MG ZS EV long-term test review
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...
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 1664 List price £30,995 (before £3000 gov't grant) Target Price £30,995 Price as tested £31,540 Test range 140 miles (summer), 110 miles (winter) Official range 163 miles Dealer price now £22,995 Private price now £21,895 Trade-in price now £20,995 Running costs (excluding depreciation) Electricity £233
4 August 2020 – Severing the connection
It’s never a bad thing to have a unique selling point, and the MG ZS EV’s is that it’s the cheapest electric SUV you can currently buy. Granted, ‘cheap’ is a relative term when it comes to electric vehicles (EVs), and the ZS is no longer quite the bargain it was when it arrived last year, but with a starting price of £25,495 once you’ve factored in the Government's £3000 grant for such cars, it still offers more space and practicality for the money than any other EV.
As with most electric cars, the ZS is wonderfully smooth and easy to drive, especially around town, with a lively, seamless power delivery and a well-judged regenerative braking system that slows the car nicely when you lift off the accelerator. It handles and rides perfectly competently, too, although the ZS isn’t as hushed as I’ve come to expect of an electric car, generating a fair bit of tyre and wind noise on the motorway.
As for range, I got barely 110 miles between recharges in cold weather and around 140 miles in the summer, compared with an official figure of 163 miles. That’s fine for short hops, but it means longer trips can be time-consuming and nerve-wracking. The wildly optimistic range indicator drops alarmingly quickly at motorway speeds, and frequent stops for top-ups are required to avoid ending up stranded on the side of the road with a flat battery.
In fact, for the first time in a decade of driving electric cars on and off, that very thing happened to me in the ZS, with a dead car having to be carted home on the back of a lorry. I shouldn’t blame the car for what was a misjudgement on my part, but I can’t help but think the chances of running out of juice would have been lower if I’d had a 200-mile-plus range at my disposal.
The recharging process isn’t all that user-friendly, either, with access to the port in the front grille being awkward and charging not always starting straight away. The ZS seemed unusually sensitive to the type of charger being used; my car refused to have anything to do with my 3kW wallbox at home, so I had to use a three-pin domestic socket instead. An illuminated MG badge is a flawed way of showing that charging is under way, too, because it’s tricky to see in bright sunlight and gives no external indication of the battery level.
Although the ZS is bigger than similar-priced electric hatchbacks such as the Peugeot e-208 and Renault Zoe, it’s on the small side for a family SUV, so it can’t hold a candle to a Skoda Karoq for practicality. There’s plenty of space for occupants, with more rear leg room than you’d find in the rival Kia e-Niro, but the boot isn’t huge or particularly clever (apart from having a height-adjustable boot floor), and the tailgate doesn’t open high enough for my liking, providing frequent opportunities for me, at 6ft 1in tall, to crack my head on it while loading or unloading the boot.
The quality of the interior is perfectly acceptable for the money, plus it’s very well equipped in range-topping Exclusive trim and the upright driving position is pretty comfortable. However, the rudimentary air-con is awkward to adjust, despite having physical knobs to twirl, and the touchscreen infotainment system is woefully sluggish. In addition, continual warning chimes and a tortuously long systems check on start-up annoyed me on a daily basis.
Despite that list of gripes, I’ve enjoyed running the ZS in many ways because, being electric, it’s inherently nicer to drive than most conventional cars, as far as I’m concerned. However, it feels rather unpolished and lacking in the maturity we’ve come to expect of electric cars. You can tell that quite a few corners have been cut in order to get it priced as low as it is; the instrument panel, for example, is only lightly modified compared with the regular ZS's and isn't as well suited to an electric car as a fully digital one would be.
For me, the short range, clunkiness of the recharging process and high annoyance factor would rule out the ZS if I were buying an electric car again. But if it suits your lifestyle and the price is right, I certainly wouldn’t try to dissuade you.
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