MG ZS 2021 review

The ZS is a compact crossover sold by MG that’s also available as an EV.

£17,684
Average price
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1
Out of 5

Pros

  • Low prices
  • Long warranty
  • Electric model available

Cons

  • Thirsty petrol engine
  • Not very good to drive
  • Limited safety technology on petrol models
  • MPG

    0 - 0

  • CO2

    0 - 0 g/km

  • Video

  • Price Guide

  • Trims

  • Summary

Model review

To some, the MG ZS will be remembered as a compact sports model from the early 2000s, however these days that nameplate is still used on a model at the opposite end of the spectrum – a compact family crossover. 

Debuting in 2017, the MG ZS was a new model coming from the brand’s Chinese owners SAIC Motor. Offering a cut-price alternative to the Nissan Juke, the ZS arrived with a stylish look, generous equipment levels considering its low price, and also a roomy interior that made the model a solid option for families. It also helped to introduce MG’s seven-year warranty. 

The ZS’s story wouldn’t end there, though, as MG would introduce an electric version in 2019, with the ZS EV offering a 163-mile range, along with an impressive range of safety technology. It remains one of the more affordable electric cars on sale, and has been key to helping the ZS a big seller for this manufacturer, which is now one of the UK’s fastest-growing car firms.

Latest model

At the time of writing MG had yet to reveal the updated EV, but the regular petrol car was facelifted in 2020. Headed up by a sharper grille with new LED lighting, as well as new colours and revised bumpers, it helped to add extra style to the ZS

It also had a technology makeover, with MG introducing a large new touchscreen, while a set of digital dials can also be found on the top-spec version. At its launch, the brand promised a ‘real uplift in specification and quality’. No dynamic changes were made to the model, though, which continues to use the same 1.5-litre petrol engine it was initially launched with. At the time of writing, the ZS EV was yet to benefit from the same changes. 

Value for money

MG prides itself on value for money and if you’d like a crossover on a budget, the ZS is tough to beat. Not only does its £15,995 starting price undercut rivals – the exception being the true bargain Dacia Duster – you get plenty of standard kit too, with the latest model coming with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and a large 10.1 touchscreen, even in entry-level trims. The EV is substantially more expensive, with prices starting from £26,095 (once the government grant has been deducted), though it’s still one of the most affordable electric options in its class. 

They are even greater value for money on the used market though, with a three-year-old example available from as little as £10,000, though you’ll have to add another thousand to that if you fancy one with around 30,000 miles on the clock. Electric models start from around £20,000 on the used market, which again represents fantastic value. 

Looks and image

Despite being one of the more affordable crossovers in its class, the ZS is actually quite a stylish choice. Though it won’t turn heads, it gets a neat front grille, sharp lights at the front and rear and just the right level of chunky styling for a car of this size. The latest car also gets an even more modern makeover with its LED headlights, more stylish grille and reworked rear end, which all impress more than this MG’s low price might suggest. 

The ZS’s interior is also far better than you’d expect, too – especially the updated 2020 models that get a large touchscreen (bigger than that of rivals) and a great digital dials system fitted to top-spec models. Red stitching on the seats and steering wheel also gives it a more premium look and feel. While we’re not talking Audi levels of luxury, it’s by no means poor considering its price. 

The only area where the ZS lets the side down is behind the wheel. While it doesn’t handle too badly, the ride is quite poor and nowhere near as comfortable as that in the Dacia Duster. The engine options aren’t great either – though the 1.0-litre turbo is far more preferable compared to the naturally-aspirated alternative. We’d argue the electric ZS is the pick of the range, with its zippy acceleration really helping around town. 

Video review

Space and practicality

Though MG’s smallest crossover, the ZS still offers plenty of room that makes it ideal for families. The 448-litre boot is a very decent size, and is the same across both the electric and petrol options. 

Even adults will be able to sit comfortably in the rear seats, with a good amount of leg and headroom. That said, limited steering wheel adjustability means not all drivers will be able to get comfortable easily.

