Road Test: MG ZS Exclusive
MG sees its new SUV as an inroad into fleet – Alex Grant reckons it stands a good chance.
SECTOR Medium SUV PRICE £15,495 FUEL 49.6mpg CO2 129g/km
While a record 4,440 registrations last year means MG is a small player in the UK, it’s one of few brands experiencing growth in a tough market, and it’s not slowing down. Having focused on retail, it’s putting the groundwork in to build relationships with SMEs, and the ZS SUV is seen as exactly the right tool for the job.
There’s plenty of volume to be taken in this part of the market, with the right offer on the table. So MG is differentiating itself with aggressive pricing, a seven-year warranty and a simple line-up, all backed by finance offers tailored to small fleet operators. The aim is for growing retail and business volumes to complement each other, as customers pass on good experiences and dealers build a local profile.
Awareness is key, and the ZS has a lot in its favour. It’s slightly smaller than the Qashqai-sized SUVs, priced in like with the Juke and its rivals, and has the usual raised ride height, body cladding and skid plates to hint at a life lived off the beaten track. Visually, the worst criticism you can level at it is a similarity to the last-generation Mazda CX-5, and front and rear tracks that aren’t quite wide enough for the body. Even in this top trim level, the wheels are a tucked in too far under the arches.
MG no longer builds any cars in the UK, so production takes place in China before being shipped here to be tuned to the variable British road network, as well as the preferences of those who use them. It’s not a bad chassis setup, competent over rough surfaces and reassuring stable when changing direction, if a little lacking in weight and feedback compared to some of its rivals. For most customers, it’s more than adequate.
As are the engine options. Unusually, there will be no diesel engine, though MG has hinted that electrified drivetrains are on the way. At launch, there’s a choice of two near-equivalent petrol engines; the 104bhp 1.5-litre petrol tested here, which is always fitted with a five-speed manual gearbox, or the 109bhp 1.0-litre turbo, equipped with a six-speed auto.
Again, there’s little to complain about. Drivers used to turbocharged and downsized engines may find the need to rev the naturally-aspirated 1.5-litre a bit tiresome, but it’ll happily return close to the claimed 44.9mpg on a motorway journey and there’s enough pull for overtaking. The smaller engine gets an extra gear for high-speed drives, and peak torque comes in lower down the rev range. It’ll feel significantly livelier as a result, despite the tiny uplift in power.
Cost-cutting shows up the most inside. The cabin is spacious enough for adults front and rear, has two ISOFIX points in the back, and a competitive boot capacity extended into an under-floor compartment. It’s neatly designed and well laid out, including plentiful storage areas and an 8.0-inch touchscreen navigation system featuring Apple CarPlay connectivity. However, it’s not overly tactile with its abundance of shiny black plastic and faux-leather steering wheel, and MG’s infotainment is sluggish. Minor details for a car which feels well placed otherwise to take the brand to a wider audience.
What We Think:
The ZS ticks all the right boxes to give MG a foothold in this sector. Its toughest task may be getting drivers behind the wheel to find out.