MG wades into the electric vehicle market with this affordable ZS EV model. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Looking for a compact family-sized full-electric model with zero emissions and the rapid responses characteristic of today's EVs? Here's the most affordable option you could consider, the MG ZS EV. It's an SUV, it's sensibly priced and it's well equipped. If ultimate driving range capacity isn't a top priority and you're buying on a budget, you might rather like it.
The world is calling for higher levels of electrified vehicle technology (which to some extent we've now got) and more affordable EV models (which we're still waiting for). Enter MG - and specifically, this ZS EV model, priced to undercut similarly-sized rivals by a significant amount. It's even cheaper than smaller supermini-shaped EVs. There's a chance you might already be familiar with the ZS. This decently spacious compact SUV was launched in 2018 with 1.0-litre or 1.5-litre petrol power. But MG were also keen to tell us at the time that this model's platform had been designed with full electrification very much in mind. More fully electric MG models will of course follow but how good is this one? Let's find out.
The ZS EV is powered by a 44.5kWh, water-cooled lithium-ion battery which has a WLTP-rated driving range certified at 163 miles. A couple of years back, that would have been quite creditable but these days, comparable family EVs are routinely able to deliver well over 200 miles from a single charge. Mind you, those cars will be considerable more expensive than this one and are typically less spacious inside; it all comes down to what your priorities are. As with most EVs, this one should feel sprightly away from rest, courtesy of the fact that all its drive torque (353Nm) is generated immediately from the get-go. There's 105 kW of power, equivalent to 143PS, and the 62mph benchmark is dispatched in just 8.5s, though there's a rather limited top speed of just 87mph. At the wheel, instead of the usual gear stick, you select drive from a Rotary Gear Selector, which allows you to switch between three gears - Drive, Neutral and Reverse. In front of this is a further control that allows you to switch between three levels of brake energy recovery (or turn the recovery system off). Level one will implement a small amount of regeneration, with much of the braking still dependent on the vehicle's brakes. Level three offers the greatest regenerative benefit, offering near one-pedal driving with minimal need for the brakes, improving the lifespan of the parts, increasing efficiency and reducing ownership costs.
Some would number this car amongst the more stylish family sector EV models you can buy. At just over 4.3m in length, it's an SUV sized somewhere between the smaller Crossover class (think Renault Captur/Nissan Juke) and the larger family-sized Crossover segment (think Nissan Qashqai/Kia Sportage). In this form, the ZS sports a revised 'star-rider' front grille to frame its brand's famous octagonal company logo. There's also a unique colour option available to ZS buyers - 'Pimlico Blue'. Without exception, all of the EV models you can currently buy on the UK market for under £30,000 are considerably smaller than this MG, both inside and out. Careful packaging has positioned the battery pack beneath the car, so that it doesn't impinge on either passenger or luggage space. Hence the way that it can handle bikes, pushchairs, luggage and bulky loads with no trouble at all. There's 448-litres of boot capacity, around 60-litres more than you'd get from most normal compact SUVs. Open the cabin doors and you're greeted with a spacious interior, though one with material quality not quite the equal of what you'd find from more established brands. Still, MG has tried hard, with faux-leather upholstery and a range of 3D shapes, metallic and chrome finishes.
There are two trim levels, base 'Excite' and 'Exclusive', with respective asking prices pitched at either around £25,000 or around £27,000, once the government's £3,500 Plug-in car Grant has been deducted. If you're one of the first 1,000 MG ZS EV buyers, MG Motor UK will match the government subsidy with a further £3,500 reduction, reducing the asking prices down to around £21,500 ('Excite') or around £23,500 ('Exclusive'). That really is exceptional value by EV standards. To give you some market perspective, a comparably-sized Crossover-style family EV like the Kia e-Niro costs around £33,000. Even much smaller supermini-sized EVs like Vauxhall's Corsa-e and Peugeot's e208 cost around £26,000. All these rivals offer a longer operating range but for quite a few suburban-based potential MG ZS EV customers, that may not be hugely significant. Equipment levels are strong, with both variants getting the latest version of MG's infotainment system, with an 8" colour touchscreen featuring satellite navigation, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming and DAB radio. Smart 17-inch alloy wheels are also standard - and your dealer will want to show you the brand's glass sliding 'Sky Roof'. There's also the brand's 'MG Pilot' camera safety package which includes Advanced Emergency Braking, Blindspot Monitoring, Lane Keep Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control.
Earlier we mentioned this car's 163 mile WLTP-rated driving range - which rises to 231 miles on the WLTP city cycle. Charging ZS EGV is straightforward thanks to its combined CCS and Type 2 port, mounted within the front grille for easy access from either side of the car. The CCS plug is an enhanced version of the Type 2 plug, with two additional power contacts for the purposes of quick charging and supports AC and DC charging power. Featuring rapid charging capability, the ZS EV can charge from 0-80% in 40 minutes from a 50 kW charging station (if you can find one). At home, the car can recharge itself using a standard 7KW wallbox in six hours - overnight charging's easy, in other words. In emergencies, the car can also be charged via a standard 3-pin plug. The battery pack is comprised of 18 cells and weighs just 280kg, providing competitive performance without generating any emissions. Managed by MG's Intelligent Battery Temperature Control system, the battery pack is insulated from external temperature variations, delivering the optimum power and range whatever the weather. As with all MG models, you also get one of the longest fully transferable warranties in its class, a 7 year/80,000-mile package being standard across all variants. Rivals such as SsangYong, Hyundai and Toyota only provide 5 years.
We've been waiting to see just how affordable a family-sized full-EV model can be and in the form of this ZS EV, MG has delivered here a typically tightly-priced package. We'd hoped for a little more driving range from it but if most of your motoring is based around short urban runs, this car might still suit you down to the ground. It's well equipped, spacious and comes with a notably long 7 year transferrable warranty to complement a price that looks like a misprint. Is it the best car in the sector? No. Is it the best really affordable model in the class? Absolutely yes. MG has just taken another big step forward.