Used MG Rover ZR Hatchback 2001 - 2005 review

Category: Small car

The MG ZR is a fun, low-cost hot hatch, but it's unrefined and looking very dated now

MG Rover ZR Hatchback (01 - 05)
  • MG Rover ZR Hatchback (01 - 05)
  • MG Rover ZR Hatchback (01 - 05)
Used MG Rover ZR Hatchback 2001 - 2005 review
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Steve Huntingford
Published01 January 2006

What's the used MG ZR hatchback like?

The MG ZR is a Rover 25 retuned and restyled to turn Rover's old boy into a bad boy. But, even though the 25 was an ageing design long before the surgery, the chassis engineers did a great job of turning it into an something much more entertaining to drive.

They made the handling sharper without massacring the ride, and the ZR160 version is a swift, entertaining hot hatch. However, the ZR isn't as refined as the 25 - it has a firmer ride, the suspension is noisier and the engines get loud when stretched.


The MG ZR is a fun, low-cost hot hatch, but it's unrefined and looking very dated now

  • The ZR is cheap and has keen yet frugal petrol engines, which make it entertaining
  • The looks are too brash for some, the diesels are rowdy and build quality is poor

You'll either love or hate the car's looks. Either way, you probably won't like the awkward driving position and old-style cabin.

Still, there's decent space in the front and rear, as well as a useful boot. Getting to and from the rear seats in the three-door isn't easy, though.

Ownership cost

What used MG ZR hatchback will I get for my budget?

How much does it cost to run a MG ZR hatchback?

The ZR is an affordable set of wheels to buy and run. Provided, that is, you steer clear of the ZR160.

The ZR160 adds true hot hatch ability to go with those looks, but it's the priciest ZR and you'll have to stump up the cash for group 16 insurance. By comparison, our favourite model, the ZR120, falls into group 10, while the smaller-engined ZR105 and 2.0 turbodiesels are in group 8.

All models are easy-going at the pumps, though. The diesels are best, of course (reckon on just over 50mpg in normal driving), but the petrols are very fuel-efficient, too. Even the hot ZR160 should give you high-30s when you aren't caning it, while the ZR120 and ZR105 can get up to around the 40mpg mark.

Servicing costs are likely to be slightly higher than average, depending on where you get the work done, but nothing to scare your bank manager.

Our recommendations

Which used MG ZR hatchback should I buy?

Don't bother with the 2.0 turbodiesel engines. They're reasonably strong, but unrefined, unenjoyable and unsuited to the car.

Of the petrols, the ZR105 is a good, low-cost warm hatch and its 1.4 petrol engine is willing enough. For drivers who want a little more go, there's the ZR160. Its 158bhp 1.8 petrol is hot-hatch swift - 0-60mph in 7.4sec - but the insurance costs are prohibitive.

This leaves our favourite, the 118bhp 1.8 ZR120. It's nippy enough (0-60mph in 8.6sec), but it is stacks cheaper to insure and gentle on fuel.

We'd take the five-door over the three-door, and, for a more modern (or less dated) look, a car made after the face-lift in late 2003. Basic spec is modest. Plusher '+' trim is worth the extra, but even then, safety kit is minimal.

You'll find ZRs at all outlets, but beware trashed ones in the classifieds.

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