MG invited Zapmap to London for the launch of its new ZS EV – a car that has the potential to be both hugely important and a very popular model for the firm. Packing a 44.5 kWh battery, 105 kW electric motor, and WLTP range of 163 miles on a single charge, the ZS EV has all the core attributes to become a challenger in the mass-market EV sector.
What was somewhat unusual for a car launch was that the route was limited to central London. This gave us no possibility to really test the range out, but was just enough to gauge how the ZS EV would perform in normal driving. MG adds an urban driving range to its quotes as to how far the ZS EV will go, with more than 230 miles possible according to the city cycle on the WLTP protocol.
With every other EV we’ve tested, WLTP statistics have always seemed achievable in normal driving conditions, and the average user will see an average of within 5-10% of that number in day-to-day driving without any particular effort at efficient driving.
We started the route with 160 miles showing on the trip computer, and after half a dozen miles of stop-start traffic, had only lost three off that score. Considerably over 200 miles of city driving range seems a perfectly reasonable expectation then, though perhaps our energy efficiency rating should be disregarded until a further distance had been travelled. It was displayed at 19.3 miles/kWh – or more than 850 miles on a charge by that reckoning. We’ll wait to see how those figures settle down over a much further distance in the future and stick with the statement that the MG ZS EV is a comfortable 160+ mile electric car.
Comfortable is used with forethought, as the ZS EV is set up to deal well with city streets. Speed bumps and pot holes were dealt with easily, and there’s enough in the suspension to keep body roll to a minimum. There’s certainly no sense that the ZS EV will wallow from corner to corner on the open road, and there are promising signs for motorway driving, but we shall have to see about both attributes.
What is clear is that the ZS EV deals well with urban driving in general. It’s relatively compact, with comfortable but agile handling, and a punchy motor. That motor produces 353 Nm of torque, allowing the ZS EV to get from 0-60mph in 8.5 seconds, and 0-30mph in just over 3.0 seconds. It’s by far the quickest car MG currently produces in terms of acceleration, and you can have fun accelerating off the line in the ZS EV.
After that, it’s not the most exciting car on the market, with lightweight steering providing little feedback. It’s a typical enough set-up for EVs, and one that allows them to suit the needs of their drivers well. As a machine for popping in to town, running down the shops, or dropping the kids off at school, the MG is well set-up for everyday life as a family workhorse.
That practicality is carried into the interior, which is very spacious for its class, and looks easily able to deal with four adults plus luggage in what is a sizeable boot. The car’s battery sits under the floor so doesn’t intrude on boot space, but that does mean occupants sit high up. Since it’s a crossover, this is expected to a degree anyway and adds to the car’s SUV-lite qualities.
The cabin might be practical, but it’s not very luxurious. There is a good level of kit available – and a comprehensive suite of safety systems for a car in this class – but the materials used throughout can’t compete with rivals’ efforts. However, none of the MG’s rivals offer their EVs at such a low price-point for the size of the ZS EV, so economies must be made somewhere, and many would prefer them to be made in the cabin rather than the powertrain.
The build quality feels fine on the whole, it’s just the quality of the plastics used can be a bit hard. Key switch-gear looks good though and doesn’t lose the ZS EV any marks, with a drive select dial a prominent feature, with three switches sitting above it. These control the brake regen settings, drive mode select, and battery status check.
MG provides three levels of regen, with the third giving a fair amount of braking strength. It’s not the same as a Leaf with e-Pedal enabled or BMW’s i3 set-up, but it will allow one-pedal driving much of the time. The three levels are well spaced apart too, meaning drivers would be well advised to use them to get the most from the car’s range. Likewise Eco mode sees a big change in throttle response from Normal, which may be handy occasionally, though the latter will be the most common setting for most. It gives a good balance between efficiency and performance, with Sport only a little more responsive really.
To charge, the MG has fitted a CCS inlet behind the ZS EV’s front grille, which will take up to 50 kW on a rapid charger, and 7 kW on public or home points. Charging times are around 40 minutes for a charge to 80% on rapids, and 6.5 hours on 7 kW units.
While the above report sums up the ZS EV as a decent car, it is its pricing that shifts it from average to very good. Pricing including the £3,500 Plug-in Car Grant starts at £24,995 for Excite trim, and £26,996 for Exclusive. Both represent excellent value for money, undercutting the similarly practical Leaf 40 kWh by a few thousand pounds, and only losing out to the Renault Zoe in terms of pricing. The Zoe can’t match its interior space though, and the MG is a far more practical proposition for a family for example.
Making things better still is MG’s commitment to match the government grant for the first 1,000 ZS EV customers, bringing the price down to £21,495 and £23,495 respectively. That then undercuts the Zoe’s price (outright purchase) as well as the more practical Leaf’s plus buyers will get a free home charge point as part of the deal.
As a value-for-money EV, the MG is a very good pick. The market leaders in the shape of the Hyundai Kona Electric (compact crossover) and Kia e-Niro (mid-sized crossover) might go further on a single charge and be better built inside, but they also start at a considerably higher price, and availability is likely to be better with the MG. Many buyers will not mind the cheaper interior, instead knowing that they are getting a practical EV with a respectable range at a very good price.