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Cheap, spacious and all-round endearing electric version of MG's ZS soft-roader arrives as demand for battery models begins to accelerate and as the government drops benefit-in-kind tax for electric business cars
Steve Cropley Autocar
17 July 2019

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.

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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.

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Should I buy one?

Certainly, if you’re in the market for an affordable electric car. Its strengths are jaunty styling, plenty of equipment, ease of driving, good quality and a seven-year warranty on battery and car.

Its weaknesses are an open-roads range that doesn’t match the best and controls (especially steering) that could be improved. But the buying proposition, for electric-only customers, has to be one of the best on the market.

MG ZS EV Exclusive specification

Where London, UK Price £26,995 (including government grant) On sale September Engine Single synchronous electric motor Power 141bhp Torque 260lb ft Gearbox Single-spd automatic Kerb weight 1534kg Top speed 87mph 0-62mph 8.5sec Battery capacity 44.5kWh Range 163 miles CO2 0g/km Rivals Kia e-Niro, Renault Zoe, Hyundai Kona Electric

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Comments
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Add a comment…
Lovema75 9 February 2020

Right on the money - but...

...will they back it with aftercare and parts?

At the moment, MG is the only source for spares for thier vehicles, which means they can charge what they like - and according to some owners, that's exactly what they are doing.

This is the right product at exactly the right time, but they have a long way to go to assure customers that as a company, they will act honourably towards thier customers - not something Chinese companies are exactly known for.

V12smig 19 July 2019

perfect price

Wife keeps clogging up the DPF on the A6... only drives 3 miles a day to and from school, we would like an electric car for her and this would suit the bill.... the fact that the interior quality isnt bad and the fact that the warrenty will run out hopefully when range anxiety is a thing of the past suits us down to the ground.

Cenuijmu 18 July 2019

I'd get the none EV MG if I wanted something cheap to run

Cheapest is £11000 cheaper so  you'd be able to do 80000 miles before you got your money back buying the EV.   If you do 10 000 miles per year that would be 8 years, just as you would have the expense of replacing the batteries in the MG EV.  

 

Lovema75 9 February 2020

Cenuijmu wrote:

Cenuijmu wrote:

Cheapest is £11000 cheaper so  you'd be able to do 80000 miles before you got your money back buying the EV.   If you do 10 000 miles per year that would be 8 years, just as you would have the expense of replacing the batteries in the MG EV.  

 

This isn't quite correct for some people.

London is charging £12.50 per day pollution tax for a non compliant car - some people will benefit far sooner than just a simple mileage comparison. Plus you'll also pay no congestion charge, and other cities will be following suit.

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