Historic British brand MG has been revived, yet again, by the Chinese. MG Ireland is importing the famed ‘Morris Garages’ brand, but its MGs bear no resemblance to any classic MGs of the last century. MG Ireland’s range of cars are electrified and clearly aimed for the challenges of the 21st century. Sadly there is no MGB sports car in its slowly expanding line-up, in fact, it’s range is the polar opposite! This week we’re testing its value for money SUV the MG ZV EV, a battery powered electric vehicle (BEV).
Back in the day of British ownership MG made some cool but notoriously unreliable cars. The MG ‘B’ and B ‘GT’ can still be see on any given Sunday on Ireland’s roads as these are much loved classics. Their mechanical simplicity and easy maintenance helps keep them alive but generally MG reliability was always shocking. It took a Japanese car maker Mazda to show how you could make a car with the spirit of the MGB reliable with its MX-5 (1989) homage. So, no pressure on new ‘MG’ to deliver reliable cars. The five-seat MG ZV EV is well positioned with an eye catching price point. It is aimed at buyers interested in SUVs and crossovers but who will also enjoy taking the moral high ground of producing zero emissions (at the point of use). Pricing is the critical attraction with the ZS EV and it delivers big on space and gadgetry for relatively small money. The MG ZS EV starts from €28,995 (net of grant/VRT relief).
The 4,314mm long, 1,644mm high, 1809mm wide, the ZS is bigger than other B segment SUVs like the Suzuki Vitara or Hyundai Kona. The ZS kind-of sits in a car size of its own ‘B+’. Its exterior reflects a typical SUV design with hints of a number of other cars to be seen depending on the viewing angle. The car rides on 17 inch alloys that look a little small, prominant MG badging and a stylish grille are the most striking design elements. Thanks to a relatively long wheelbase 2,579mm the cabin delivers a lot of space for the money. The split floor boot at 448 litres is huge compared to electric rivals like the Hyundai Kona electric, Peugeot e2008 and KIA eSoul.
The water-cooled battery pack is housed under the rear seats and has a 44kWh capacity. This size is similar to the current crop of mid-stream 40kWh & 50kWh EVs on sale right now. The ZS EV is weighty at 1,502kgs and this has an impact on its range and driving dynamics. Its charge port is located in the front grille and positioned in a way that is a little awkward to use. A full charge at a home EV charger takes 6.5 hours – 7.5 hours. MG says 40 minutes of charging at a CCS public fast charge point (combo AC/DC) will deliver an 80% charge.
There are reports of inconsistent maximum fast charging speeds with some reports stating the car’s maximum electrical draw at a fast charger only lasts for a relatively brief percentage of its capacity. MG says this battery capacity is good for a combined driving range from a full charge of 263km. On paper MG says the ZS could do up to 372km in city use where it can consume as little as 12.8kWh/ of electricity per 100km. During our testing we averaged a consumption figure in the low to mid 20s. On one 130km round trip we managed an average of 19kWh. The roads were dry, mostly flat and the temperature was in the low teens (centigrade). Our overnight charged fully car indicated an ‘E’ (eco) driving range of 279km. We drove on a mix of motorway and urban roads within the posted speed limits, occasional use of the adaptive cruise control and with the air conditioning and other consumables off. When we completed the journey we had an indicated range of 123km.
The ZS EV is a good urban use EV – even in winter – when range drops considerably for all EVs. The ZS EV is front wheel drive and its wheels are powered by a 143hp/353nm electric motor. 0-100km/h takes 8.5 seconds and this is considerably faster than petrol or diesel equivalents. Top speed is a more humble 140km/h (most EVs are not designed to deliver energy sapping high top speeds). The ZS EV has three levels of regenerative braking – selectable by a KERS button near the rotary gear selector. MG has had issues with early models software but a recent update now allows the EV to be charge when unlocked.
As an EV the ZS EV is an automatic (there are fossil fuelled versions in other markets). There is a elctronic hand brake and auto hold function on our top grade test car. The rotary gear selector is pretty cool, and close to it you can toggle between three selectable driving modes: Eco, Normal and Sport. So does the low price point comes at the expense of driving dynamics? Yes. The driving position is good despite limited range of steering wheel adjustment (tilt only). The VW sourced steering wheel (MG’s parent makes VWs in China) feels nice and while the steering function could never be called dynamic the car goes where you point it. Our car’s lane keeping assist feature was pretty aggressive to say the least! The ZS EV’s driving dynamics are fine for comfortable compliant urban use. If you fling it around a corner, it will go around the corner, but you won’t enjoy it. Thoroughly unexciting to drive with any sort of enthusiasm this is an MG that screams functionality. That said its fashionable SUV body and well equipped interior offer an EV buyer a lot of kit for relatively small money.
Two grades’ are offered: ‘Excite’ and our test car’s ‘Exclusive’ grade at €32,985. The entry level’s comfort, convenience and equipment is impressive e.g. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. Fabric seats are standard, with heated (front ‘off or on’) leather-style seats fitted on the top grade. The Exclusive also gets a big sunroof and reversing camera. More impressive is the standard amount of driving/safety aids: Active emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and bicycle detection, ACC (adaptive cruise control), lane keep assist (LKA) with lane departure warning system (LDWS), traffic jam assist, intelligent speed limit assist, intelligent high-beam assist, blind spot detection (BSD) and rear cross traffic alert (RCTA).
MG was given a second life in Ireland many years ago when it sold a range of average family cars. The exception was its mid-engined MGF flagship sports car that looked the part, had good power but ultimately was out shone by rivals. The sight of new MGs on Ireland’s roads will be rare enough as it has a small dealer network and also needs to build a new reputation with customer endorsements. The new MG brand is owned by the world’s 7th largest car maker ‘SAIC’ and its scale is impressive. What is undeniable is that China is a global powerhouse and in the coming years Europe will see more and more Chinese EVs coming to this part of the world at very competitive price points. The MG ZS EV has a 1 year standard service interval and comes with a 7 year/150,000km warranty. MG Ireland’s current line up includes: the ‘MG ZS’ EV, the ‘MG HS’ PHEV (larger SUV) and ‘MG5’ EV (estate car). The all wheel drive MG Marvel R (below) is on the way and signals a big step forward for MG with a truly desirable looking electric car with a 400km range. The MG ZS EV offers a lot for its price but its driving range on a full charge would be a concern for non urban users.