MG ZS EV review: longer range and high spec come at a price

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Updates bring the option of an impressive new range, but the top-spec price point puts family SUVs up against impressive rivals

In recent years, MG has slowly carved out a small corner of the new car market.

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Like Dacia, the Chinese automaker has focused on selling budget cars to people who don’t care about the badge image and just want a new set of wheels for as little as possible.

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Its first models weren’t particularly well received, but the ZS, launched in 2017, seems to have hit the sweet spot, satisfying the never-ending desire for SUVs and helping to boost MG’s fortunes.

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Originally sold with a couple of uninspiring petrol engines, MG added an electric option to the range for 2019 to meet demand for wallet-friendly EVs. Now, for 2022, it’s given the all-electric model a mild cosmetic and major mechanical overhaul.

Externally, the traditional grille has been replaced with a closed textured front panel that houses the charging port, and the headlights have been redesigned. I’m not convinced it’s an improvement, but it certainly sets the car apart from the petrol-powered version, as do the EV-specific ‘aero’ wheels meant to limit drag.

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Behind the new face, the updated ZS EV gets two powertrain options, replacing the previous 44.5kWh/141PS arrangement.

Standard range cars now get a 51kWh battery matched to a 174hp motor on the front wheels. That’s good enough for 198 miles of range in official testing – already better than the old model’s 163 miles.

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However, long-distance cars boost performance with a 72.6kWh battery, although engine power is reduced to 154hp to squeeze even more range from the larger battery.

The official range is 273 miles using 3.5 miles per kWh, while the onboard computer estimated a real range of 234 miles during my time with it.

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The long-term trip computer showed an average consumption of 3.2m/kWh, but I regularly saw 3.8m/kWh (thanks in part to some warm weather) and even managed 4m/kWh on a normal trip between two local ones cities. Thankfully, the on-board computer’s estimate remained accurate across a variety of driving conditions – something some rivals still struggle with.

Inside, too, the ZS EV can match or surpass most of its competitors, offering relatively generous space for four passengers and an impressive 470-litre boot.

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However, other elements of the interior let him down. I may have just been unlucky with a “Friday afternoon” car, but ours exhibited a number of workmanship issues, including creaking panels, misassembled components and a faulty infotainment system.

Possibly isolated issues aside, the cabin is a no-frills affair, with a simple layout for controls and materials at most touchpoints that fall firmly into the “acceptable” category. The ‘leather-style’ upholstery is clearly not right and the dashboard plastic is a naff faux-carbon weave, but otherwise the switchgear feels solid enough and isn’t noticeably worse than any other budget brand.

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However, despite MG’s budget image, this high-spec long-range ZS costs more than £34,000 and feels less well-made than its similarly-priced rivals.

This price is for the top-of-the-line, long-range Trophy Connect model and means the car does not qualify for the plug-in car grant. All three standard-range cars qualify for the grant, as does the long-range version of the basic SE specification.

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Every version of the ZS EV comes generously equipped, with a suite of driver-assistance systems, a 10.1-inch center touchscreen, smartphone mirroring, satnav, climate control, auto-low beam and keyless entry and start. Heated seats, connected infotainment services, cell phone charging and blind spot warning are among the few additional features offered by the higher-end car.

Back on the road, the ZS EV shows little in common with previous cars that sported the octagonal badge. The performance of the less powerful engine is still sufficient for this type of car with an acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in 8.2 seconds. However, the handling is very, very soft. That’s great for handling potholes, not so great for handling corners, and is at odds with the oddly quick steering. How much this will matter to MG’s current target demographic is debatable.

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The ZS EV is in a precarious position. While the MG5 station wagon is a unique prospect, the ZS competes against a host of other electric SUVs and, in highly specialized long-range form, doesn’t offer any significant savings over them. Its range is impressive given the interior and trim levels, but other models offer better design and build quality for similar money.

MG ZS EV Trophy Connect for long range

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Price: £34,495 (£35,040 as tested); Engine: Single 115 kW electric motor; Battery: 72.6kWh; Perfomance: 154 hp; Torque: 206 pounds foot; Transmission: single-speed automatic, front-wheel drive; Top speed: 108 miles per hour; 0-62mph: 8.2 seconds; WLTP range: 273 miles; Consumption: 3.5 miles/kWh; Charge: Up to 100kW

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