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What Car? says

2 out of 5 stars

For Good handling; cracking performance from V6 engine

Against It looks a bit homemade, and the ride is very harsh

Verdict The styling and cabin are questionable, but this is a cheap and fun to drive car

Go for… 1.8 120

Avoid… 2.0 turbodiesel

MG Rover ZS Hatchback
  • 1. In the 1.6 and 1.8 petrols, blown head gaskets – often brought on by water leaks – are a fairly common fault
  • 2. Have an expert check the front suspension, because there can be problems, although they are not necessarily expensive to fix
  • 3. The sportiest model, the ZS180, comes with 17in alloy wheels, part-leather trim and an aggressive-looking bodykit
  • 4. Rear cabin space is poor, but the saloon and the hatch have a spilt/folding rear seat and decent boot space
  • 5. The MG can run to 15,000 miles before it needs a service
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MG Rover ZS Hatchback full review with expert trade views

MG’s engineers may have been forced to use the platform of the stodgy-handling Rover 45 as a base for the ZS, but they didn’t let that deter them. When the ZS arrived in 2001, it did so to critical acclaim. The stiffened, lowered suspension does an excellent job and provides fine handling, although the ride is a bit too firm as a result.

There's a wide range of engines, starting with a 1.6-litre 107bhp petrol and culminating in an excellent 2.5-litre 177bhp V6. A 1.8-litre petrol and two 2.0 turbodiesels complete the picture.

Although the inside was given the sports treatment, too, it still looked old-fashioned even when new, despite the chrome-ringed dials. The front seats are good, though, with plenty of side support, although steering wheel adjustment is limited. Rear cabin space is poor, too, but both the saloon and the hatch have a spilt/folding rear seat and decent boot space.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Also-ran in the used car market. ZS 180 offers most fun for the money

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

If you want the most sporting model, it has to be the V6. Badged ZS180, the engine produces 177bhp and blasts the car from 0-60mph in 7.3sec and on to a top speed of 139mph. Standard kit includes 17in alloy wheels, part-leather trim and an aggressive-looking bodykit.

Avoid the two 2.0-litre turbodiesels, one with 100bhp and one with 110bhp, as they're off the pace for refinement and performance. Likewise, you can find the 117bhp 1.8-litre ZS120 with a CVT automatic gearbox, but you're better off sticking with the five-speed manual.

Whichever ZS you buy, it will have a reasonable amount of equipment. Even the entry-level ZS110, which has a 107bhp 1.6-litre engine, gets anti-lock brakes, twin front and side airbags, alloy wheels and remote central locking. Air-conditioning and CD players are also available, but even after the range had a face-lift in April 2004, traction and stability control, and curtain airbags were still not available.

Trade view

James Ruppert

ZS+ spec with 2.0 TD (115) but hatch not saloon for retail

James Ruppert
Used car guru

Back in 2003, a new MG ZS180 cost more than the equivalent five-door Volkswagen Golf GTI, but it’s the Golf that’s worth more now. Still, that means you can get a quick, sharp-handling car for not much money if you can find a well-cared-for ZS.

Insurance won’t be too much of a problem if you go for the 1.6- or 1.8-litre petrol models, because they both attract no more than a group 12 rating. The two diesels are lower still, group 10, but the V6 is in group 16, with the Golf GTIs of similar vintage.

The MG can run to 15,000 miles before it needs a service, though, whereas the GTI needs attention one a year or every 10,000 miles. An independent MG expert will charge less per hour than his VW counterpart, but, on average, major repair work on the MG will prove more costly.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Also-ran in the used car market. ZS 180 offers most fun for the money

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

The most fuel-efficient MG is the 53mpg, 111bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel, but let’s be realistic here, none of these cars was bought with economy as the number one concern. Each and every ZS will have been driven hard at some point.

To be fair, the diesel engines should be able to take the punishment, but the same can’t always be said of the 1.6- and 1.8-litre petrols. Blown head gaskets – often brought on by water leaks – are a fairly common fault.

Have an expert check the front suspension, because there can be problems, although they are not necessarily expensive faults to rectify. Sometimes new bushes will do the trick.

New boot struts might be needed, too. After years of lifting those heavy rear spoilers, they may no longer be able to hold the boot up. Interior trim can also give up the ghost, as can the standard-fit alarm.

Trade view

James Ruppert

ZS+ spec with 2.0 TD (115) but hatch not saloon for retail

James Ruppert
Used car guru
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