Why we ran it: To see if reborn MG’s poster child is as easy to live with as the established names in the class, and if EV or petrol is the pick of the range
Life with an MG ZS EV: Month 7
MG’s EV debutant proved in equal parts liberating and irritating – but will that make handing back the keys any easier? - 18 March 2020
As ownership experiments go, our time with the ZS has been nothing if not thorough. Two custodians ran three different cars over several months, covering more than 12,000 miles in total.
But the figure that makes the most interesting reading? Just how many MG has managed to sell.
Even before taking delivery of our first petrol-powered ZS, the affordable SUV was already proving a winner for MG, accounting for more than half of the brand’s total UK sales in 2018. This helped to grow MG’s market share to such an extent last year that it now exceeds Jeep. The ZS EV we ended this test with was a big reason for that growth, MG having sold out an initial batch of 1000 launch models in barely two weeks. MG’s pledge to match the government’s electric car grant for the first few thousand customers certainly helped but, having now lived with one, I can’t deny that you get an awful lot of car for your money.
While most of its electric rivals are supermini or even city car sized, the ZS delivers a higher-riding bodystyle with plenty of space for a family of four. I can’t think of another EV at this price that can swallow a mountain bike without at least one of the bike’s wheels being detached first. Our well-equipped Exclusive model also had plenty of useful tech, including fast-acting heated seats and a reversing camera with significantly better image quality than, say, a Peugeot 3008’s.
You also got the benefits of an electric powertrain. First custodian Olgun Kordal had few complaints over the responsiveness of the 1.0-litre turbocharged three-pot petrol engine, but he thought the naturally aspirated 1.5 that replaced it left plenty to be desired in terms of drivability and outright poke. The ZS EV was far more entertaining, with much quicker off-the-line pace than either combustion-engined model – but only in the racier of the three driving modes and with a front-driven axle prone to wheelspin under a heavy foot. Eco mode arguably took things too far in the other direction, artificially dulling the throttle pedal without much gain in extra range.
A fairly mild winter certainly helped on that front. Our ZS optimistically reported 170 miles after a full charge but, even on the coldest days, I typically found 130- 140 miles of usable range. And with a guaranteed charging point at one end, weekday commuting was never a problem. I do wonder whether the incoming crop of superminis capable of more than 200 miles will encourage customers to look elsewhere. Even if the average UK car owner accrues just 35 miles per day, seeing a higher range figure on the dashboard is a sure-fire way to eliminate range anxiety.
I also had much more luck with public charging points in the ZS than I did with the BMW i3s I ran last year, with almost every stop going to plan and hardly any chargers being out of service. Is it simply luck of the draw or is the infrastructure actually improving? It’s tough to tell, but I hope it’s the latter.