► MG's electric ZS crossover
► ZS EV claims 164-mile range
► Available from £25k
MG claims that its first electric car is bringing power to the people. But while new ZS EV might have some shouty claims about range and value, the car itself is designed for much subtler persuasions.
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Isn’t that a Mazda?
Nope – definitely an MG, although we had to double check, too. Thankfully the MG badges are big enough to be seen from space.
The ZS is MG’s smallest of its three crossovers available in the UK and another recent car where the name originally derived from something much sportier. But yes, MG’s designers have certainly taken a leaf out of Mazda’s book, and Ford’s, and Nissan’s, and… you get the idea: it’s pretty derivative. The only visual differences with the electric version are an EV badge and bespoke alloys.
There are two specs for the EV version – Excite and Exclusive – with the later armed to the teeth with intelligent safety kit and luxuries other common ZS cars simply don’t get. Want heated seats, auto wipers, adaptive cruise or even Android Auto on your petrol-powered ZS? Good luck with that.
So, what's it actually like inside?
Hop in, park your bottom on the overly-padded chair and the ZS EV is thoroughly modern. The high centre console hides some useful cubby space and is spearheaded by a metal twiddly dial for selecting drive/reverse and a set of three toggle switches. One of them even says KERS on it. Sporty.
It’s all neat and tidy in here, with a fat rim to the flat-bottomed steering wheel, a little central screen in the instruments and wavering material quality. The bits you regularly touch are all of good standard, so the HVAC controls, steering wheel, door handles and gear selector are all weighted well and don’t feel flimsy.
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The infotainment system is a little fiddly; pairing a phone via Bluetooth was a faff and our car’s nav needed a software update, effectively stonewalling us from using the car’s in-built mapping. All those safety aids also come undone somewhat by the flaky cameras; our test in murky and damp winter weather meant constant bonging from the car telling us certain bits of safety kit weren’t functioning properly. Seems it’s almost too easy to obscure certain sensors.
What about when you’re driving, not the car?
Things don’t get off to a great start with the driving position. There’s no reach for the steering wheel, you sit too high and the seat itself is excessively padded, almost like someone’s constantly prodding you in the back.
Press the start button and, once the car has stopped bonging about 10 times to tell you what safety aids are and aren’t on (different to the malfunctioning bongs), you twist the drive selector. It’s oddly one of the sweetest things to use in the whole car; with a brushed metal finish and hefty resistance to each twist.
On the move, there’s plenty of flexibility: three drive modes (Eco, Normal and Sport) plus three levels of brake regeneration allow you to customise your driving style. Maximum regen mode isn’t quite full one-pedal driving, but still useful. But even in Sport, the ZS EV isn’t exactly urgent – the power delivery seems to have been tuned for smoothness so, even when you give it some welly for the hell of it, there’s not exactly a whopping surge of power. Enough, but not much to excite.
MG seems to have got the handling balance right, though. The steering feels artificial but is well weighted and alert to input, and the ride treads a similar balance: comfortable without being wallowy and manages big lumps with aplomb.
How useful is this thing?
Okay, so MG claims a 163-mile range under WLTP test conditions. We were getting around 150 miles from a charge with our driving, so not too far off. MG claims a 14-hour full charge on a three-pin, 6h30m on a 7kW wall box and around 40 minutes on a 50kW fast charger.
Boot space is rated at a pretty generous 448 litres. Not only is that number the same as the combustion-engined car but it’s highly competitive against other cars in the ZS EV’s class; way bigger than a Hyundai Kona Electric and just about on par with a Kia e-Niro. Rear’s decent for adults, too.
MG ZS EV: verdict
MG’s zero-emission crossover is pragmatism on wheels, prioritising value and practicality over almost everything else. It’s like a warm bowl of porridge; plain but good for you.
And, frankly, by no means exciting – I’ve had more fun filling out long-winded forms – and the driving position leaves a lot to be desired. But its range is usable every day, it’s very easy to potter around in and it’s obviously way more practical than a Mini Electric or Honda e that both hover around the same amount of money. Best kept cheap in the lower spec for a simpler life.
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