You can say what you like about mutton dressed as lamb, but you can’t argue with the value of MG’s facelifted hot hatch. Determined haggling will slash the ZR 160’s £14,995 list price to around £12,625, and there’s not much else around like it for that sort of money.
Remember the MG’s value, and you can forgive some of its foibles. This is indisputably an old car, pepped up by recent revisions to exterior styling (largely successful), cabin (less so) and minor mechanical changes (mixed).
Its age is apparent from the moment you first grasp the old 1990s’ flexi-key, an unfortunate reminder of the ZR’s ancient roots. Pensionable details abound: the seat is too high even on its lowest setting, the steering wheel adjusts for rake only and you can’t open the boot without poking around with the remote control.
It’s not all bad news though. The front of the ZR is a comfy place to be and the major controls are sensibly positioned. You can even heel-and-toe without resorting to contortionism.
A late-life facelift isn’t enough to elevate the ZR to the dynamic level of its ZS sister, however. Despite a long throttle- pedal travel, the little MG is easy to drive smoothly; it just never feels as alert as the best competition such as the Clio Renaultsport182. It feels rubbery and soft as you turn sharply into a corner. The flipside, though, is a comfortable ride.
It never feels fast, either, despite MG’s claim of a 7.4sec sprint to 60mph. A glance at the power/torque curves confirms this is a peaky engine that needs to be worked hard. The brakes are spongy with early anti-lock activation, but there are no other electronic aids to hinder progress.
The ZR is still worth a look if you score a good discount – but it fails to serve up the thrills available elsewhere.