A facelifted version of an electric crossover. You’ve got some persuading to do.
Granted this is not a car that lives in the very heart of Top Gear’s mental terrain. But it has some compelling aspects. If you’re the person in your social circle who ‘knows about cars’, you’re going to be asked about it. After all, people have heard of MG now. In the UK, MG outsells Renault.
OK, what’s the big deal.
The big deal is that it’s a surprisingly small deal. Just £28,495 after the grant. With the facelift, the MG ZS gets a bigger battery that imparts 273 miles of WLTP range. And it’ll fit a family. It’s got heaps of equipment and is guaranteed for seven years or 80k miles.
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So you’re gathered around in the pub. Someone asks you, “I want an EV but they’re more expensive aren’t they?” You can say “Not all of them”.
I just went on the Skoda configurator and specced a Kamiq of similar size, equipment and performance. The Skoda is more expensive – and it’s a simple petrol.
But then they’ll say “OK is the MG any good?”
At which point you begin a sentence with the word, “Well…” and pause. Because by Top Gear definitions it isn’t.
I can see it doesn’t look great.
Indeed. It’s an adapted version of the MG ZS petrol car. Which means the proportions are a bit awks – small tucked-under wheels do it no good. But the facelift brings the electric version its own front and it loses the pointless grille. It also gains LED headlights.
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And on the inside?
Better news. A new centre-dash screen brings up-to-date navigation, connectivity, electric consumption info and well-executed phone mirroring. No it’s not magically the best out there. But for graphics and snappiness and ease of use it’s considerably better than much Japanese, French or VW Group stuff including the £40k Cupra Leon I swapped into afterwards.
You might or might not get wholly comfortable. The steering wheel doesn’t adjust for reach, nor the seats for tilt. My body found the chair a bit flat too. YMMV. In the back, the ZS’s tall stance gives enough legroom.
If you go to remote places, you can run mains appliances from the ZS now. It has a 2.2kW outlet.
What about the drive?
That hasn’t much changed for the facelift. The motor has lost almost all its annoying whine, though, and has a bit more power for outside-lane endeavours. In fact it’s pretty punchy. Unusually for a cheap EV, it’s unrestricted, oddly, and is claimed to run to 108mph if you don’t mind squashing the range. For maximum efficiency, you have to set the regeneration control to maximum, because there’s no blended braking – touch the pedal and you always use wasteful friction. The 0-62 time is 8.4 seconds, but on most days it’ll be constrained by wheelspin.
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Traction is lacking. And turn too ambitiously and understeer goes mad. But then I drove it on a greasy-wet day and it wasn’t much worse than the Mercedes EQA or Kia Soul in similar conditions. The electric steering is too high-geared for its self-centring weight. On an undulating B-road the ZS does bounce about a fair bit, and pitches and rocks. Only a bit more than those other two crossovers mind, but they represent a pretty low baseline.
Still, the suspension is extremely quiet, so for normal family driving this feels like a civilised machine.
And the inevitable range question?
The new ZS battery is 68.3kWh net. An even cheaper 49kWh option comes next year, btw. Round figures, my test mileage was 50-30-10 motorway-rural-city. The range worked out at 230 miles, which is the same as I’d have got on this sort of chilly day from the Kia Soul we had as a long-term-test car. The Soul, and similarly endowed e-Niro and Hyundai Kona, have a smaller battery but go just as far because they’re more efficient.