The MG ZS is a value-focused, practical compact SUV that offers plenty of style and a strong warranty to boot. It’s more practical than plenty of popular rivals like the Mazda CX-3.
We also love that there’s an electric version coming. The MG ZS EV is set to be the most affordable full-electric car in Australia when it launches, and it’ll join the Hyundai Kona as being the only small SUV available in EV or petrol versions.
It’s not nearly as engaging or enjoyable to drive as some of its main competitors. The brand hasn’t quite nailed the fun factor you might expect of the MG brand - we reckon a Hyundai/Kia-esque strategy of employing a local suspension and steering tuning team would help immensely, if MG could justify it. But if you’re the sort of customer who prefers prioritising space, comfort and style over driving dynamics, that mightn’t matter to you one bit.
We also dislike its safety equipment level: it currently doesn’t have auto emergency braking (AEB), and has a four-star ANCAP crash test rating. Its larger, newer sibling, the MG HS, addresses these shortfalls with a healthy five-star crash score and the full gamut of safety tech. But there is a 2021 update coming that will address the ZS’ shortcomings, with new tech set to be added.
The price list of the MG ZS is one of its most likeable points - want to know why? Here’s your guide to the ZS range.
The entry-level Excite model is $23,490 drive-away (manufacturer list price: $20,990 RRP/MSRP). Pretty affordable motoring for a car with a seven-year warranty.
The Excite Plus adds a few extra niceties including a different engine - more on that below - and pushes the price up to $24,990 drive-away (list price: $22,990 MSRP).
The top of the range Essence is $27,490 drive-away (list price: $24,990), which is still very affordable in the small SUV class; some rivals don’t even have a single model under the price of the range-topping ZS.
The MG ZS EV adds a bit to the asking price, but at $46,990 drive-away, it’s a very affordable electric car by current standards.
Yes, and no. You can get an electric version of the MG ZS, the MG ZS EV, which represents at $20,000-ish jump over the top-of-the-range petrol version.
The MG ZS EV is a full electric vehicle - not a plug in hybrid. It has a 105kW/353Nm electric motor teamed to a 44.5kWh battery pack. That is enough to allow it a claimed 262km of mixed driving range, the company claims, though that figure is apparently as high as 371km for city driving, where you get the benefit of regenerative braking topping up the battery pack.
Petrol versions of the MG ZS are available with a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol or a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol. More detail on the engines can be found below.
There is no diesel or LPG version of the MG ZS sold in Australia.
There are a few colour options available for the MG ZS. Two of them are solid colours, and cost no extra to order - Pebble Black and Dover White. Then there are the optional colours which add $500 to the price, including Regal Blue metallic, Electro Orange Metallic (Essence grade only), Diamond Red premium, and Sterling Silver metallic.
I like the look of the ZS, and think its styling is it’s best feature by far.
The ZS EV is available in a model-specific metallic paint colour called Pimlico Blue.
Unlike the MG 3 hatch, there is no yellow colour available for the ZS.
To be honest, it’s a bit hit and miss. In the vehicles we’ve sampled there have been some issues with perceived quality, with plastics and parts that moved inadvertently, and some parts that just didn’t feel well put together at all.
That’s at odds with the appearance of the cabin, which is contemporary and stylish, which decent looking materials here and there. But it misses out on simple things like reach adjustment for the steering wheel, which is especially annoying for taller drivers.
The media system includes AM/FM radio and there are six speakers.
You get air conditioning with a form of climate control, but it’s not dual zone like many rivals offer. The switches and buttons are okay, but not the best quality, and the air-con settings show up in the media screen, and there can be some lag between you making a change and seeing what’s happened.
Storage could be better. There are no rear cup holders, and no rear armrest. The rear door pockets are too small for a bottle, but there are twin map pockets. Up front there is a dual cup holder caddy between the seats, and the door pockets are bottle-friendly.
Rear passengers missed out on cup holders and an rear armrest.
The Essence model comes with a panoramic glass sunroof as standard. It’s a very nice addition, and really lightens up the interior with a great airy feel. More on cabin space below.
Let’s talk about specifications. If you’re like me, you love engine specs, and there’s a bit to go over here.
That’s because there are two different versions of the ZS here: the Excite, which has a bigger engine size and more cylinders; and the Excite Plus and Essence, both of which run a smaller turbo motor with a torque advantage, albeit with a little less horsepower.
The Excite runs a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol with 84kW of power and 150Nm of torque, and it is available with a four-speed automatic gearbox.
The higher spec model as a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo.
