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MG ZST 2024 review: Essence petrol


Daily driver score

3.5/5

Urban score

3/5

The ZST is essentially an upgraded version of MG's popular small SUV, the ZS.

The ZST sees some tweaks to the overall design and some added standard safety features. So, if you like the original, there's a good chance you'll like the ZST and I've been driving the top-grade Essence variant with my family of three.

The ZST Essence has some stiff competition from similarly specified rivals like the GWM Haval Jolion Lux and Chery Omoda 5 EX offering affordable packages and similar driving experiences. So, what makes the ZST stand out?

Price and features – Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 8/10

There are four variants for the ZST and our test vehicle is the top-spec Essence model, priced at $33,990 drive-away.

Our example's 'Pebble Black' finish is an included colour but other paintwork options can cost an extra $700.

The price point positions it right in the middle of its rivals with the Omoda 5 costing $35,990 drive-away  and the Jolion sliding into the most affordable spot at $30,990 drive-away.

It was simple to connect to the wired Apple CarPlay. It also has Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity and AM/FM radio. It was simple to connect to the wired Apple CarPlay. It also has Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity and AM/FM radio.

To highlight the value-for-money comparison, the Kia Seltos Sport+ FWD model costs $38,790 drive-away and then you start creeping up into the $40K bracket for similarly specified small SUVs.

The ZST Essence is the top-grade and it has a decent number of premium features for its price tag, like a panoramic sunroof, synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats and an electric driver's seat, keyless entry, keyless start and a full suite of exterior LED lights.

Other standard features include wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 10.1-inch touchscreen multimedia system, digital instrument cluster, one-zone air-conditioning, built-in satellite navigation, 360-degree camera system and an upgraded sound system with six speakers.

There are four variants for the ZST and our test vehicle is the top-spec Essence model, priced at $33,990 drive-away. There are four variants for the ZST and our test vehicle is the top-spec Essence model, priced at $33,990 drive-away.

Design – Is there anything interesting about its design? 7/10

Being the newer and shinier version of the ZS, the ZST presents as a nice little package with its full suite of LED exterior lights, shiny chrome accents and its well-shaped body.

The front is distinctively different from its design muse with a darkened grille, and redesigned fog lights that feature new air intake vents. Other highlights include the 17-inch two-tone alloy wheels with sporty red brake calipers lurking behind them.

Being the newer and shinier version of the ZS, the ZST presents as a nice little package. Being the newer and shinier version of the ZS, the ZST presents as a nice little package.

The interior is pleasant with a massive sunroof creating a light-filled space and giving the illusion that the cabin is larger than it is.

The synthetic leather upholstery and trims seem robust and perfect for families, but also feel quite plasticky under hand. The red badge embossing on the headrests is lovely, though.

Other highlights include the 17-inch two-tone alloy wheels with sporty red brake calipers lurking behind them. Other highlights include the 17-inch two-tone alloy wheels with sporty red brake calipers lurking behind them.

The dashboard is well-proportioned and headlined by an upgraded 10.1-inch touchscreen multimedia system and fully digital instrument cluster.

The gearshift feels a tad too skinny and tall for the general aesthetic but the circular air-vents add some cute personality.

The front is distinctively different from its design muse with a darkened grille, and redesigned fog lights that feature new air intake vents. The front is distinctively different from its design muse with a darkened grille, and redesigned fog lights that feature new air intake vents.

Practicality – How practical is its space and tech inside? 6/10

Practicality is hurt by a lack of individual storage options and a back seat that has only two USB-A ports for its amenities.

The cabin space is spacious, though, and both rows have a decent amount of leg- and headroom despite the massive sunroof.

The steering wheel features height but not reach adjustment and to accommodate I have to sit much closer to the wheel than normal thanks to my poor little T-Rex arms.

The interior is pleasant with a massive sunroof creating a light-filled space and giving the illusion that the cabin is larger than it is. The interior is pleasant with a massive sunroof creating a light-filled space and giving the illusion that the cabin is larger than it is.

Individual storage is the best up front with a small middle console and glove box, two cupholders and two drink bottle holders. The doors also feature large storage bins, which is great to keep the cockpit feeling neat.

The rear row gets two map pockets and a small storage bin in each door. There is also a (very) shallow storage nook at the back of the middle console… think a packet of gum or small wallet size.

My seven-year old isn't as comfortable in the rear because it lacks directional air vents, reading lights and a fold-down armrest. All items which will hinder an adult's comfort, too.

The synthetic leather upholstery and trims seem robust and perfect for families, but also feel quite plasticky under hand. The synthetic leather upholstery and trims seem robust and perfect for families, but also feel quite plasticky under hand.

The boot space is a good size at 359L but you can bump it to 1187L with the rear seats folded, the backrest featuring a 60/40 split.

The height of the floor is adjustable and when set in the lowest position creates a deep well to tuck larger items, like luggage, into.

The hard cargo cover can be awkward to shift around or store but is otherwise out of the way when it counts.

