Chinese cars have had a bad rap over the last decade. They weren’t very nice to drive, weren’t well made, and were fairly unreliable. MG ZS is none of those things.
Once, MG made cool coupes, sexy convertibles, and sensible sedans. After a conga-line of owners including BMW, current owner SAIC now produces MG cars in its Chinese plants.
The range consists a small hatch, a sedan, and two crossovers. The latter blur the edges between a family hatch and an SUV.
What MG have given us is an inexpensive city runabout with space for your stuff, and a hard-wearing interior wrapped. It does that very well.
Any relation to ye olde English cars ends at the badge.
The resemblance is more akin to Korean and Japanese, and that’s a good thing. There are two models in the range but it isn’t obvious which is which. The top model “Essence” 1.0TI shares 17” wheels and roof racks with the 1.5T “Excite” base model. An entry level model called “Soul” will come soon.
The cross-over profile means a lightly higher ground clearance at 164mm. It has a coupe-like look to it with the waistline kicking up as it approaches the rear end.
There is a “Stargazer” glass roof for those who appreciate that open-air experience without the risk of getting wet.
Simple and neat, with a lot of hard surfaces, defines the cabin’s design language. It is remarkably well equipped considering the entry level price.
Driver instruments are clear and easy to read with a small LCD screen between two large conventional dials.
Auxiliary steering wheel controls for audio, phone, and cruise control are also clearly laid out. You can operate them by feel and rarely press a button by mistake. That is something you can’t say about posher cars. Their buttons meld in to one and are difficult to discern.
The centre stack is a clean and crisp as the rest of the interior. It’s worth noting the air conditioning system is electric, so is not run by a belt between the engine and compressor. That means drains less power from the motor.
Above that are the audio controls and 8” LCD screen. Apple CarPlay is standard. Decent sound comes from the Yamaha 3D system with 6 speakers.
Comfortable seats covered in “knight black” synthetic leather give a good driving position. the boot has a slightly lower floor for extra capacity.
- Apple CarPlay
- Electric air conditioning
- Front cup holders
- Synthetic leather trim on doors and sears
- Pish button start
- 6 speaker audio
- Front and rear fog lights
- Parking sensors
Don’t expect the 1.0L turbo petrol engine to be a power house. It isn’t.
There are two drive trains, a 1.5L naturally aspirated petrol 4 cylinder in the base model, and the 4 cylinder 1.0L turbo petrol the top model.
There is almost no difference between them except for sound, and the fact that the 1.5L has a 4 speed automatic, while the 1.0L gets an extra couple of cogs for a 6 speed box.
It’s the same story with the power too. The 1.5L puts out 84kw and 150Nm and the 1.0L has 82kw, but an extra 10Nm of torque.
The difference isn’t obvious on the road, though the 3 cylinder has that familiar throaty tone. My consumption was 10.8L/100k.
The problem with smaller engines, particularly 3 cylinder ones, is that you want to put you foot down and keep it there.
Steering is quite light and the 6 speed auto tries to change up as quickly as it can. It’s all for economy but can be annoying.
Handling and performance are more than adequate. It feels nippy in town, and hums along pleasantly while keeping up with the traffic.
MG ZS makes a great first car because it is so easy to manage.
It isn’t too big, or too small. It is easy to park and doesn’t cost too much to buy.
ACAP gave MG ZS 4 stars in 2017. There is no AEB or lane warning
- 6 airbags
- Hill start assist
- Brake assist
- Delayed auto locking doors
- Active cornering brake control
- Automatic door unlocking in an accident
- Seatbelt warning lights front and rear
- Decent equipment level for price
- Nippy performance
Not So Good Bits
- Plastics feel too hard
- Economy higher than claimed
If I’m honest, I had no expectations going into the week. Some of my previous experiences in Chinese cars had been a bit so-so, but they’ve come a very long way in a very short time.
The least you can ask of a car is that it is fit-for-purpose. The MG ZS is definitely that.
Its functional layout is spacious and includes welcome features such as cameras, sensors, and CarPlay.
The bar has been moving upwards and buyers expect a lot for their money. There is plenty of choice and car makers who don’t give buyers what they want, will not last.
Facts and Figures: 2018 MG ZS Excite
- Engine: 1.0L three-cylinder turbo petrol producing 82kW/160Nm
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic
- Warranty: 7 years/ unlimited km
- Safety: Four stars
- Origin: China
- Price: from $25,990 drive away