LIVING MG’s ZS EV starts, after the government rebate, at NZ$41,365, making it a very compelling entrant—more so than the 2021 model which we already thought highly of. Jack Yan explains
Photographed by the author
Every issue we had with the MG ZS EV when we first tested it in 2021 has been addressed with its current model, revised in 2022. In fact, the improvements are so thorough, we hadn’t realized some were needed.
Outwardly, there are noticeable changes with the ZS. The profile of the lights was changed to a simpler, more modern, and more purposeful shape. Petrol models retained a radiator grille (or at least the appearance of one), while the electric model made do with a textured body-coloured grille. Down the back, there were fewer differences: the rear bumper is now body-coloured, too, giving the ZS a more substantial appearance.
But when viewed in profile, this is the same ZS that has been on the Chinese home market since 2016, reflecting the styling of crossovers back then. That means a narrow appearance that the facelift manages to hide reasonably well, and a tall stance, with a short bonnet. Proportionally, once again we are reminded of the old Hyundai Tucson IX.
It would therefore be tempting to think that MG had engaged in cosmetic changes. After all, there were very few real differences between the MGB Mk II and Mk III (in fact, the changes were greater during the Mk II’s run), and as noted in our earlier test, the MG 3 went from a reasonable B-segment contender to bargain entry-level runabout.
Fortunately, here the changes are more than skin deep. For a start, MG has upgraded the battery pack to 50·3 kWh, with a claimed 320 km (WLTP cycle) range. Judging by our test, this is a reasonably accurate estimate. That extra range really helps, as we’ll come to.
The interior, too, has had a very welcome makeover. The steering wheel has much better materials, with soft-touch leather all round, and the red-stitched leather all around the interior finally gives the ZS EV a more quality feel. MG has learned a few lessons from the more upmarket HS and applied them here, and the two models’ ambiance is now quite similar. There’s an upgrade on the central screen, with better resolution and a larger size (and the Droid typeface family is an improvement on Arial). The operating software is related to the HS’s, too, and far more logical. The speedometer and power reserve dials are now fully digital and the information is more comprehensive; it’ll again be familiar to HS drivers. The interior buttons underneath the screen for volume, fan and demister are more premium and easier to use. Even the starter button is nicer, placed a little higher, making it more visible. If we gave the interior a nod last time, this time we’re more emphatic. The 360-degree camera is there, and if you specify the more expensive Essence trim, the panoramic roof helps make the cabin more airy. The front seats are heated with the Essence model, and there’s also wireless charging and synthetic leather seats. Previous ZS goodies such as lane keep assist, emergency braking, and active headlights remain.
Amazingly, MG has barely raised the price while giving you far more kit. The base Excite EV is at NZ$49,990: get the government rebate and it comes down to NZ$41,365, NZ$1,000 more than the old model in 2021. The Essence comes out at NZ$45,365 after rebate.
The only confusion we encountered was with charging. We had a fault with the house’s power outlet, and wondered why the battery percentage barely budged (going from 33 per cent to 39 per cent overnight). Outside the car, all seemed normal; the charging began as it always did. On the main menu, it just read ‘Connecting’. It was only on probing the menus more deeply that we found ‘Connected, not charging’. The signs were ambiguous—or maybe they are very obvious to those au fait with technology. Our real clue was watching the percentage of charge drop during this time. Then we began troubleshooting the source of the problem.
But we shouldn’t need to be computer engineers, probing menus to figure things out. As MG has clearly taken feedback on board for the 2022 model, no doubt they will do something about the menu design.
There’s nothing like losing charge each day to give you range anxiety with EVs, but thanks to the increase in capacity, we felt it far less.
MG’s even firmed the suspension up to give it better handling, and even the ride is improved. NVH is better than before, too—that extra NZ$1,000 seems to have been well invested in the car itself. For a compact crossover, the ZS does its job well as a suburban family vehicle. It remains one of the best value ways of getting into EV motoring in New Zealand.
It’s an even more convincing package than ever, with only styling now falling on the debit side. MG’s biggest threat is other Asian competition who have raised the stakes on exterior styling. Former design pirate BYD has entered New Zealand with one of its original creations, the Yuan Plus, badged as the Atto 3. We haven’t driven one yet but the styling seems appealing, though whether it’s worth the extra NZ$3,000 will be over to buyer preference, and whether its awkward interior will turn people off. (It does for us, whenever we see one.) Kia and Hyundai have an eye on the future and their EVs almost look at home on the set of a Gerry Anderson science fiction show—in a good way.
If you can get past the 2016 shape (and most could, when we surveyed people when we had the 2021 model on test), MG has brought the ZS bang up to date inside and under the skin and it’s worth your time. It’s a thoroughly developed car now after so many years in production; contrast this with the new petrol-engined MG One in China which has had teething troubles, including with its CVT. No such complaints here: like the old MG 1300 Mk II, what you see here is tried, trusted, and reliable.
We might have had an issue with the charging but we’re chalking that up to being an anomaly, as the fault was in the house and not the car, and hadn’t happened before or since. If we thought it was worth ‘a truly serious look’ last time, that sentiment is even stronger today in 2023. The ZS remains an EV bargain. •
Jack Yan is founder and publisher of Lucire. You can get more info about the MG ZS on Autocade.
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