The cabin space is spacious, though, and both rows have a decent amount of leg- and headroom despite the massive sunroof. The cabin space is spacious, though, and both rows have a decent amount of leg- and headroom despite the massive sunroof.

Other amenities accentuate the premium-feeling the Essence is going for with the heated front seats and electric drivers seat offering well-padded comfort but on longer journeys, I miss having adjustable lumbar support.

The rear seats aren't as comfortable as the front only because the synthetic leather feels slippery, which is accentuated when you hit corners!

In terms of technology, you get two USB-A ports in each row but the front also gets a 12-volt port. You miss out on fast and wireless charging options.

The rear row gets two map pockets and a small storage bin in each door. The rear row gets two map pockets and a small storage bin in each door.

The multimedia system looks great but can be sluggish to respond and the apps can be slow to load but I like the built-in satellite navigation.

The upgraded sound system has six speakers instead of four but the sound quality is a bit tinny with music and calls.

It was simple to connect to the wired Apple CarPlay. It also has Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity and AM/FM radio.

The boot space is a good size at 359L but you can bump it to 1187L with the rear seats folded, the backrest featuring a 60/40 split. The boot space is a good size at 359L but you can bump it to 1187L with the rear seats folded, the backrest featuring a 60/40 split.

Under the bonnet – What are the key stats for its engine and transmission? 7/10

The Essence variant has a 1.3-litre, three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine with a maximum power output of 115kW and 230Nm of torque.

It's a front-wheel drive and features a six-speed auto transmission. Overall, it has enough power to keep up with traffic on the open road but you have to be firm with the accelerator to keep your speed consistent.

The Essence variant has a 1.3-litre, three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine with a maximum power output of 115kW and 230Nm of torque. The Essence variant has a 1.3-litre, three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine with a maximum power output of 115kW and 230Nm of torque.

Efficiency – What is its fuel consumption? What is its driving range? 7/10

The official combined cycle fuel figure is 7.3L/100km and my real-world average came in at 7.7L. That is after a good mix of urban and open-road driving, so the usage is good.

Based on the combined fuel cycle and the relatively small 45L fuel tank, expect a driving range of around 616km.

Driving – What's it like to drive? 7/10

The ZST Essence has an okay amount of power relative to the car's small size.

It's an adequate cruiser when I ferry just my husband and son around, but feels a full load of luggage and people.

The steering is responsive and it's an easy car to manoeuvre in tight car parks or city streets, which is great. The visibility is pretty good despite the chunkier pillars and you feel confident when checking your blind-spots.

While the suspension is fairly forgiving and ride comfort is decent, you will still notice the bumps, especially when seated in the back.

The cabin suffers from some wind and road noise and at higher speeds we had to find we raise our voices a bit to be heard. Around town, you don't notice it.

This is just a personal preference but the brake and accelerator pedals are skinnier and more centrally positioned than I prefer. You get used to it, though.

The ZST is pretty easy to park and it's great that you have a 360-degree camera system but the image quality can be grainy. You get rear parking sensors, too, but miss out on ones at the front.

Safety – What safety equipment is fitted? What is its safety rating? 6/10

The ZST Essence has a good suite of safety features that now come standard like rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring.

Other standard features include tyre pressure monitoring, LED daytime running lights, forward collision warning, lane departure alert, adaptive cruise control, seatbelt reminders, a 360-degree camera system and rear parking sensors.

There are ISOFIX child seat mounts on the rear outboard seats and three top tether anchor points but two child seats will fit best. There are ISOFIX child seat mounts on the rear outboard seats and three top tether anchor points but two child seats will fit best.

The ZST only features six airbags, while many of its rivals sport seven, including the newer front centre airbag. The ZST variant scored four- from a possible five-star ANCAP safety rating in 2017 testing.

It's important to note that the tested ZS model did not have AEB or lane support systems at the time of testing, these were introduced from the 2020 model year onwards and the ZST has both.

There are ISOFIX child seat mounts on the rear outboard seats and three top tether anchor points but two child seats will fit best. There is enough room for front occupants when a 0-4 rearward facing child seat is installed.

The ZST is pretty easy to park and it’s great that you have a 360-degree camera system but the image quality can be grainy. The ZST is pretty easy to park and it’s great that you have a 360-degree camera system but the image quality can be grainy.

Ownership – What warranty is offered? What are its service intervals? What are its running costs? 8/10

The ZST Essence comes with a seven-year/unlimited km warranty, which is on par with coverage offered by a growing number of its rivals.

There is a seven-year or up to 70,000km servicing program for a total cost of $2339 or an average of $334 per service, which is very competitive for the class.

Servicing intervals are at every 12 months or 10,000km, whichever occurs first, but could be annoying if you travel a lot.

Will the MG ZST Essence fit a small family? Absolutely, and all but the middle seat passenger will be comfortable but there are areas open for improvement. Like it's safety, laggy tech and adding a few extra items in the back seat.

Yet, it still offers a good host of features and an attractive package for a reasonable price tag. Unfortunately, my son missed having the basic amenities but did like the sun roof.

$32,990

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.5/5

Urban score

3/5
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.