MG ZS EV review
Affordable, practical and now boasting increased range, the all-electric MG ZS EV makes a strong case for itself
As a package the MG ZS EV has genuine appeal – especially as a company car or a relatively affordable route into a pure electric vehicle. This can only be good news for MG as it continues to push for growth in the UK.
Irrespective of its high-voltage powertrain, the ZS EV sits towards the more practical side of the small SUV market, offering more space than many of its rivals, while MG has tackled the issue of range by introducing new facelifted Long Range versions. So, if buyers can get past having a badge that isn’t the most desirable, the ZS EV makes a lot of sense.
About the MG ZS EV
It is no secret that SUVs and crossovers have seen massive sales growth in the UK in recent years. This means that, irrespective of whether electrons, petrol or diesel is being used to power a vehicle down the road, there are no shortage of rivals for a small SUV like the MG ZS.
Things are slightly less crowded for battery-powered SUVs, especially more affordable options such as the MG ZS EV, but even this sub-sector is filling up fast.
Manufacturing costs remain high for electric vehicles so few makers are able to offer prices anywhere near those of petrol or diesel equivalents. Despite this, MG has managed to deliver a pure electric SUV at a very attractive price which is ultimately its main weapon in attracting buyers. So it is that the MG ZS EV has to compete with more expensive rivals such as the Peugeot e-2008, Vauxhall Mokka-e, Kia Soul EV, Hyundai Kona Electric and Mazda MX-30 - with more on the way.
The MG ZS has had a relatively short life so far, as an SUV that is. MG previously sold a ZS saloon and family hatchback based on the Rover 45 up until 2005 when the remaining assets of MG Rover moved into Chinese ownership. When the ZS was reborn in 2017 it returned as a petrol SUV that showed how the new MG brand was making strides in upping the quality of its cars. Even so, the ZS remained a budget option let down by relatively poor fuel economy. The MG ZS EV addressed this by swapping the petrol motor for a pure electric powertrain.
MG has realigned the five-door ZS EV model range, with a cosmetic facelift and the introduction of Long Range models. While the previous ZS EV had a 44 kWh battery, the revised car has a bigger 72.6kWh version which improves overall range significantly. A 51kWh car will be available later in 2022 offering 198 miles of range and a cost similar to the pre-facelift model’s price of around £25,000.
Three trims are available in combination with the Long Range set-up: SE, Trophy and Trophy Connect, although the entry SE is generously equipped and will probably offer enough for most buyers.
Flashy badge or not, the growing demand for small EVs means the ZS EV could be ideally positioned to be one of MG’s best selling cars – in the UK at least. Part of this potential is thanks to MG’s manufacturing capability. While rivals from Hyundai or Kia have long waiting lists, MG looks to have the capacity to increase production. This is helped by the fact that it recently opened a battery factory in China which is claimed to be able to produce enough cells for up to 300,000 vehicles a year.
Engines, performance and drive
The ZS isn’t a hero in the fun handling department, but for some this won’t matter one jot. Like many electric cars, the ZS EV is brilliantly easy to drive. Turn it on, select drive with the simple rotary controller, press the accelerator pedal and you’re away. The driving mode selector is equally straightforward and helps drivers prioritise between efficiency or performance.
Driving in town is incredibly easy and thanks to the immediate availability of torque, nipping away from traffic lights and out of junctions isn’t stressful at all. Furthermore, there is a toggle switch in the centre console that is used to adjust the amount of regenerative braking applied when a driver lifts off the throttle. There are three settings that range from no regeneration to the strongest which almost offers enough to enable one-pedal driving, but not quite.
In addition to this, motor whine is kept nicely at bay and the steering is light, if lacking in feel. MG’s engineers have geared the suspension of the ZS EV more towards comfort and so it protects occupants from road imperfections vibrating into the cabin. This comfort does come at the expense of body control, with the ZS pitching and rolling more than some of the alternatives.
Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed
Long Range models come with a single electric motor powering the front wheels that produces 154bhp and 280Nm of torque. The result is a 0-60mph time of 8.2 seconds that puts the MG ahead of Peugeot’s e-2008 but slightly behind the Kia Soul EV and Hyundai Kona Electric. Top speed is 108mph and while this seems modest, it is still significantly more than is legal to do on any UK road.
Range, charging and running costs
Instead of a miles per gallon rating, the MG ZS EV comes with a miles per kiloWatt-hour figure (commonly shortened to miles/kWh) which gives an indication of an electric car’s efficiency. MG claims a combined figure of 3.5 miles/kWh under WLTP testing.
Naturally, having no exhaust sticking out of the rear bumper means there are zero tailpipe emissions from the ZS EV. For the ultimate low emission motoring, drivers need to use electricity generated through renewable means (such as wind or solar) to charge their car.
As for running costs, the MG ZS's should be very low thanks to the relative simplicity of an electric motor compared to petrol or diesel engines and regenerative braking helping to reduce the wear and tear on brake rotors and brake discs. There is also MG’s long warranty – but more on that later.
For company car drivers, the MG ZS EV qualifies for the lowest possible Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) company car tax. The 2021/22 tax year will see BiK of 1 per cent (up from zero in 2020/21) before going to 2 per cent in 2022/23. For someone in the 20 per cent income tax bracket, this will mean payments of about £5 per month, while a higher earner will pay nearer £10 per month, but compared to a petrol or diesel model these represent a fraction of the cost. Being electric the ZS EV avoids any tax when first registered and any subsequent payments.
