Gareth Butterfield watches MG make a big step forward with the all-electric ZS EV
ELECTRIC cars are all the industry seems to be talking about at the moment. The government is rather keen on them, too. But the consumer appears to be more hesitant.
We all get the fact they put out zero emissions, and we’re starting to realise that the charging infrastructure is developing well, and that the battery range is improving with every new model launch. But there’s still a stumbling block for most people.
While there’s obviously savings to be had in terms of running costs, electric cars are considerably more expensive than their fossil fuel alternatives.
This, of course, means that unless you’ve got enough money not to give two hoots about the costs, you’d need to do quite a lot of miles to save enough money to recoup the initial costs. And if you do a lot of miles, you’d probably rather have a diesel engine that can do 600 miles between fill-ups than an EV that will do 200 miles before it grinds to a halt.
But the tide is turning. As with all technologies, electric cars are becoming cheaper. And MG is stealing a march on this with its new ZS EV.
The electric version of its surprisingly good small SUV can be had for just under £22,500 once the government has chipped in its grant. Even the posh Exclusive version is under £25,000. Line it up alongside petrol and diesel rivals and it really does look like a bit of a bargain.
But, I know what you’re thinking… MG is Chinese now. So surely it’s a bit like buying an unbranded car stereo off Ebay. It’s cheap and has all the features of a top-notch Pioneer system, but the buttons will fall off, the software will be unworkable and the front will rattle.
Well, for starters, MG offers a seven-year warranty. And, sure, if you jump out of an Audi Q3 into a ZS you’ll feel a bit deflated. But that’s not really the point.
What we have here is a competent, feature-rich, practical electric car that’s got enough battery range to compete with most of its rivals, but with a price tag you’d not normally expect on an electric car.
For starters, the interior is great. Sure, there’s a few scratchy plastics but there’s acres of space for this class of car and it’s surprisingly comfortable.
In terms of technology, the hi-res infotainment screen works well and features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, there’s a host of driver assistance and safety systems fitted and there’s some surprisingly classy touches, such as the rotary gear selector and the stylish round air vents.
The range is an officially claimed 163 miles, which doesn’t sound all that impressive against the likes of Kia’s E-Niro and other similar cars, but you can eak that out a bit. MG reckons you’ll get 231 miles in gentle city driving and I think that’s ambitious, but 200 miles – or perhaps just a shade under – should be achievable in the right conditions.
There’s other things I like, too. The way the MG badge and a section of the grill pops out and up to allow access to the front-mounted charging sockets, and the way the badge itself lights up in pulses to indicate that it’s charging all looks really elegant. It even looks expensive, y’might say.
The ride and handling are almost as good as the conventional ZS, and that was a tidy car to drive with more agility than you’d expect, and fine steering feel.
It’s also wonderfully brisk. As is usually the case with electric vehicles, it sprints quickly off the line and accelerating to 30mph is effortless and rapid. This addictive electric surge continues up to legal road speeds, so it’s no slouch at all. A world away from the petrol ZS, in fact.
True to form with MG you’ll get a lot of goodies thrown in, even with entry-level models. In the basic “Excite” version there’s keyless entry, air-conditioning, adaptive cruise control, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and 17in alloy wheels.
Step up to Exclusive trim and you’ll add a panoramic sunroof, leather seats, heated front seats and power-folding door mirrors.
Line the ZS EV up against most small crossovers on the market and you’ll find it makes a very strong case for itself. Unless you regularly do journeys of more than 100 miles in one stint (which most people don’t) then it’s worthy of serious consideration.
Could this be the car that convinces the world electric vehicles do make economic sense? Not really, no. However it is a big step forward and proves that EVs don’t necessarily have to cost the earth. If you pardon the expression.
I think it’s time we started to take MG seriously though, because the ZS EV shows, more than any model that’s gone before it, that they really do mean business.