What is it?
Just lately, MG has been making habit of doing things well.
The Chinese-owned, British-born company has moved many a mile from its former position as a maker of roadsters for cloth-cap wearers, but its decisions to keep much of its engineering and design here in the UK and to concentrate on attractive and affordable models in popular segments has started paying dividends. Sales of the MG 3 supermini rose 47% last year while the ZS SUV soared 66%. By 2021, we’ll see three more MGs, an electric sports car and two more electrified models in popular sectors. Confidence is already rising.
For now, MG seems to have scored another bullseye with its new ZS EV, an impressively affordable battery-powered version of the soft-roader it launched last year with internal combustion power. Though it’s arriving a little later than its relatives, nearly all of the EV’s running gear is substantially the same as its predecessors.
The ZS platform was planned with electrification in mind so its steel body-chassis was designed from the first to accommodate the EV’s 141bhp electric motor in the nose (with all the required power electronics), and a water-cooled 44.5kWh battery under the floor, in a way that does not compromise seating, floor height or dual-level boot space. If you need reassurance that electric cars can be unthreatening and easy to operate, this car is the proof. Hard to believe such a spacious little battery car is so compact, and weighs in at just 1534kg.
The range is a disappointment. In town MG’s engineers claim 231 miles, but the realistic combined range is a modest 163miles, fairly easily beaten by rivals. On the other hand, these distances will probably amply suit many of the drive-to-school applications for which this car will be chosen.
However, MG’s best card is its ZS EV pricing. There are two models, £30,495 Exclusive and £28,495 Excite. The top price falls to £26,995 with the government’s £3500 deducted, while the cheaper settles at £24,995. The Exclusive’s equipment list includes luxuries like a full package of driver aids (traffic jam assist, radar cruise and more) plus leather seats and a huge glass sunroof. The entry-level Excite is £2000 cheaper but still gets a large central screen with standard central sat-nav, a DAB radio and keyless entry.
There’s more: to mark the importance of this first EV debut, MG will match the £3500 government subsidy on its first 1000 sales, which brings the prices down to just £21,495 (Excite) and £23,495 (Exclusive). There’s an accompanying message about cheap running costs: servicing is half the cost of a petrol car, and electric power bought away from home costs roughly a third of diesel. MG estimates a ZS EV on a four-year PCP cycle can save its owner £6000 in fuelling and maintenance. No wonder the company’s modestly confident managers are calling this “the world’s first truly affordable, family-friendly electric car”. They also reckon that in their case, EV stands for Exceptional Value.