Excite Plus and Essence models run a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol with 82kW of power and 160Nm of torque. It has a standard-fit six-speed automatic.
Like most vehicles on the market, there is a range of different accessories available to be added to your MG ZS at the time of purchase - or even after the fact, if you figure out you need to add something.
The MG ZS accessories list is pretty much the standard fare, with a choice of carpet or rubber floor mats, a carpet or rubber boot mat/liner, boot lip protector, boot lip skid plate, a chrome boot garnish trim, dash mat, mud flaps, weathershields, roof racks and a tow bar with wiring.
The ZS can be fitted with roof racks and a tow bar. (Neither pictured)
Some specific items include a wireless phone charging mat, LED scuff plates for the door sills, a metallic red grille garnish, and a nudge bar.
If any of these tickle your fancy, ask your MG dealership for prices.
It’s hard to look past the Excite Plus variant as the pick of the three models in the range.
If you don’t need that lovely big panoramic sunroof, you can live without sat nav, and push-button start doesn’t matter to you - but you still want the turbocharged petrol three-cylinder engine - the Excite Plus is a peach of a pick at $24,990 drive-away.
The Essence model comes with a panoramic glass sunroof as standard.
If we were to put the current MG ZS in a comparison test, it would fare pretty well.
For instance, a top-spec ZS Essence vs a Honda HR-V or Nissan Qashqai could be a really interesting test, as the MG has a lot of equipment and goodies, and decent cabin space, too. Plus it outguns most rivals with its long warranty plan.
The interior of the ZS is a bit hit and miss.
But despite offering solid value for money, the current model falls short on safety - and that’s it’s biggest issue. But the 2021 update version is set to be comprehensively improved on that front, so if that matters to you, we’d suggest you wait until it arrives.
It’s hard to say without living with one for a longer period of time, but if you check out our MG ZS problems page you’ll note there are very few listed issues when it comes to reliability. It is a relatively new model, having launched in Australia in 2018.
But it has a long warranty (seven years), so that should put your mind at ease. And it’s backed by the same period of roadside assistance cover, so you theoretically shouldn’t be caught short.
No, there’s not a body kit for the ZS - well, at least, not from MG Australia. It comes with a rear spoiler like most SUVs these days, but unless you count the chrome door garnishes as side skirts, this is no MG sports car.
The MG ZS is among the larger small SUVs on the market.
That said, have a look online as there are plenty of MG ZS body kit options out there in the aftermarket scene.
The current generation MG ZS has a four-star ANCAP safety rating, which was awarded in 2017.
Alarmingly, this score wasn’t low just because it lacks any of the advanced active safety gear you might want (like AEB, lane keeping, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, rear AEB etc). In the frontal offset crash test conducted in 2017 ANCAP said the driver’s airbag didn’t inflate as much as it should have, causing the physical crash performance score to be marked down.
If you’re upgrading from a 10-year-old car, the MG ZS is going to feel like a dream. But compared to its modern-day contemporaries, it’s a bit of a let down when it comes to the drive experience.
It’s not so much the engine performance, though it leaves a bit to be desired. I had some cold start issues with the ZS Essence I drove, with the turbo engine really struggling on cooler mornings. And the 0-100 sprint is leisurely later than lethal, though it does like a rev.
The transmission does a decent job of choosing gears but has a tendency to hang on to first gear too long.
The front and rear suspension is set to soft serve rather than ice cream, meaning it can wobble in corners and get a bit messy over bumps. The tyres are decent in terms of grip, but the suspension and aloof steering mean it’s hard to judge what might happen next.
It’s safe to say that people who just want a soft-riding commuter car will find it fine, but anyone who has even a tiny bit of enthusiast in them will be left wanting.
There are some nice features available in the ZS, including the aforementioned panoramic sunroof in the top-spec model. You get push-button start in that grade too, but not keyless entry (where you can press a button/sensor on the exterior door handle to unlock all the doors).
I like the look of the ZS, and think its styling is it’s best feature by far. However, the standard 17-inch alloy wheels look a little small for the car. A set of 18s would really help fill its guards a bit better.
The ZS wears 17-inch alloy wheels.
And while the media system has potential to be good - it has Apple CarPlay, a reverse camera, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, after all - but it could be better in terms of the menus and reactiveness of the screen.
Considering the price of the ZS, and the fact that even the entry level model gets that screen, auto headlights, cruise control, and plenty more means that if you’re upgrading from an older car, you’re going to feel like you’re living a life of luxury.
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication. Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.