The petrol ZS is rather lacking when it comes to driver assistance technology, with few of the safety aids found as standard on rivals fitted to the MG, or even available as an option. Yet, bizarrely, if you choose the electric model you get treated to the brand’s ‘Pilot’ system that adds a whole range of features, like adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking. 

Engines

On the regular ZS, there’s the choice of two petrol engines. 

The first is a naturally-aspirated 1.5-litre unit that’s been available since the model’s launch. Putting out 105bhp and 141Nm of torque, it can take the ZS to 60mph in 10.2 seconds, though you’ll have to work the five-speed manual gearbox hard to achieve that. Our pick would be the more recently introduced turbocharged 1.0-litre unit, which produces 109bhp and 160Nm of torque. Though its 10.3-second 0-60mph time might not seem quicker than the other engine, this feels far more eager to drive, while is also available with the option of a six-speed automatic gearbox alongside the regular six-speed manual. 

Then we have the EV, which features a 141bhp electric motor combined with a 44.5kWh battery. With a 0-60mph time of 8.5 seconds, it’s noticeably swifter than the petrol options, while managing a claimed 163 miles from a single charge. 

Running costs

If you want the lowest running costs, you’ll want the ZS EV. With its zero emissions status, it escapes road tax, emissions-based road charges and is very affordable as a company car too. If you can charge at home – which takes around six-and-a-half-hours – it will be especially affordable. Plugged in at a 50kW rapid charger, MG says its battery can be charged to 80 per cent in around 40 minutes, too. 

Petrol models are very thirsty to run by class standards, though, with a claimed fuel economy figure of around 40mpg. CO2 emissions ranging between 149 and 163g/km are underwhelming, too. 

Things to look out for

First things first, the great thing about the ZS is that it’s covered by a seven-year, 80,000-mile warranty, which is ideal if you intend to keep your car for quite a long time. It means that even the earliest models will be covered under warranty until 2024, providing they don’t exceed that mileage limit.

That said, there are a few things to be aware of. A small number of cars suffer from a rather gruff driving experience, so when test driving make sure the engine and gearbox both feel smooth. The cheaper-feeling interior can also suffer from damage, so make sure to look out for any signs of excessive wear.

Rivals

The closest rival to the MG ZS is really the Dacia Duster, which is the only model that’s able to undercut this MG for price. Following this, the number of competitors is seemingly endless, including the Kia Stonic, Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and Seat Arona to name just a few. 

If you’re looking at the EV, electric rivals include the Mazda MX-30, Vauxhall Mokka-e, Peugeot e-2008, Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia e-Niro.

Depreciation

MG’s ZS actually holds its value rather well, helped by the brand’s growing popularity and the fact its models are great value for money. While you could expect to lose several thousand pounds in the first couple of years, its depreciation shouldn’t be as steep as rivals. 

Which ZS to pick

Cheapest to buy when new

1.5 VTi-TECH Excite 5dr

Most MPG

1.5 VTi-TECH Excite 5dr

Fastest model (0-60)

115kW SE EV Long Range 73kWh 5dr Auto Electric

Trims explained

Just two trim levels are available on the ZS – Excite and Exclusive. Equipment highlights and pricing are as follows.

Excite

Standard equipment on the ZS is generous and includes 17-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels, air conditioning, a leather steering wheel, rear parking sensors and silver roof rails. You also get LED headlights, cruise control, electric door mirrors and a large 10.1-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth and DAB radio.

From £15,995

Exclusive

Upgrading to Exclusive gets you plenty of high-end features, including a digital instrument cluster, 360-degree parking camera, leather-style upholstery and satellite navigation. You also get heated front seats, an electric driver’s seat, revised 17-inch alloy wheels and blind spot monitoring.

From £18,295

Summary

  1. Small crossover introduced in 2017, revised in 2020
  2. Electric model available alongside petrol options
  3. Surprisingly stylish inside and out
  4. Low starting prices
  5. And you get plenty for your money
  6. Thirsty petrol engines
  7. Not especially comfortable
  8. Long seven-year warranty
  9. Spacious interior

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