MG ZS Review
The MG ZS brings a blend of keen pricing, attractive looks and the charisma of a legendary badge to the competitive SUV market.
Strengths & weaknesses
- Competitively priced
- Comfortable and absorbent ride
- Spacious interior and boot
- 1.0T GDI engine handicapped by automatic gearbox
- Some low-rent interior trim
- Basic version is poorly equipped
If you’ve only the budget for a small hatchback but need the space of a car from the class above, the MG ZS could well be worth a look. It’s a compact crossover or even maybe an SUV (the boundaries between these two forms are becoming increasingly blurred) so is tall and reasonably bulky with good interior space and a big boot.
However, there’s always a cheaper alternative in the wings, whatever the class. In this case, it’s the larger Dacia Duster SUV. Its prices start at just £9995 while a mid-spec diesel-powered Duster costs just £12,995.
So the ZS finds itself caught between pricier but more familiar and capable models and a cheaper one offering incredible value for money. In reply, it offers a blend of attractive styling, good equipment levels (at least from mid-spec Excite upwards) and that spacious interior with a good-sized boot that we mentioned.
Its case starts to unravel a little in terms of its engines. There are two, both petrols: a 1.5 VTI and a 1.0T GDI. Being a small turbocharged engine, the latter is bang up to date. Its problem is that it’s paired with an automatic gearbox, so any efficiency gains are wiped out. It’s also slower than the 1.5 from 0-62mph but, importantly, quicker through the gears, which is more useful.
The 1.5 is only offered with a five-speed gearbox which means it’s a bit more economical. It needs to be worked hard, though, and its lack of a sixth gear comes at the expense of cruising refinement. The 1.0T GDI is quieter but the ZS suffers from wind and road noise at speed.
Where the ZS starts to recover ground is in its ride comfort. It deals with potholes and surface irregularities very well but this same softness and absorbency comes at the expense of body control. In corners it leans quite badly, and pitches and dives easily under acceleration and braking. The steering, which has three selectable modes offering different weights and resistance, is short on feedback. The best mode is Urban. It’s the lightest and good for town work.
At first glance, the ZS’s interior looks smart and on Excite trim is well equipped. The seats are comfortable and supportive, too. Explore more closely, though, and you’ll find a few hard and scratchy plastics. It’s here that the ZS’s budget price shines through.
Space-wise there’s little to criticise. The front offers decent legroom and in the back, there’s plenty of headroom. Add a 448-litre boot which, with the back seats folded, expands to an impressive 1,375 litres (more than a Ford Focus) and it’s clear the ZS is a practical, not to mention good value, choice
|£210 in the first year; £145 from the second year
Best MG ZS for...
Best for Economy – MG ZS Explore 1.5 VTI
Because it’s combined with a manual gearbox, the 1.5 VTI engine is the more economical of the two engines. It does 47.1mpg. We’ve chosen Explore trim because it’s the cheapest in the range so helps to keep costs down.
Best for Families – MG ZS Excite 1.5 VTI
This mid-spec version has most of the things a family needs at a price that’s still quite reasonable. The 1.5 VTI engine is the most economical, too.
Best for Performance – MG ZS Exclusive 1.0 T GDI auto
Although the 1.0T GDI auto is slower from 0-62mph than the 1.5 VTI (12.4 seconds compared with 10.9), through the gears from 50-70mph, when you need performance for overtaking, it’s considerably faster. On this measure, it takes 7.5 seconds compared with 10.3-15.2 seconds, depending which gear is selected, in the 1.5 VTI. Meanwhile, Exclusive trim looks the part.
2017 Model launched with 1.5 and 1.T petrol engines, the latter with an automatic gearbox only. Colours include Dynamic red, which costs £695. Has a seven-year warranty.
Understanding MG ZS names
These indicate the level of luxury you can expect to find. There are three with, as its name suggests, Exclusive being the best equipped.
Engine 1.0T GDI
The first number is the size of the engine in litres. In this example, the T that follows shows that it’s turbocharged. The letters GDI stand for gasoline direct injection, a form of fuel injection
The 1.0T GDI engine is only available with a six-speed automatic gearbox. The other engine, the 1.5 VTI, has a five-speed manual gearbo
MG ZS Engines
1.0T GDI, 1.5 VTI
One of the engines that powers the ZS is a modern, 1.0-litre unit with a turbocharger, called the 1.0T GDI. Such engines are all the rage at present because they promise greater efficiencies than the old, larger non-turbo engines (the ZS is available with one of these, too).
It’s a smooth and refined engine but, annoyingly, is saddled with a six-speed automatic gearbox that’s quite slow to react. It wastes all those efficiency gains, too, with the result that instead of being the most economical engine, it’s the least so with a figure of 45.4mpg. On the positive side, it’s much quicker through the gears when you’re overtaking than the other engine.
That other engine is the aforementioned 1.5 VTI. It’s your only option if you want a manual gearbox. It’s not as refined as the 1.0T and has to work hard to shift the ZS’s bulk. It produces most of its power at high revs so can sound quite thrashy.
MG ZS Trims
Explore, Excite, Exclusive, Limited Edition
Explore trim’s main purpose is to get the price of the ZS to under £13,000. Its main crime in the image-conscious SUV class is having small steel wheels. It also does without a digital radio and parking sensors but at least the rear seat splits and folds, there’s Bluetooth and the mirrors are electric. It has cruise control, too, but is only available with the 1.5 VTI engine.
It’s mid-spec Excite trim that hits the spot. It costs just over £1500 more than Explore but transforms the ZS into something much more desirable with features including 17in alloy wheels, air conditioning, an eight-inch colour touch screen, a digital radio with Apple CarPlay (there’s no Android Auto), roof rails and parking sensors. This and Exclusive trim, above it, are available with the 1.0T GDI automatic engine and gearbox in addition to the 1.5 VTI.
At the top of the range sits Exclusive. In combination with the 1.0T GDI auto it pushes the price of the ZS to over £17,500. Highlights include a sat nav, leather seats and a reversing camera. They’re a nice distraction from the car’s otherwise modest ambience but are otherwise over the top.
The Limited Edition - you’ve guessed it - is a limited edition. Only 400 will be made, all of which will be Arctic White. They’re easily distinguishable by a gloss black grille, and red trim highlights on the front and rear bumpers, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Inside it gets red striped seat trim with red leather-style bolster, and red stitching on the steering wheel, gear-lever gaiter and door cards.
MG ZS Reliability and warranty
The MG 3 is backed by a seven-year/80,000-mile warranty. Only one other car maker, Kia, offers similar protection (its seven-year warranty runs to 100,000 miles).
No MG models featured in the latest 2018 Auto Express Driver Power owner satisfaction survey but in 2015 the manufacturer ranked fourth in the survey, just down from third the year before. However, worryingly, it had dropped out of the table by 2018.
Our feeling is that while the ZS’s interior trims looks and feels low rent and quality is inconsistent, underneath it all, the car is probably well built and simple enough, technically, not to cause too many concerns.
Used MG ZS
The ZS is already keenly priced new so it would be unrealistic to expect it to be a huge bargain, used.
For many people it’s an affordable route into fashionable SUV or crossover motoring, for which there’s a huge demand, so a used one in a bright colour and in Excite trim and above is sure to be snapped up.