MG ZS EV Review
The ZS EV could arguably be described as the car to meet the market, initially touted by MG as ‘the first truly affordable, family-friendly electric car’. It is perhaps the biggest headline yet in MG’s latter-day return. It’s evidence that MG’s evolution as a carmaker has lined up perfectly with the evolution of the market, as a pressing emphasis on the introduction of EVs continues alongside ever-strong consumer demand for crossovers.
The ZS EV was a revelation on release in 2019, with the marque offering to match the £3,500 government EV grant for the first 1,000 buyers. That brought the price of entry down from £28,495, to £21,495. Finally, a practical electric SUV that didn’t cost a fortune up front and, thanks to that value, doesn’t cost a fortune to lease.
Select's rating score* - 3.2 / 5
It might sound unfair to describe the MG ZS EV as a paint-by-numbers family crossover, but it’s quite obvious that the designers had access to a Nissan Qashqai during the development of the car. It’s all but identical in size and shares a similarly inoffensive and unfussy style.
It’s also got sharp lighting, bold (ish) lines, a premium-look grille and a stocky-come-sporty stance. Visually, it’s everything most crossover buyers are looking for. That faux-premium look continues on the inside, albeit with the added hurdle of touch tactility to clear. The overall takeaway on first acquaintance? There’s no obvious corner-cutting to reach such a competitive price point, the MG ZS doing just enough to make it a viable option. But is good enough, well, good enough?
There’s nothing remarkable about the MG ZS EV, apart from its price tag. That’s not to put the car down - it’s a fine, sensible and safe choice. Instead, it’s a mark of the laser-focussed attention MG has given to keeping costs in check and appealing to its core market.
The result is a car that will never be considered a classic, and won’t be venerated in the way that an old MG B might be. But it does offer an eminently sensible option for the huge numbers of UK drivers who simply want a low-cost way of getting from point A to point B.
By opting for electric power, MG has ensured it’s as cheap and easy to run as possible. Yes, there is a petrol-powered model available, which has lower monthly payments, but then you’re looking at annual car tax bills, higher servicing costs, and the inconvenience of having to frequently visit petrol stations. So much easier to park at home, plug in overnight, and be ready the next day.
The most remarkable feature, then? The fact that it’s simply so unremarkable.
For something so unpretentious, there’s quite a surprising edge to the ZS’s performance. The electric motor provides 143hp, which means it’ll sprint off the line with some alacrity, and reach 62mph in just 8.5 seconds. Most of that feels to happen below 30-or-so mph, where it’s pleasingly zesty. After that, the rate of acceleration fades away, but it’ll happily keep up with more traditionally powered traffic.
As befits the rest of the car, it’s pleasant and inoffensive on the road. There’s no chance of it setting your pulse racing, but it’ll navigate around the country’s urban and country roads without any issue. The steering is lifeless but accurate, with different options to adjust the weight. The battery pack adds more bulk to the car, but it’s placed low down so the losses caused by the additional weight are balanced out by a lower centre of gravity and more surefooted handling.
Ride quality is fine if, again, unremarkable. There are more comfortable cars, but there are plenty that are far less comfortable. It’s nice and soft, handling potholes and the like with barely a ripple, but gets a little unsettled on a faster country lane. A smooth motorway is a delight, however, although the lack of noise from the motor does tend to highlight the wind noise and tyre roar that high speeds generate.
One aspect that does stand out and deserves praise is the action of the brake pedal. Anybody driving a regular petrol or diesel car will wonder why that’s something to focus on, but electric cars (and hybrids, too) claw back some energy from slowing down and feed it to the battery. That can lead to an inconsistent feel from the pedal, as the car has to juggle slowing using what is, effectively, a large dynamo and switching to the physical brake discs. The MG handles that particularly well.
Being an electric car, with no sign of petrol or diesel fuel anywhere, there’ll be no emissions from the ZS EV. That means you’ll be escaping the clutches of car tax, while company car users will benefit from a BIK rate of just 1%.
It’s also invariably cheaper to plug in and charge a ZS EV than to fill up the petrol-powered ZS with fuel. Plug in at home, either in a regular three-pin plug or a specially installed home charger and you’ll pay roughly 4p per mile for your electricity use. You’ll need to get around 150mpg from a regular car to rival that cost.
Charging times depend on what you’re plugged into. At home, it’ll take 14 hours to fully charge, dropping to 6.5 hours with a home charger, giving you 163 miles of range, at least according to optimistic official figures. Of course, with the average EV covering less than 30 miles a day, it’ll just be a short top-up for most people.
Out on the road, it’ll connect to 50kW rapid charges, where zero charge to 80% can be dispatched in 40 minutes. After that, the charging rate slows down to protect the battery, but that’s an extra 130 miles in the time it takes to have a coffee and a slice of cake.
Maintenance costs should be lower, as there are far fewer moving parts. Yes, there’s still a lot that needs looking at, but it’s a simpler process that should boost reliability. Should something go awry, however, there’s a seven-year warranty in place, limited to the first 80,000 miles. That covers the battery pack, too.
