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MG ZS 2020 review

The MG ZS small SUV has been a hit for the Chinese-owned British brand.

The MG ZS has been a standout performer for the Chinese-owned British brand.

This model has taken MG from a nowhere player in Australia to a household name when it comes to affordable motoring. 

The credentials of the brand have been built upon the MG 3 city car and MG ZS compact SUV more than any models that have come before them. 

The ZS in particular is playing in one of the most cluttered segments of the market, with more than 25 light and small SUVs fighting for your new car money. 

So is the MG ZS worth looking into? In this review we will answer the most frequently asked questions about it to help you decide if this is the right small SUV for you.

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✅ What do we love about the MG ZS?

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. 

✅ What do we dislike?

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.

✅ How much does a MG ZS cost?

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.

✅ Is MG ZS an electric vehicle?

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. 

✅ What colours is the MG ZS available in?

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. 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.

✅ How does the MG ZS interior look & feel?

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, but the sound quality isn’t great. All models run an 8.0-inch touchscreen media unit with Apple CarPlay, but there is no Android Auto.

The media system includes AM/FM radio and there are six speakers. 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. 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.

✅ Does the MG ZS have any common problems, issues or faults?

Check out the MG ZS problems page, which covers off any common complaints, reported engine problems, recalls, issues and quality questions.

Worried about rust? The MG range is covered by a seven-year warranty, which includes paint and perforation cover. 

You shouldn't have diesel dramas or clutch concerns. All models sold in Australia to date have been petrol and automatic.

✅ What are the key stats & specs of MG ZS engine?

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. 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. 

All MG ZS models are front-wheel drive (2WD)

No need to worry about supercharger details or turbo-diesel torque figures. Neither are available here. See the electric ZS section above to find out about the specs of that powertrain.

Worried about longer-term maintenance and potential timing belt issues? Well, it may put your mind at ease to learn both engines run a timing chain. 

✅ How much storage space does the MG ZS have?

It may only be a small SUV - even by small SUV standards - but the MG ZS is fairly practical.

The boot space offers 359 litres of cargo capacity to the cargo cover when the rear seats are in place, or 1166L with the 60/40 back seats folded down (measured to the window line) - though they don’t fold flat.

  • The boot space offers 359 litres of cargo capacity to the cargo cover. The boot space offers 359 litres of cargo capacity to the cargo cover.
  • The boot space is rate at 1166L with the 60/40 back seats folded down. The boot space is rate at 1166L with the 60/40 back seats folded down.

The boot is deep though it has a higher load lip than competitor models. 

If you need more space, all ZS models come with roof rails, meaning you could fit a roof rack cargo box if you need to. Or just buy the bigger MG HS?

✅ Are there any must have accessories?

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) 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. 

✅ Does the MG ZS have a manual or automatic transmission?

There is no manual gearbox option available for the MG ZS in Australia. 

The entry-level petrol model has a four-speed auto, while the two higher-spec turbo-petrol variants have a six-speed automatic. 

The upcoming MG ZS EV has a single-speed transmission.

✅ Does the MG ZS have Apple Carplay & Android Auto?

No model in the current MG ZS range has Android Auto available yet. But all have an 8.0-inch screen with Apple CarPlay.

The 8.0-inch touchscreen features Apple CarPlay, but no Android Auto. The 8.0-inch touchscreen features Apple CarPlay, but no Android Auto.

✅ Which version of the MG ZS is the best?

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. The Essence model comes with a panoramic glass sunroof as standard.

✅ How does the MG ZS compare to its rivals?

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. 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. 

✅ How much does the MG ZS cost to service?

Service costs for the MG ZS aren’t covered by a “capped price service plan” as such, but the service intervals have recently been upped from six to 12 months (but still every 10,000km).

MG Australia’s PR team has provided “recommended servicing pricing” for each of the two powertrains.

The recommended pricing for the 1.0-litre model over seven years/70,000km runs at an average of $311.62 plus GST. 

The recommended pricing for the 1.5-litre version over that period is much more affordable, averaging $254.70 per visit.

✅ Is MG ZS reliable?

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.

✅ What is the MG ZS fuel consumption?

The claimed fuel consumption for the MG ZS depends on which engine you choose.

The Excite model, with the 1.5L four-cylinder, has claimed consumption of 7.1 litres per 100 kilometres.

You’ll theoretically get better mileage out of the 1.0L in the Excite Plus and Essence models, which use a claimed 6.7L/100km. 

✅ What is the fuel tank capacity of the MG ZS?

The fuel tank capacity of the MG ZS is 48 litres. And you best be filling up with 95RON premium unleaded, according to the brand.

✅ Is there a Body Kit for the MG ZS?

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. 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.

✅ What is the MG ZS safety rating?

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.

✅ Does the MG ZS have Isofix points?

✅ What is the MG ZS towing capacity?

✅ Is the MG ZS 4x4 and can you use it off-road?

The MG ZS is front-wheel drive (FWD or 2WD) only. There is no all-wheel drive (AWD) or four-wheel drive (4WD or 4x4) version sold here.

But it does have rather generous claimed ground clearance of 164mm, which should be enough to help you negotiate gravel tracks to campsites.

✅ How many seats does the MG ZS have?

All MG ZS models are five-seaters. While the trim on the seats looks pretty convincing, it’s not real leather. MG calls it “synthetic leather”.

The cabin has decent looking materials here and there. The cabin has decent looking materials here and there.

✅ How does the MG ZS feel to drive?

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.

✅ What are the dimensions of the MG ZS?

The MG ZS is among the larger small SUVs on the market. 

Its dimensions are close to that of the Honda HR-V, as it spans 4314mm long (2585mm wheelbase), 1809mm wide and 1611mm tall.

That size means its weight is a little heavier than a few of its rivals. It tips the scales at about 1245kg. 

✅ Does the MG ZS have a sat nav system?

There is a sat nav GPS system fitted to the Essence variant only. If you choose the Excite or Excite Plus, you’ll have to use Apple Maps or Google Maps through the CarPlay port. 

✅ How many years and km's does the warranty last?

MG Australia offers a seven-year warranty plan for the ZS, and it spans unlimited kilometres.

Thinking about the ZS EV? It also has a seven-year warranty, but oddly it only spans 160,000km.

✅ What are the best features on the MG ZS?

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. 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.

The ZS comes standard with auto headlights. The ZS comes standard with auto headlights.

✅ Where can you download the MG ZS owner's manual?

If you want a digital version of the owners manual you might be best to speak with your dealership. They should be able to provide it to you on a USB or email link.

Otherwise, MG UK has a download link, though it may not line up exactly with our cars.

✅ Who makes the MG ZS?

You probably know that MG is a British badge, and the company is still officially headquartered in England. MG stands for Morris Garages, and the brand is more than 90 years old. 

All current MG models are made in China.  All current MG models are made in China. 

But the MG brand is owned by SAIC (Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation), a Chinese state-owned company based in Shanghai. It’s the biggest automotive producer in China. 

All current MG models are made in China. 

✅ Where is the MG ZS built?

As explained above, the MG ZS is made in China.


The Wrap

The MG ZS is a good car for those who value affordability and strong long-term ownership potential above everything else.

Having said that, it could be better to drive, the perceived quality could be better, and it certainly needs to be upgraded in terms of its safety technology and equipment. 

But for those on a strict budget who need the peace of mind of a long warranty, it’s easy to see why the ZS has proved a popular choice.

Likes

Strong value
Looks good
Great warranty

Dislikes

Lacking safety tech
Four-star ANCAP
Could be better to drive

Scores

Matt:

3

The Kids:

$20,990

Based on new car retail price

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