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MG ZS REVIEW – Road test of the budget Toyota CHR rival


MG ZSMG

MG ZS costs from £12,495 to buy in the UK

Fortunately, the new MG ZS has been given a few not-so-hidden weapons to deal with its competitors such as an unashamedly low price, class-leading standard equipment levels and interior space from the sector above.

Armed with these qualities, particularly the low price, MG expects the ZS to appeal to a younger audience than is typical in this sector. Buyers will not only be considering rivals’ new cars, but also used cars, according to MG.

The low pricing which starts at £12,495, and high equipment levels should see not just appeal to young families buying the car, but also to younger buyers reassured by the peace of mind that comes with a new car. And to reinforce this point MG is offering the car with a seven-year, 80,000 mile warranty.

With no previous experience in this sector for the brand, sales predictions are tricky but MG expects to double its current sales expected for this year at 4,500.

The majority of those, about 3,700 will be to retail customers and the remainder to small business fleets. MG also expects the top spec cars to be the better sellers because of the perceived value next to less well equipped rivals.

MG ZS interiorMG

The interior of the MG ZS

It isn’t all good for the ZS though. As you may have spotted from the pictures, the car’s styling is remarkably similar to that of the Mazda CX3 – particularly at the front where the grille flows into the headlights. Is this a bad thing? The Mazda certainly looks good. But do buyers want a car that so conspicuously looks like a rival? Where it differs from the Mazda is in overall size where the MG is longer, taller and wider.

Under that CX3-esque bonnet is a choice of two petrol engines with very similar on-paper power outputs. The 106bhp 1.5-litre petrol is available with a five-speed manual gearbox, while the 1.0-turbo three-cylinder engine is only available with a six-speed automatic. In regular driving both engines are refined, but push further up the rev-range in the 1.5 and it becomes harsh for little extra shove. The 1.0 is more eager to rev and also has a better engine note.

Oddly, it’s the lower powered engine that is the quicker of the two (0 to 60mph in 10.4 seconds, 106mph top speed) due to the gearboxes. The five-speed manual not only saps less power than the slightly sluggish automatic but the manual has long gearing so requires fewer changes before 60mph comes up.

Unfortunately neither engine offers class-worrying fuel economy. Both have average figures below 50mpg, with the manual car managing 49.6mpg. Rivals are usually higher. There are no current plans for a diesel though a full electric model is expected join the range late next year.

Drive the ZS and the car’s split personality is also obvious. At an everyday, steady, pace the MG ZS smooths out bumps and potholes extremely well. With the steering in Normal mode – all MG ZSs come with three levels of power assistance – the wheel is light and easy to turn but lacks feel. Dynamic mode reduces assistance and adds weight to the steering but little else. While Urban is so light that it’s best left only for parking. For most MG ZS customers the excellent ride quality in everyday driving will appeal and the car sits at motorway speeds well too, although there is some wind noise.

However, should you believe MG’s claim that the ZS has sporting intentions and drive the car with more verve then things start to deteriorate. The soft suspension that creates a good ride means body roll will have you wanting to slow down long before the car’s capabilities of grip run out and the overly intrusive, and noisy, anti-skid control kicks in. But it’s the way the front of the car dives under braking that’s of bigger concern. The result of this is that any even a firm application of the brakes will result in the hazard warning lights being automatically activated – something that rival cars just don’t do.

Things do improve inside the ZS. The look of the dashboard is neat and tidy helped by the bright and clear standard 8in infotainment control screen which is quick and simple to use and has Apple Carplay built in.

MG ZSMG

The SUV will rival the Honda HRV, Kia Stonic and Mazda CX3 among others in the burgeoning market

Some of the materials used in the dash and other areas of the cabin show how MG can afford to sell the ZS at a price at least £2000 below that of the competition – even before you account for the additional standard kit that comes with the MG. The handbrake and its surround feel particularly poor and the USB socket panel is particularly flexible. However, nothing creaked, squeaked or rattled.

Winning back points is the size of the interior. The ZS is a bit longer than most rivals and that’s gone to good use. Rear seat legroom is impressive and plenty big enough for six-foot tall adults. The boot is a whopping 448 litres which puts it equal with the class best (the Honda HRV) and far ahead of the best seller, the Nissan Juke.

Overall, the flaws in the ZS are ones that many car buyers in this sector won’t worry about. The fact that it doesn’t go round corners quickly with any reward to the driver or passengers isn’t a huge issue. The same goes for the fact that it looks like a clone of the Mazda CX3.

What counts for the MG ZS is that it’s amazing value for money, seriously roomy inside, comes with an impressive warranty and has all the kit (and more) of any rival car.  It’s time to think again about the MG ZS.

MG ZSMG

The car is amazing value for money

Logbook Lowdown

Model: MG ZS

On sale: now

Price: £12,495-£17,495

Engine range: Petrol – 1.5, 1.0-litre turbo

Power: 0 to 60mph in 10.4 seconds, 106mph top speed (1.5)

Average fuel economy: 49.6mpg (1.5)

CO2 emissions: 129-144g/km

Rivals: Honda HRV, Kia Stonic, Mazda CX3, Nissan Juke, Peugeot 2008, Renault Captur, Seat Arona, Toyota CHR

Rating: 6/10



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