the MG ZS EV range are available here:

https://www.mg.ie/model/mg-zs-ev