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MG ZS Review

6 / 10
15 February 2024
MG ZS driving

The MG ZS is a simple, spacious SUV that’s cheap to buy and easy to drive, and it’s warrantied for years to come.

There’s also a fully electric one, which has the lowest running costs and the best driving experience. So there’s a lot to appreciate with the MG.

What we like:
  • Well equipped
  • EV is pleasant to drive
  • Spacious interior
What we don't like:
  • Lacklustre petrol engines
  • Cheap interior feel
  • Anonymous styling

Should I buy an MG ZS?

Once a rebadged Rover 45, the latest MG ZS is a Chinese-built small SUV that focuses on value and ease of use. It’s not flamboyant, it’s not particularly cutting-edge, and you probably won’t dream of owning one.

What it is is a practical, spacious runabout with plenty of standard features. All ZSes get at least rear parking sensors, cruise control, Apple CarPlay and air con, and higher-spec cars get much more. It looks handsome enough, if a bit generic, with enough SUV-ness to fit in with the crossover crew.

Price-wise, a used ZS competes with the likes of the Renault Captur – although you’ll get a lower-mileage ZS for the same price. Similarly, the ZS is bigger than the Vauxhall Crossland X, without feeling as big from behind the wheel as cars like the Nissan Qashqai and Dacia Duster.

A couple of things set the ZS apart from those cars. The first is a lengthy seven-year warranty if you keep up with MG’s service schedule, and the second is a fully electric option. You’ll find the ZS EV on our list of the best cheap electric cars, and it’s the ZS to go for if you can charge at home and don’t often do long journeys.

Interior and technology

Perhaps in an attempt to forge a link to MG’s motorsport heritage, the ZS goes big on sporty interior trimmings. There’s an attempt at carbon fibre-effect material in pre-facelift cars, and red stitching and houndstooth cloth in newer versions. Oh, and a grab handle for the front passenger like you’d get in a Jaguar F-Type sports car.

On first impressions, the interior looks modern enough and of reasonable quality, but it won’t take too long to find cheaper materials. It’s clear where MG has shaved costs to keep the ZS’ price down, but the affordable price is going to be more important to buyers than some slightly nicer interior plastic. These materials also should be fairly durable.

The touchscreen, meanwhile, doesn’t boast the sharpest responses or the slickest design. This won’t be a problem if you simply want to connect your phone or switch radio stations, as every ZS has phone mirroring, Bluetooth and DAB radio. New electric ZSes come with a smarter touchscreen than petrol versions, which features EV-specific menus for charging and suchlike.


The ZS is the brand’s smaller SUV, but it’s considerably bigger inside than many of its rivals. It straddles the line between small and mid-size SUVs – it’s bigger than a Nissan Juke, but not quite as big as a Nissan Qashqai. Rear-seat space is pretty impressive, with generous amounts of head and legroom. Plus, the flat seats and small transmission tunnel means three adults can squeeze across the back row for short journeys.

The deep, long boot measures 448 litres, which is about 10% up on the Skoda Kamiq, Vauxhall Crossland and SEAT Arona. It’s a really useful space and will easily swallow a family’s shopping or a couple of pushchairs.

Engines and performance

Like a coin, there are two distinct sides to the MG ZS engine range. The fully electric ZS EV is really impressive – it’s brisk off the line, more than refined enough, smooth and generally very pleasant. Earlier cars manage a reasonable 163 miles between charges, while facelift cars offer two battery sizes with up to 273 miles possible from the Long Range versions. Many premium EVs that cost twice the price can’t match that. You’ll spot facelifted ZS EVs from their blanked out, body-coloured grille.

The flipside is that the petrol engines are mediocre at best. Don’t be tricked into thinking the bigger engine is more powerful, as the 1.5-litre ‘VTi-Tech’ petrol engine doesn’t have a turbocharger and produces a weedy 105hp. It feels like an old engine – it’s noisy, short of power and less economical than rivals.

Petrol buyers should go for the 1.0-litre engine, which is available with either a manual or automatic gearbox. With more power low down it doesn’t have to be thrashed like the 1.5 does, and the performance on offer will easily let you keep up with flowing traffic.

Driving and comfort

While the MG ZS of the early 2000s was set up for sportiness, the current model would rather you take it steady. It’s about as comfortable as you could expect, and its modestly sized wheels help to filter out the harshness from most poor surfaces. We like that it doesn’t chase a sporty driving experience with a firm, uncomfortable ride – this is a car that’ll be used for mundane journeys primarily.

As such, the driving experience is fine. The steering turns the wheels and the brakes bring the car to a stop – although you’d feel more confident on a back road if the brakes were a little sharper.

With its automatic gearbox and instantly available power, the ZS EV is absolutely effortless to drive.

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