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.
What's it like?
Take the pleasant, easy-driving characteristics of the ZS petrol model (one of which is currently on our fleet) and add the silence, smoothness and amazingly torquey (221lb ft) step-off of an electric car, and you have a refined but quick-responding model, small enough to make its way easily in London traffic but also notably spacious in back and boot.
We’d have liked more heft in the steering; away from the straight ahead, it feels too light and rather lifeless. And the regenerative braking, though available in three levels, isn’t quite strong enough even in its strongest setting to provide the two-pedal operation you find yourself craving when you tune into cars like these.
However, the ride is very supple over suburban bumps, and quiet despite the lack of noise from the powertrain. Its an easy and intuitive drive, the ZS EV, the kind of car that converts drivers to its ways, just by being so easy and accurate to handle. The seats are supportive and well-shaped, though the lack of reach facility on the steering column seems a bad miss.
You won’t see much on the exterior to distinguish a ZS EV from its conventional confrères, apart from a new “windmill” wheel style and an EV-only colour – Pimlico Blue – which, by its lightness and cleanliness, is meant to embody progress in electrification. There is, of course, also the lack of an exhaust tailpipe. In sum, this is a pleasant, unexceptional car, but the kind of machine well able to get under your skin.