By focussing on being a sensible family car over a style-led swoopy coupe-SUV, MG has created a spacious and practical cabin. Space in the front seats is fine, with enough head and shoulder room for most to get comfortable, even with the panoramic roof in place on the Exclusive grade.
The driver may not get quite as comfortable as they would like, though; the steering wheel only adjusts for height and not reach, so some may need to be closer or farther away from the wheel than they might like.
It’s better in the rear, where there’s more space for passengers than you’ll find in pretty much any of its rivals. The panoramic roof does eat away at the headroom a little but there’s still plenty left for a six-footer. Only the Skoda Enyaq iV can match it for space, and there’s quite a difference in price.
Unusually, the battery-powered ZS has a larger boot than its petrol-driven sibling. At 470 litres, it’s usefully bigger than the 430 litres you’ll find in the back of a Nissan Qashqai. The rear seats fold down to create a larger space but, as the battery pack is housed under the rear seats, it leaves quite a step to shuffle your longer cargo over.
You wouldn’t think the ZS EV is a budget option when looking at the dashboard. There are soft-touch plastics on the dashboard, a glossy 8.0-inch infotainment screen in the centre stack, and an array of equipment that should keep most users happy.
The infotainment screen houses the DAB radio, navigation system, BLuetooth connectivity and both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay options. The bright colours and smartphone-like screen look appealing, although it’s not the slickest of systems. Responses to touch can be slow, with frustrating accidental selections as you tap a second time, and it’s not laid out entirely intuitively. Still, it’s better than you might expect from a ‘cheap’ car.
The Exclusive uses the same system, but upgrades the speakers from four to six, and throws in a reversing camera - a handy addition, as the rear pillars are quite thick and reduce visibility out of the back. All models come with parking sensors though, so there’s no excuse for nudging a barrier.
Happily, for the safety-conscious young families that will be considering the ZS EV, it has the honour of far outperforming its internal combustion brethren in safety tests. The EV gets a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating compared to a best of three stars for the rest of the range. It scored an impressive 90% occupant and 85% child occupant ratings when tested in 2019.
The score is partly due to the standard fitment of pedestrian and cyclist-recognising automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assistance. The more expensive Exclusive trim gets you blindspot monitoring and cross-traffic alert for when you’re reversing out into a road, too.
Owing to that generous standard appointment and a desire to keep high-spec costs within the realms of sanity, the options list is far from endless with the ZS EV. Excite and Exclusive are your choices of trim level.
The entry-level model is anything but basic, including an 8.0-inch infotainment centre, DAB radio, navigation, air conditioning, automatic lights and parking sensors at the rear.
However, it’s the Exclusive model you should be going for, not least because a quirk of leasing costs taking into account resale values means that it’s usually cheaper to lease than the lower-spec model. Exclusive adds two extra speakers to the audio system, a rear parking camera, heated leather seats, a panoramic sunroof and a set of roof rails. There’s also some extra safety kit, such as blind-spot monitoring and a rear cross-traffic alert.
Options are limited to the colour of your ZS EV. There’s white, black, blue or red, but you’ll have to pay extra for the latter three.
Finding an electric car that carries five people and their luggage for similar monthly costs to the ZS EV isn’t an easy task, such is the value offered by the MG.
The most obvious rival is the new Vauxhall Mokka-e, a compact SUV that’s strong on style, shares similar power and range, but is a fair chunk smaller. The same holds of the Kia Soul EV, which brings distinctive style to the mix but not a lot else.
Also full of style is the Mini Electric, which is also an invigoratingly involving car to drive. It’s the one that you’ll enjoy most, but it’s tight for space compared to any of those above.
Arguably the most sensible option is the Citroen e-C4. This funky-looking hatchback isn’t long on power or range, like the MG, but it’s spacious, practical, comfortable and well equipped.
When MG showed off the ZS, it was seen as a worthy but unremarkable SUV. MG then followed that up with the electrically-powered ZS EV and showcased it at a barely believable low price. That gave it some leeway where it could be forgiven a few failings by balancing that with an accessible price tag.
Happily, there’s no reason to make excuses for the MG. No, it’s not the last word in driver engagement or so-called sporty handling. Instead, MG has focussed on what buyers really want from a family-friendly car, and delivered on every count. It’s all about priorities, and if you want as much car as you can get for your money, the ZS EV will deliver.
Where to next?
View latest MG ZS EV leasing deals - guide price from £232.43 per month inc VAT**
Looking for a great leasing deal? Check out our incredible range of Special Offers
New CAR Read our latest Reviews and find the right model for you
Want to know more about leasing? Take a look at our comprehensive Leasing Guides
Interested in everything motoring? Why not catch up on all the latest Car Leasing News.
*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the MG ZS EV
**Correct as of 17/08/2021. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £2,091.85 - Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.