MG ZS review
The MG ZS struggles to compete head-on in the small SUV segment, but few serious flaws and value pricing mean it’s still worth a look
Look at the competition, and it quickly becomes clear the MG ZS has a tough battle on its hands. The compact SUV sector is full to bursting with excellent rivals, and while the Chinese-built MG looks decent enough on paper, it lacks the visual and dynamic flair to really trouble the class leaders. Despite this, buyers who want to jump on the SUV train but haven’t got the budget for a European, Japanese or Korean rival, may easily be tempted by what the ZS does offer at the price. It’s comfortable, decent looking and well-equipped, and the entry-level model especially looks stonking value. Crash safety ratings could be better, though.
The MG ZS is chasing a bandwagon, and while it’s not quite got the legs of the compact SUV or crossover pack leaders, MG hopes its small SUV model’s combination of contemporary style, practicality and old-fashioned good value will make it the marque’s best seller here in the UK.
While the MG brand has a tremendous heritage in the UK thanks to its sporting exploits in the last century, it doesn’t have much in the way of a contemporary presence. Since 2011 the brand’s Chinese owners have been slowly introducing rather prosaic hatchback models to the UK, and the ZS was its first attempt at catching up with the lucrative compact SUV/crossover trend – although the larger MG GS did arrive before it. However, there are relatively few dealers that offer the MG ZS for sale, and this combined with its relatively low public profile mean it will sell in handfuls compared to mainstream rivals.
As well as its most obvious competitor the Nissan Juke, those rivals include notably competent European models such as the Peugeot 2008, Renault Captur, SEAT Arona and Citroen C3 Aircross, contenders from former Korean budget brands like the Kia Stonic and Hyundai Kona, plus the Ford EcoSport and Vauxhall Crossland X SUVs. At the budget end of the sector, there’s the Dacia Duster offers similarly eye-catching value but with a bit more of a traditional off-road 4x4 utility feel.
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The MG ZS five-door is the only bodystyle on offer, and dealers keep things simple with only a trio of standard model specs. The entry-level ZS Explore may be cheap, but it doesn’t look it from the outside with features such as LED driving lamps and projector headlamps, even if you do have to make do with plastic trims on your 15-inch steel wheels. Inside the ZS Explore spec lacks air-con, but you get remote locking and cruise control, plus a radio with USB and Bluetooth connections.
Next up is the ZS Excite which puts you onto alloy wheels, adds front fog-lamps and brings Apple CarPlay plus DAB audio into the cabin, as well as valuable automated aircon and one-touch electric driver’s window. The range-topper is the Exclusive model which comes with snazzier alloy wheels, IGO in-car navigation and mock leather upholstery.
MG has also introduced the ZS Limited Edition which is only available in Arctic White paint and includes gloss-black exterior trim and red accents throughout the cabin
Powertrain options are limited to a base 1.5-litre petrol four-cylinder with five-speed manual gears, or a slightly peppier 1.0-litre three-cylinder with a six-speed automatic. And MG now offer the ZS EV electric SUV, which is able to travel up to 163 miles on a single charge.
In this review
- 1Verdict - currently readingThe MG ZS struggles to compete head-on in the small SUV segment, but few serious flaws and value pricing mean it’s still worth a look
- 2Engines, performance and driveIt’s not the most refined or thrilling drive, but the MG ZS is reasonably comfortable and quiet
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsAverage running costs are offset by low purchase prices, but residual values are uncertain
- 4Interior, design and technologyAn on-trend if unexciting exterior wraps a decent cabin, but the MG ZS is no technology fest
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceA big boot and spacious cabin make the MG ZS a practical family choice
- 6Reliability and SafetyThe lack of autonomous braking loses the MG ZS points, but occupant safety scores are lower than rivals too