MG may now be Chinese owned and the iconic octagonal emblem appears on vehicles that bear no relation to the classic sports cars of yesteryear, but the brand is going from strength to strength.
Award-winning models, value for money and a generous seven-year/80,000 mile warranty as standard have resulted in record-breaking sales for the “UK’s fastest-growing mainstream car brand”.
Just to put that into perspective, MG’s 30,600 sales in 2021 were ahead of established brands including Renault, Mazda, Honda, Citroen, Suzuki, Dacia, Fiat and Jaguar, with the MG ZS finishing the year as the UK’s 10th most popular EV.
The MG ZS was originally launched in 2017 with a choice of two petrol engines. The EV version followed in 2019 and was treated to a facelift in 2021.
In 2022 alone it was crowned ‘Best Family Electric Car’ at 2023 Carbuyer Awards and ‘Best Used Small SUV’ at What Car? Electric Car Awards
So, what’s the secret of the success of the MG ZS? Is it just down to affordability? Well, yes and no.
Priced from £30,495, this 100% electric Nissan Qashqai-sized crossover is offered with two battery sizes (51.1kWh and 72.6kWh). Both use a single electric motor to drive the front wheels, producing 174bhp and 154bhp respectively.
The claimed range is up to 273 miles for the larger battery (198 miles for the entry-level version).
Torque is the same for both, at 206 lb-ft (280Nm), as is the 108mph top speed, though the longer range model is 0.2 seconds slower to 62mph (8.2 seconds).
Naturally the bigger battery pack takes longer to charge (10.5 hours from a 7kW home wallbox, as opposed to 8 hours), 1 hour 3 minutes (54 minutes) from a 50kW public charger (to 80%) or 42 minutes (36 minutes) from a 100kW rapid charger.
The 2021 makeover may have been subtle visually, but it was just enough to keep it looking fresh.
Bi-function LED headlights have a new daytime running light signature and there’s a new rear light design too.
The traditional grille has been replaced with a textured body-colour panel and a new battery charging port, which is more easily accessible because it’s now placed to the side of the MG badge at the front of the car and is no longer integrated behind it. A simpler lower bumper completes the facelift.
Elsewhere, there are digital instruments and an enhanced infotainment package, while new features such a vehicle-to-load (V2L) capability are introduced. It enables other electric devices to use the energy from the battery, such as camping equipment. These improvements put it in line with the latest EVs, bringing it bang up to date.
Inside, there’s lots of space front and rear, with good headroom – even when the panoramic glass roof is fitted. Our only criticisms are that the driving position is on the high side, there are some cheap plastics inside and the steering column doesn’t adjust for reach.
Boot space is a healthy 470 litres, expanding to 1,100 litres with rear seats down, plus there’s a false floor to store charging cables beneath.
There are also three trim levels to choose from – SE, Trophy, SE Long Range and top-spec Trophy Connect option.
All versions come with plenty of standard kit, including 17-inch alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control, LED headlights, climate control, keyless entry, digital dials and a large 10.1-inch touchscreen.
The MG ZS EV is good to drive overall, with the instant torque you’d expect. And while the acceleration is not as fast as some electric cars, it’s more than enough for everyday driving.
Naturally, it’s quiet (there’s a gentle whine under acceleration) and refined too, and because its kerb weight is around the 1600kg mark, it’s not as heavy as some EVs, so it’s more agile than you might think.
There are three driving modes – Eco, Normal and Sport – and three levels of regenerative braking. The strongest setting brings it close to Nissan Leaf-style one-pedal driving where easing off the gas is enough to bring to car to a halt.
Eco is best left for long motorway runs, Sport injects a little fun and is useful for overtaking, but default Normal will do just fine.
The ride is comfortable and smooths out most of the lumps and bumps encountered in everyday driving, but it’s not the most sophisticated suspension system and the ZS can become unsettled when pushed. That said, body lean in fast corners isn’t too bad and there’s decent grip.
The steering is light, so the ZS EV is perfect for urban duties too. Ultimately, it’s a great value all-rounder and it’s no surprise that it’s proving to be such a success.