What's the used MG ZS hatchback like?
The small SUV sector has been a popular one for new car sales for a few years now, and as those early buyers have started to move onto newer versions, used examples of cars such as the Seat Arona, Renault Captur and Kia Stonic are starting to filter onto the marketplace. The MG ZS has always been a good-value option as a new car, but how does it hold up as a used purchase against such accomplished rivals?
When the ZS was new, it became known as one of the least expensive small SUVs that you could buy, undercutting many of its rivals by thousands of pounds. This price-cutting didn’t come at the expense of space, because the ZS is actually one of the biggest cars in its class. There's more boot space than in the Seat Arona, even if there are significant wheel arch intrusions. A variable-height floor is available; otherwise there would be a significant lip to lift items over.
Passenger space is generous, too. There isn’t reach adjustment for the steering wheel on the ZS, but you should still be able to get reasonably comfortable. Rear head and leg room is up there with the best in class as well.
There are two petrol engines available in the ZS: a 105bhp 1.5-litre unit that is connected to a five-speed manual gearbox, and a 110bhp turbocharged 1.0-litre triple that comes with a six-speed automatic. There's also an all-electric MG ZS EV version, launched in 2018.
The 1.5 can seem breathless in a car the size of the ZS; with a full complement of passengers aboard, you’d need to rev it rather a lot to make decent progress. The automatic can be a bit lethargic to shift between gears and makes the more powerful 1.0-litre model significantly slower from 0-62mph than the 1.5. However, it’s worth putting up with this in order to have the 1.0-litre engine, because it's more flexible. It’s much better than the 1.5 on faster roads, for example, when you have to accelerate back up to the national speed limit after having driven through a town.
One of the weakest areas of the petrol-powered ZS is its sluggish performance, but the electric version is much, much quicker. The official 0-62mph sprint takes a very respectable 8.5sec, and you never feel like you need any more zip, even on faster A-roads.
You wouldn’t call the ZS EV fun in many other respects, either. Its battery pack adds around a quarter of a tonne of extra weight compared with the regular ZS, so the EV unsurprisingly doesn’t feel quite as light on its toes as its petrol-powered sister.
However, you won’t necessarily want to hustle any ZS through a series of bends, because it rolls a fair bit in corners and the ride is unsettled at all speeds. The steering is surprisingly quick and can take a little getting used to; otherwise you’ll have to keep winding off steering lock because you’ve turned too sharply in to a corner.
The three driving modes are a bit of a gimmick and you’re better off leaving everything in Normal. Dynamic mode adds an unnecessary amount of weight to the steering, while urban is far too light. Road and wind noise make their presence known at motorway speeds, too.
Where the cost-cutting becomes more obvious is when you step inside the ZS, because the plastics used feel cheap and are scratchy to the touch. If you avoid the less popular and rather austere entry-level Explore version and go for a mid-level Excite, you’ll get air conditioning, 17in alloy wheels, cruise control, rear parking sensors and a responsive 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system. You won’t get any of the latest autonomous safety tech with the ZS, such as autonomous emergency braking, which is perhaps why it has a rather disappointing three-star Euro NCAP score, whereas many of its rivals get the full five-star rating.
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