MG can also be called an electric car maker. Based on the petrol-engined MG ZS, the ZS EV is a small SUV built not in Longbridge, Birmingham (like those famous MGs of the past), but in China. This is not a bad thing, as the Chinese are bang-up-to-date with electric car technology.
The ZS' relatively compact shape puts the MG up against other small crossovers like the Hyundai Kona Electric, the Kia e-Niro and its more quirky brother, the Kia Soul EV. However, there are two key differences between the MG and those three South Korean SUVs.
Firstly, it’s what lies underneath. The newly-revised ZS EV is powered by a 154bhp electric motor and a 72kWh battery pack giving a range of 273 miles – that makes it competitive with the Hyundai and the two Kias at last. If that's more than you really need, MG will offer a smaller 51kWh battery version early in 2022 which has a 198 mile range, although we don't know what the prices will be yet.
Despite the impressive range, the MG still retains its tempting price advantage. The most basic ZS EV costs £28,495 after the grant – roughly £4,000 cheaper than a Kia e-Niro Long Range
And it certainly isn’t a basic car. Even the £28,495 SE model gets automatic air conditioning, bi-function LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, keyless entry and push-button start, vehicle-to-load charging, 360o parking camera, a 10.1-inch touchscreen, sat nav, smartphone connetivity and multiple USB charging points.. The dashboard looks smart and isn’t that badly made, either.
The Trophy model, priced at £30,995 (after PiCG), adds a huge glass roof and 'leather-style' heated seats, along with roof rails, electric driver’s seat adjustment, rain-sensing wipers and wireless phone charging. There's another model at the top of the range called the the Trophy Connect, which adds 'live services' such as weather reports, traffic and Amazon Music connectivity. These might be nice to have, but we can't see they're worth the £500 extra MG will charge for them, so save the money and use the standard Apple Car Play or Andriod Auto instead.
The newer model fixes some of the gripes we had with the old car. The cheap-feeling and awkward charging flap has been replaced with a sturdier, side hinged version. There's even a flashing LED indicator to show the battery charge level.
The iConnect system now allows you to set a charging timer to make use of cheaper electricity tarrifs to charge, and you can pre-heat at last - this was a major omission on the last car as and meant you could spend valuable minutes and battery charge waiting for the car to defrost.
The infotainment system is an improvement over the old model too, not least because it has a usefully larger screen. However, the system is still slow to respond and difficult to navigate compared to the best rivals.
When it comes to driving, the ZS doesn’t have a fun factor you’d expect from a car wearing the MG octagon badge and doesn't feel as polished as European rivals in some areas. The suspension doesn't give the comfort or roadholding of a car like the VW ID.3 for example. It certainly has enough performance though, and is happy to cruise at motorway speeds.
Other than the price, the ZS' main attraction will be the space for families. There is far more room in the rear and boot than in a Kona or Vauxhall Mokka, meaning it will make perfect sense as a school run car if you're dropping off lanky teenagers.
The new version of the ZS might not be quite as good as we hoped, but its faults are easy to overlook when you see the price and range on offer. It is comfortable, well equipped, spacious and the long warranty will let you sleep soundly at night. That will be more than enough for many electric car drivers.