2020 MG ZS EV review: price, specs and release date
Think electric SUVs are all hideously expensive? The new MG ZS EV is quite the opposite. But is it any good?...
Priced from £21,495 (after government grant and MG guaranteed discount) | On sale September 2019
The problem with electric cars, particularly the SUV variety, is that while they're cheap to run, they’re rather expensive to buy in the first place. But there is one notable exception – the new MG ZS EV.
Ever since the once-famous British sports car brand was relaunched by its current Chinese owners in 2011, MG has concentrated on building value-focused models with a steadily increasing amount of success. The Nissan Qashqai-sized ZS, launched in 2017, is its most rounded model yet, so it’s hardly surprising that it was chosen as a basis for MG’s first electric vehicle (EV).
Of course, the new electric model isn’t quite the same bargain-basement offering as the petrol-powered ZS. However, it is priced in line with petrol SUVs from more established brands, including the aforementioned Qashqai. Perhaps more to the point, the ZS EV is vastly cheaper than its closest battery-powered SUV rivals, the Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia e-Niro.
But is it a genuine bargain, or simply proof of the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’?
What's it like to drive?
One of the weakest areas of the petrol-powered ZS is its sluggish performance; this new electric version is much, much quicker. The 0-60mph sprint takes a very respectable 8.5sec and you never feel like you need more acceleration, even on faster A-roads. So, the fact that the Kona Electric is even faster will quite rightly have most potential buyers shrugging their shoulders.
In most other respects, the ZS EV is good, rather than outstanding, to drive. Its steering is precise and the weighting can be changed to suit your tastes, but you wouldn’t call it fun, while the extra weight of the batteries (around a quarter of a tonne) unsurprisingly means it doesn’t feel quite as light on its toes as the petrol variants.
Ride quality has never been a strength of the ZS, with rivals such as the Dacia Duster proving more agreeable along bumpy roads. The ZS EV is certainly no worse; if anything, it’s slightly better. This could be because the weight of the batteries has helped calm down the somewhat bouncy suspension. Besides, the Kona Electric is actually firmer around town, and while the e-Niro is better, it's still hardly serene, either.
One area that MG really has excelled, though – even compared with most major EV players – is in the predictable response of the ZS EV's brake pedal. You can easily judge how much pressure to apply to slow down smoothly, whereas the energy recuperation systems in many other electric cars wreak havoc with that predictably, causing you to either press the pedal too hard or not hard enough.
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that the ZS EV’s range is nothing exceptional by today’s standards. The official mileage hasn’t been through final sign-off, but MG is quoting 163 miles on the WLTP test. For context, the e-Niro can manage 282 miles and the Renault Zoe 186 miles.
It’s also worth noting that no electric car has yet managed to achieved its official WLTP range in our own real-world Real Range test, which we’ll be putting the ZS EV through in the coming months. So, if you regularly do long journeys, especially on the motorway, this probably isn’t the car for you.
But most daily commutes are less than 40 miles, so the ZS EV is still a thoroughly realistic proposition for many families – particularly those with access to another car.
As for charging, the ZS EV can take up to 50kW from a public CCS point, giving a 0-80% top-up in around 40 minutes. If you charge up at home using a Type 2 connector, as most owners will, the car's 44.5kWh battery takes roughly 6.5 hours to charge to full from empty.
What's it like inside?
There isn’t a great deal to separate petrol and electric ZS variants inside.
That’s mostly a good thing, because one of the car's biggest strengths has always been the quality of its interior. There’s plenty of squidgy plastic on the dashboard, the majority of buttons and dials are reassuringly weighty and build quality is remarkable given the price. In fact, the vastly more expensive e-Niro doesn’t actually feel that much plusher inside.
The driving position is mostly good other than one potential bugbear: the fact the steering wheel adjusts only for height and not reach. Depending on the relationship between the length of your legs and arms, this either won’t matter to you at all or will prove tremendously annoying. The answer? Make sure you sit in a ZS of some description before buying.
Rear space is excellent – better than what you'll find in the e-Niro, let alone the Kona Electric. Even with a panoramic sunroof (standard on Exclusive trim) fitted, there’s enough head room for six-footers, plus more leg room than most buyers will ever need.
The ZS EV officially has a slightly bigger boot than petrol models when the rear seats are in use (470 litres versus 448 litres). However, since the batteries are housed under the rear seats, you’re left with a bigger step in the floor when folding down the rear seatbacks. It’s far from terrible, though, and the standard height-adjustable boot floor helps get around the issue when installed in its highest position.
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