Electric range, battery life and charge time
Electric range can make or break an EV, and the pre-facelifted MG ZS EV's claimed maximum range of 163 miles wasn't particularly strong. The new Long Range models offer up to 273 miles from a single charge, which is much more competitive, and on our own test we averaged 3.7 miles per kWh which equates to a real world range of 252 miles.
The previous ZS EV was in insurance group 21, while the latest Long Range cars are all in group 28. This means it sits in a lower group than some rivals, including the Kia Soul EV in group 34, although the 201bhp Hyundai Kona Electric is in group 24.
Modern-day MGs haven’t been known for leading the field in terms of residual values. That said, they tend to be very affordable in the first place, so should have less of a distance to fall. Experts predict that electric ZS EV models will retain around 46 per cent of their value after three years and 36,000 miles.
It is worth considering that the shifting demand towards electric cars and long waiting lists in some cases may well help the MG retain value. While MG is not one of the most desirable car brands, it is on the up in the UK with more and more motorists seeing the benefits behind what is a more affordable badge.
Interior, design and technology
Aesthetically the MG ZS is so-so. It is far from ugly, but it is just a bit generic to our eyes. It is clear that there are influences from other Asian cars, in particular a whiff of Mazda CX-3 from some angles. This isn’t just levelled at the electric ZS as petrol models look largely identical. The chrome-highlighted grille unique to the ZS EV does help give it some individuality, though, and the smart alloy wheels help as well.
At heart, the ZS is quite a boxy SUV, which helps with cabin space. Even so, MG’s designers have done well to somewhat mask the angular proportions through use of a tapered roofline and angled rear side windows. There are five colours to choose from; Arctic White, Battersea Blue, Black Pearl, Dynamic Red and Monument Silver.
The 2021 facelift saw a new grille design, reworked headlights and a fresh rear bumper. Interior quality is largely unchanged, which means you'll still see some harder plastics and cheaper trim around the cabin.
On the other hand, equipment is plentiful. Entry-level SE versions get 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, rear parking sensors, automatic air conditioning, adaptive cruise control and integrated sat-nav with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity.
Trophy and Trophy Connect versions add extras such as power folding door mirrors, automatic wipers, a wireless smartphone charging function, a panoramic glass roof, an upgraded audio system and MG's iSmart live services which includes weather and live traffic updates and access to Amazon Music.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The new 10.1-inch infotainment touchscreen is a definite upgrade over the previous system. The menus are straightforward enough, with clear graphics, although it could be a bit quicker to react to inputs.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Thanks to its boxy shape, the ZS EV is quite practical despite its compact dimensions and is ideally suited to those with kids, dogs or both. There is no seven-seat option, although few fully-electric cars can offer this, even in the classes above. There is plenty of space for five (especially compared to something like a Renault Zoe) and lots of a driver’s seat adjustment. That said, you do seem to sit a little too high, making it feel more like you are sitting on the ZS rather than in it.
The seats are comfortable enough that long journeys shouldn’t be a pain, plus the large door pockets and extra cubby holes allow for plenty of storage for snacks, maps and books. During a long journey, the rear middle seat might start to feel a bit tight if larger humans are either side. As for visibility, things from the driver’s perspective are good.
The MG ZS EV is 4,323mm long and 2,048mm wide (including wing mirrors but 1,809mm excluding them). Height depends on trim, with SE models 1,625mm tall and Exclusive are 1,649mm – the difference is due to the latter coming with roof rails. This puts the ZS EV almost on par with a Qashqai – the Nissan being slightly longer and wider.
Legroom, headroom & passenger space
All four of the main seats offer good head and legroom but the middle rear seat is on the narrow side. Even so, the tunnel down the centre of the car’s floor doesn’t encroach too much into the cabin so there are good amounts of legroom for a middle passenger.
MG has managed to make sure that adding a big battery hasn’t translated to a tiny boot. With all seats in place there is 470 litres available and with the rears down you get 1,100 litres. Kia’s e-Niro offers roughly the same capacities but Nissan’s Leaf isn’t quite as practical.
The boot is a good shape in addition to being a decent size (which helps when loading awkward objects) and the dual height floor means there is the flexibility of having maximum cargo space or a flat load bay
Reliability and safety
The MG Pilot system incorporates a range of active safety systems, including adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, a front collision warning, a Lane Keep Assist system with departure warning, a blind spot monitor, Traffic Sign Recognition and a Traffic Jam Assistance system which combines the adaptive cruise and lane keeping functions to semi-autonomously control the car in congested motorway traffic.
While the MG ZS EV hasn’t specifically appeared in our Driver Power ownership results, the petrol ZS has. It ranked 41st out of 75 cars, which puts it ahead of the Peugeot 3008 (50th), but just behind the Nissan Leaf (40th). As a brand, MG finished in last place out of 29 marques,
Crash test experts Euro NCAP awarded the ZS EV a full five stars out of five in 2019. Rating it at 90% for adult occupant protection, 85% for child occupant protection, 70% for safety assist and 64% for vulnerable road users.
All new MGs come with an impressive warranty – seven years or 80,000 miles, whichever comes first. This is the same for the battery pack. While as a core warranty this is strong, the battery cover is ever so slightly behind some manufacturers which protect their batteries for eight years or 100,000 miles.
MG reckons it will cost half as much to service a ZS EV compared to a petrol model. Unfortunately, the Chinese brand is yet to confirm how often the electric ZS needs servicing. On a plus side, though, all MG dealerships are claimed to be set up to be able to work on ZS EVs with charging points and trained technicians on site.