So when you’re near me, darling can’t you hear me S.U.V.
The way things are going, there will soon be an SUV for every day of the year as the popularity of the small SUV market shows no sign of abating. MG, owned by Chinese company SAIC, certainly thinks so, launching their mid-range ZS in 2017. The ZS is an important launch for the MG brand & to be a fair, having spent a week in one, it’s definitely a step forward for the MG brand, as it looks to compete in a sector alongside the Nissan Juke, SEAT Arona & Vauxhall Crossland X.
Looks-wise, the ZS is okay, rather it looks like pretty much all of the other generic cars in it’s class. Save for the savvy styling of the Toyota C-HR & Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, every small SUV seems to have been built from single template.
The ZS is a compact five-door car & it’s offered in three trims. Basic Explore models are priced from a bargain-bucket £12,495, with mid-range Excite cars costing from £13,995. MG UK believes that the most popular choice will be the Exclusive model, with two on offer. A 1.5 litre manual at £15,495 or the auto we tested at £17,495. The auto is set to be the biggest seller with it’s combination of a new 1.0-litre three cylinder engine & a six-speed automatic gearbox.
On the road this engine isn’t too bad, developing 110bhp & 160Nm of torque & when I piloted the ZS alone it felt comfortable & had some decent pulling power. Only when I drove 380 miles with the full compliment of four adults, a boot of luggage & a dog, did the performance suffer. With the extra weight on board, the 1.0 litre engine takes an age to get back up to speed when slowing down, especially in motorway traffic. Around town though, the six-speed auto box is great in traffic & its quiet too. And the cruise control standard across the range is another great addition to motorway journeys.
For drivers who want to feel more engaged with their car, there are three power steering settings on the ZS. Urban mode provides a lighter steering option designed for town-based journeys, parking & low-speed driving, while the Dynamic option allows the driver to do less to maximise vehicle performance, with an increased steering effort & higher damping effect to enhance the driver experience at higher speeds. The MG Normal mode creates a responsive drive that MG says suits UK conditions, completely in tune with suspension set-up & specific vehicle dynamics of the MG ZS. I tried all three & stuck with Normal as I really didn’t notice the difference between each setting.
On a positive note, the interiors not bad. We found that there’s plenty of space in the cabin for four adults with good head & legroom in the rear. There’s a couple of useful cup holders & door pockets for cabin storage but, the glove box is letterbox-shaped & small. The switchgear is sensibly located & the infotainment touchscreen is easy to use as well as offering a really good SatNav system, with great map graphics which were far superior to plenty of other more upmarket brands systems I’ve come across.
Apple Carplay is offered but strangely, not Android Auto. The touchscreen system is also linked to a clear reversing camera. Spec on all the models is impressive. Both the Excite & Exclusive models get 17″ alloy wheels & cruise control & Bluetooth are standard across the entire range, as are LED daytime running lights, LED tail-lights, electronically adjustable mirrors & hill start assist. Not bad, not bad at all.
On the downside the quality is middling, with al of the plastics feeling a bit hard to the touch. There’s only one USB socket, with none on offer in the back, which disappointed my grown up children. The leather seats are also a little hard to sit on for a long journey & the dashboard fit & finish is still some way short of what you’d find in the European built Skoda Karoq or Seat Arona.
The cabin is not a quiet place to be, especially in the wet, because there’s noticeable wind & road noise picked up through the bodywork, windows & from the wing mirrors. We zoned out by turning up the music but that didn’t really work.
Furthermore, the 1.0-litre engine isn’t as economical as one would hope. MG claim 44.9mpg on the combined cycle. I travelled 500 miles in the ZS three- quarters of that on the motorway & I only averaged 34.7 mpg. Emissions of 144g/km are high, especially if you look at the competition. We averaged 40mpg when testing the petrol Arona & with CO2 emissions of 111g/km, the MG doesn’t cut the mustard.
Whilst the ZS is another step up for the brand, it still lags behind the competition for quality, performance & emissions. Having said that, it’s ridiculously good value for money & for that alone, the ZS has to be worth a look.
If you want a well equipped automatic small-SUV, then the ZS offers an attractive combination of practicality & value that is very hard to beat. I would go as far as to say that this could be the best value SUV car that you can currently buy.