This was my first time ever piloting a MG vehicle, either classic or modern, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from the MG ZS.
Add in the fact that the MG brand is now Chinese-owned, with Chinese-built products and I was certainly in unfamiliar territory!
I spent a week getting about in the 2018 MG ZS small SUV and came away mostly quite satisfied.
Compared to other Chinese-built vehicles I’ve experienced, the MG offers decent driver dynamics.
While the MG ZS also has an improved infotainment system over its compatriots.
It’s odd that the MG ZS isn’t a more striking design, it’s actually a pretty safe and straight down the line type small SUV to look at.
The grille is nice, and it is great to see the big MG badges front and back too.
Ironically, on my recent trip to Beijing I was told that Chinese buyers are primarily focused on styling, less so on driving dynamics.
Was the MG ZS penned with a more world view then, considering it drives pretty well but is relatively conservative in style?
We’re in the budget end of the small SUV segment and that can be felt on the inside of the MG ZS.
There’s nothing that would really be a deal-breaker, just aspects that look and feel a little less than fantastic, particularly the plastic on the door trims and console.
While the indicator, cruise control and wiper stalks have a bit of a cheap feel about them.
The steering wheel though has a nice feel about it with sporty thumb grips and all the cruise control and stereo controls you’d expect.
The MG ZS boasts simple gauges and better than acceptable driver info screen look and functionality – though a digital speedometer would be a nice addition.
There’s decent storage all round and acceptable headroom and front and rear legroom.
Comfort for front seat occupants would be lifted with a centre armrest/storage bin.
One nice touch is the little temperature control display that comes up on the infotainment screen when you turn up or down the cabin heat adjustment (as seen in photo below).
Overall, its a pretty non-offensive kind of environment, acceptable given the pricing.
Available in two specification levels – Excite and Essence, standard kit in the 2018 MG ZS includes:
- 17″ alloy wheels
- Six-speaker stereo
- Reverse camera
- Rear parking sensors
- Leather steering wheel
- Height-adjustable driver’s seat
- Cruise control
- Halogen headlights
- Apple CarPlay
- Power windows/mirrors
- Tyre pressure monitor
An extra $3,000 for the top-spec variant adds:
- Push-button ignition
- Electric sunroof
Neither offering comes with Digital Radio, while the steering adjustment is tilt-only across both model grades.
This is where there is the biggest difference between the MG ZS Excite and Essence.
Under the bonnet of the base model MG is a 1.5 litre four-cylinder petrol engine, the Essence steps down to a three-cylinder 1.0 litre engine, but with a turbocharger.
The power outputs are 84kW/150Nm and a Power to Weight Ratio (W/kg) of 66.9 from the larger engine.
The turbo powerplant delivers 82kW/160Nm, the lower power output taking the Power to Weight Ratio down to 65.9.
The extra torque though could make for a more enjoyable drive, particularly on the highway.
One big advantage that the upper-spec model can boast is a six-speed auto transmission, the base-model getting just four ratios.
My test car was the turbocharged version and I thought it got along adequately around the city/suburbs.
The MG has that typical small capacity/three-cylinder turbo sound, it’s not offensive in anyway and the cabin is well soundproofed too.
I thought the six-speed auto also did a good job of transferring the power to the wheels.
I mentioned driving dynamics at the top – don’t expect to be provided anything beyond acceptable in regards to steering feel and ride (again, taking the low prices into account).
There is a compromise to be made here – the 2018 MG ZS range comes with only a four-star ANCAP safety rating.
Crash tested by the authority last year, the MG missed out on a top safety score due to “Insufficient inflation of the passenger airbag and insufficient protection for the driver’s knee area.”
The model also misses out on driver assist tech such as Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB).
- Acceptable driving dynamics
- Seven-year warranty
- Interior space
Not So Good Bits
- Four-star safety rating
- Switch gear feels cheap/flimsy
- Tilt-only steering adjustment
2018 MG ZS Essence from $23,990
The Chinese car manufacturers are making progress and the MG ZS is at the forefront of that.
This vehicle gives you plenty of space and enough creature comforts to make it a good alternative if your budget would otherwise only stretch to a smaller vehicle.
There are some compromises though, the biggest being the four-star safety rating.
Facts and Figures: 2018 MG ZS Essence
- Engine: 1.0 litre turbo-petrol producing 82kW/160Nm
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic
- Safety: Four-stars
- Warranty: Seven years
- Origin: China