First Drive: Does MG’s updated, longer-range ZS EV impress?

What is it?

MG ZS EV
(MG)

There haven’t been many car firms that have been able to grow during the pandemic, but one that certainly has is MG. It was one of only a handful of brands that increased its sales in 2020, and it continues to keep up that momentum – now selling more cars in the UK than well-established firms like Renault, Honda and Mazda.

And a key reason for its success is its electric vehicle line-up, which already accounts for more than a third of its sales – well above the market average. It’s the ZS EV that’s been the biggest hit. Introduced in 2019, it’s now one of the most popular electric cars, but previously fell short of the mark thanks to a sub-par range and low-quality interior – issues this updated version aims to rectify. But does it succeed?

What’s new?

MG ZS EV
(MG)

The main change on the new ZS EV is its significantly larger battery, with a new Long Range option drastically increasing the unit size from 44.5kWh to 72kWh. Unsurprisingly that unlocks a significantly longer range, rising from 163 miles to 273 miles – one of the best in this class.

There’s also a tweaked front end, which we’ll explore in further detail later, while the cabin gets a modern makeover, introducing a new, larger touchscreen that enables various ‘remote’ and ‘live’ services for the first time, depending on version.

What’s under the bonnet?

MG ZS EV
(MG)

While MG will introduce a Standard Range model early in 2022 (which will feature a 51kWh battery, enabling a 198-mile range), for the time being there is just this Long Range option.

While featuring a significantly larger battery, MG has also kitted it out with a slightly more punchy electric motor – now producing 154bhp and 280Nm of torque. That equates to a 0-60mph time of 8.2 seconds and a top speed of 108mph.

In terms of charging, the ZS EV’s battery can be topped up at up to 76kW – meaning that when using a fast charger it can be topped up in 42 minutes. As part of this update the charging port has also been moved. – no longer being housed behind a flimsy badge panel but having a separate flap, helping to improve everyday usability. A feature known as ‘Vehicle-to-Load’ is also included, which means you can use the ZS EV as a power source for charging other electrical equipment such as an e-bike, for example.

What’s it like to drive?

MG ZS EV
(MG)

The rate at which the ZS EV can get up to speed is really what grips you at first. Though a trait with most EVs, this MG seems especially rapid, and it really is very useful when merging onto a motorway or darting out of a junction without slowing other drivers down.

You can flick between three driving modes – eco, normal and sport – but even the tamest ‘eco’ setting offers plenty of performance, while helping to unlock further miles. You can also add further range by switching between various regenerative braking settings (labelled KERS) and from our driving route, we reckon 240 miles should be quite easily achievable.

But the ZS EV isn’t the best car to drive, especially when out on the open road. The steering has an almost disconnected feel to it and the ride becomes unsettled and bouncy on rougher stretches of road. That said, no electric crossover is particularly impressive in this area.

How does it look?

The previous ZS EV was hardly a bad-looking car, but MG has worked to make this updated model more distinctive, and also to differentiate it from the petrol version of this crossover. The front end gets a full redesign, with the conventional grille being replaced by a ‘stamped’ closed-off unit, due to the reduced need for air cooling with EVs.

Sharp new LED lights are also fitted at the front and back, while a redesigned rear bumper adds to the changes. There’s a new set of 17-inch alloy wheels too, while the recently introduced Battersea Blue colour is welcome.

What’s it like inside?

MG ZS EV
(MG)

Aside from the battery, it’s really inside where the ZS EV gets the majority of its changes, with the key addition being a new 10.1-inch ‘iSmart’ touchscreen. It works in much the same way as a tablet, with swipe and scroll functions and easily accessible shortcuts. It’s certainly a big step up compared to the old system, if not quite so slick as that found in rivals like the Hyundai Kona Electric.

Material quality has also improved, particularly in the case of this top-spec Trophy version, which gets attractive red stitching and a full-length panoramic sunroof. There are certain elements that still feel cheap, though, such as the central circular drive selector, and hard plastics on the door cards.

On a more positive note, the ZS EV continues to be one of the roomiest cars in this class, with plenty of room in the back (if slightly impeded headroom caused by the glass roof) and a large boot with dedicated storage to keep the cables out of the way.

What’s the spec like?

MG ZS EV
(MG)

In terms of trims, there are three to choose from – SE, Trophy and Trophy Connect.

All versions get plenty of kit, including bi-function LED headlights, climate control, keyless entry, the aforementioned 10.1-inch touchscreen and an excellent digital dials system. Trophy versions bring lots more, such as leather-style upholstery, electric and heated front seats and a wireless smartphone charger. A range-topping Trophy Connect brings additional ‘Live’ services for the traffic and weather, but doesn’t really justify the extra cost.

As for pricing, including the plug-in car grant, the Long Range ZS EV starts from £28,495 and rises to £31,495 for the Trophy Connect. Compared to rivals from Hyundai and Kia (the only two cars in this class that offer a similar range), the MG is still several thousand pounds cheaper. It’s worth noting the ZS EV’s price will come down further once the smaller battery option is introduced, too.

Verdict

MG ZS EV
(MG)

As mid-life updates go, this is a good one. That significantly longer range will open the ZS EV up to new customers, while a roomy interior and generous equipment levels mean there’s plenty to like about this MG. Prices still undercut rivals by some margin, too.

While it’s nothing special to drive, and there are still a few questions around quality, the MG ZS EV is well worth considering if you’re looking to make the switch to electric.

  • Model: MG ZS EV

  • Model as tested: MG ZS EV Long Range Trophy Connect

  • Price: £28,495 (after plug-in car grant)

  • Price as tested: £31,495 (after plug-in car grant)

  • Engine: Electric motor plus 72kWh battery

  • Power: 154bhp

  • Torque: 280Nm

  • Max speed: 108mph

  • 0-60mph: 8.2 seconds

  • MPG: NA

  • Emissions: 0g/km CO2

  • Range: 271 miles