MG ZS EV long-term test review: report 1

MG's first electric vehicle is a family SUV with a highly competitive price but a modest range. We're finding out how it stacks up against both other electric cars and conventional rivals...

MG ZS EV long term

The car MG ZS EV Run by Allan Muir, managing editor

Why we’re running it To find out whether it’s worth buying an electric SUV primarily because it’s affordable, or whether there are too many compromises

Needs to Be practical, comfortable, decent to drive and cheap to run while fitting into everyday life without too much drama

Mileage 193 List price £30,995 (before £3000 government grant and £2500 MG discount) Target Price £30,995 (before £3000 government grant) Price as tested £31,540 Options fitted Metallic paint (£545) Test range 110 miles Official range 163 miles

1 April 2020 – Getting to know the UK's cheapest electric SUV 

One of the downsides of electric vehicles (EVs) is that they’re often more expensive to buy than their petrol or diesel-powered equivalents. A £3000 government grant towards the purchase price helps to make any new EV costing less than £50,000 more competitive, but in the main they don’t come cheap. 

MG ZS EV long term

However, the Chinese-owned MG brand is doing its bit to break down that barrier with the ZS EV, an electric family SUV that can be had for less than our favourite version of the similar-sized Skoda Karoq, for example. Once you’ve factored in the government grant and a £2500 discount that MG is offering for the time being, you can get an entry-level Excite model for just £22,995, or the fully loaded Exclusive model I’ve got for £24,495. The only other EVs you can buy for similar money are small (and therefore less practical) hatchbacks, such as the Renault Zoe.

The ZS may represent a lot of EV for the money, but there’s no point in shopping for a bargain if it can’t do the job properly. And in the ZS’s case, that largely depends on whether it’ll go far enough between recharges to meet your needs. Its official range of 163 miles is fairly short compared with those of the Zoe (up to 245 miles) and the more expensive Kia e-Niro (282 miles), although it’s on a par with the Nissan Leaf family hatch’s.

We haven’t been able to put the ZS through our Real Range test yet, but in cold weather I’m barely managing 110 miles between recharges. Still, that sort of range is probably going to be fine for everyday running about and commuting. Longer journeys will be more of a challenge, though.

MG ZS EV long term

Recharging times also play a big part in the usability of EVs; you don’t want to be wasting time waiting for the battery to be topped up. Officially, the ZS takes six and a half hours to get from flat to full via a typical 7kW home charger and as little as 40 minutes (to 80%) via a 50kW CCS rapid charger. Unfortunately, my home charger is refusing to have anything to do with the ZS, so I have to use a three-pin domestic socket in my garage; that means 0-100% takes about 14 hours. None of that should be a problem for me in typical use.

There are three levels of regenerative braking to choose from, selected via a switch on the centre console. Level 3, the strongest setting, seems perfectly judged for one-pedal driving around town, slowing the car briskly when you lift off the accelerator, although you still have to use the brake pedal to bring the car to a complete halt.

MG ZS EV long term

Like most EVs, the ZS is smooth and super-easy to drive, with lively performance around town, although it begins to feel a little out of its depth at motorway speeds. It isn’t quite as refined as most other EVs I’ve driven, with a bit more wind, road and suspension noise than usual, but it’s still pretty quiet and relaxing compared with most conventionally powered equivalents. 

My range-topping Exclusive model comes so well equipped that there aren't any options to add. Standard kit includes keyless entry and start, heated and electrically adjustable front seats covered in faux leather, a sliding panoramic glass roof, a rear-view camera and a remarkable array of active driver and safety aids, including adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cycle detection, lane-keeping assistance, blindspot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. The infotainment system features an 8.0in touchscreen and comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring. 

MG ZS EV long term

The driving position is fairly comfortable, too, despite the fact that there’s no reach adjustment for the steering wheel. You sit quite upright and high up in relation to the dashboard, but that’s no bad thing. There are a few Audi-like styling cues to be found around the interior – the air vents and door handles, for example – and the quality of the materials isn’t too bad; the metal gear selector dial actually looks and feels relatively classy.  

MG ZS EV long term

With its apparently limited range, I’m not expecting the ZS to be an effortless long-distance cruiser. But I do expect it to fit into my everyday life without too much drama, especially when it comes to recharging, and without forcing me to accept all sorts of compromises simply because it’s affordable. If it can do that, I’ll be impressed.

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