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First Drive: MG ZS EV

MG enters the electric market, with an inexpensive proposition and enticing specs, finds Jonathan Musk.

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Segment B-segment SUV   Type Battery electric vehicle (BEV)   Price £28,495-£30,495 (before PICG)   Fuel N/A   Electric range 163 miles (WLTP)   CO2 0g/km   Charging port Type 2 AC (up to 7kW), CCS DC (up to 50kW)

MG is currently the fastest-growing manufacturer in the UK, with a sales increase of 47% in the last year (up from 4,286 to 6,286). With that added confidence, the brand is entering into the electric market for the first time, with a battery-electric ZS.

‘No compromise’ is a term banded about with lots of cars, but true to its word, MG hasn’t encumbered the cabin space with the battery setup – so it remains as practical as the £12,495 petrol version upon which it is based, until you travel beyond single-charge range at least.

However, the £28,495-priced electric ZS EV needs to stand head and shoulders above its petrol counterpart to warrant that premium. Adding to the appeal is the current UK plug-in car grant that removes £3,500, taking the price down to £24,995, and MG says it will remove a further £3,500 reducing the price to £21,495, and they’ll even chuck in a charge point too. Suddenly, that makes the car attractive indeed, but unfortunately for fleets, MG states this will apply to the first 1,000 retail customers and hasn’t yet detailed what if any fleet-specific offers there may be.

There are two trims to choose from – Excite EV and Exclusive EV – that both come as standard with the new ‘MG Pilot’ driving aids system, panoramic glass roof, 17-inch alloys, and ‘star pattern’ grille that conceals the charge port. The more upmarket Exclusive EV trim adds Blind Spot Detection and Rear Cross Traffic warnings, as well as an opening panoramic roof, electric and heated mirrors and leather style seats for £2k.

Onto the electric gubbins, and the headline figure is a range of 163-miles thanks to the car’s water-cooled 44.5kWh battery. Charging can be done as quickly as 40 minutes 0-80% using a CCS DC charger, or 7 hours using a 7kW plug.

The interior is more spacious than most cars in this class, including the Hyundai Kona, and though it may be a bit ‘plastic fantastic’ with some cheap plastics on show, it’s also perfectly adequate for what is essentially an inexpensive EV. There’s an 8.0-inch touchscreen with support for Android and Apple, Bluetooth, and DAB radio. A neat gear selector dial (a bit like Jaguar uses) sits proudly centre-stage, accompanied by useful KERS button that accesses three-modes of regenerative braking. There’s also a handy battery button that shows remaining range at the touch of, well, a button.

The car is a bit of a traffic light king, with brisk performance of 0-60mph taking 8.5 seconds, while 0-30mph is dealt with in just 3 seconds. With the typical silence offered by the electric powertrain, the MG ZS EV is relaxing in town. Driving through busy 20mph London streets offered only a glimpse of the car’s capabilities. Nevertheless, the powertrain proved crude compared to others in this class and power, such as the Nissan Leaf or Volkswagen e-up!, and regen (KERS) was tricky to judge. That said, the adjustable trio of regen modes was a pleasant surprise, as was the acceleration, thanks to the motor’s 143hp and 353Nm torque. Its full potential can be tapped into using Eco, Normal and Sport modes, the latter suiting the car’s over-firm ride.

While many car makers are coming at the electrified market from the top down, it’s refreshing to see MG enter at the bottom, offering a lot of car for the money (caveat: with aforemoentioned discounts applied). It’s practical and well-specified, with a lot to like and little not to.

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Jonathan Musk

Jonathan turned to motoring journalism in 2013 having founded, edited and produced Autovolt - one of the UK's leading electric car publications. He has also written and produced books on both Ferrari and Hispano-Suiza, while working as an international graphic designer for the past 15 years. As the automotive industry moves towards electrification, Jonathan brings a near-unrivalled knowledge of EVs and hybrids to Fleet World Group.