MG ZS EV review: an electric SUV for the price of a hybrid
Affordable, practical and offering increased range, the all-electric MG ZS EV makes a strong case for itself
While the MG ZS EV commands similar money to many other small SUVs, the majority of its rivals within the same price range are still powered by combustion engines. With a fully-electric powertrain, the ZS EV boasts the obvious advantages of zero tailpipe emissions and lower running costs. The level of practicality isn’t impeded by the battery packs, either, so this electric SUV remains just as capable of carrying out family car duties as its petrol-powered sibling.
It’s certainly one of the more budget-friendly electric cars on the current market, but the MG ZS EV does suffer from a few drawbacks as a result of cost-saving. The level of fit-and-finish is a bit rough in some areas, and the brand’s poor scores in our Driver Power customer satisfaction survey aren’t exactly reassuring. However, a standard seven-year/80,000-mile warranty should help to restore peace of mind.
About the MG ZS EV
SUVs and crossovers make up several of the best-selling cars in the UK every year. This means that, irrespective of whether electric, petrol or diesel power is your preferred propulsion method, there are plenty of rivals for a small SUV like the MG ZS.
On the other hand, affordable, battery-powered SUVs such as the MG ZS EV are much less prevalent, as the cost of batteries remains high for electric cars, often making them more expensive to buy than an equivalent petrol or diesel model. Despite this, MG has managed to deliver a pure-electric SUV at a decent price, and this is ultimately its main weapon in attracting buyers. In fact, we named the ZS EV our 2022 Affordable Electric Car of the Year.
The electric SUV market is quickly expanding, and the ZS EV faces an ever-increasing tide of competition. Models like the Hyundai Kona Electric, Peugeot E-2008, BYD Atto 3, Kia Niro EV, and Vauxhall Mokka Electric are all formidable foes, and the price gap is slowly narrowing.
MG launched the ZS EV in 2019 with its 44.5kWh battery, offering an official range of just 163 miles. Thankfully, the cut-price electric SUV was facelifted in 2021, and this included some cosmetic tweaks and the introduction of a Long Range model that bumped the ZS EV's claimed maximum range up to 273 miles. An entry-level model was added to the range shortly after in 2022 with a WLTP combined range of 198 miles and a slightly cheaper price tag.
Both versions are available in SE and Trophy trim. The entry-level SE is generously equipped, and with standard kit including keyless entry, integrated sat-nav, smartphone connectivity and adaptive cruise control, it should offer enough for most buyers.
Prices for the entry-level MG ZS EV start from around £30,500, while the Long Range model starts at just under £33,000. Upgrading from SE to Trophy trim adds £2,500 to the ZS EV’s price tag. It might not be as cheap as it once was, but MG's compact electric SUV is still one of the cheapest electric cars on sale in the UK right now.
Electric motor, drive and performance
The ZS isn’t a hero in the fun handling department, but for some, this won’t matter one jot. Like many electric cars, the ZS EV is brilliantly easy to drive. Turn it on, select drive with the simple rotary controller, press the accelerator pedal, and you’re away. The driving mode selector is equally straightforward and helps drivers prioritise efficiency or performance.
Driving in town is incredibly straightforward and, thanks to the immediate availability of torque, nipping away from traffic lights and out of junctions isn’t stressful at all. Furthermore, a toggle switch in the centre console is used to adjust the amount of regenerative braking applied when the driver lifts off the throttle. There are three settings that range from no regeneration to the strongest, which is almost strong enough to enable one-pedal driving, although you will still need to use the brake pedal to come to a complete stop.
In addition to this, motor whine is kept nicely at bay, and the steering is light, if lacking in feel. MG’s engineers have geared the suspension of the ZS EV more towards comfort, so it mostly protects occupants from road imperfections and vibrations, although it's still not as refined as the Hyundai Kona Electric. The focus on comfort does come at the expense of body control, with the ZS pitching and rolling more than some of the alternatives.
0-62mph acceleration and top speed
The ZS EV uses a single electric motor to drive the front wheels. The base car produces 174bhp and 280Nm of torque – enough for 0-62mph in 8.2 seconds– while the Long Range version delivers 154bhp, 280Nm of torque and 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds. The top speed for both models is 108mph, although the performance from 0-30mph is more impressive and arguably more relevant in urban and suburban driving.
Range, charging and running costs
The electric range can make or break an EV, and the pre-facelifted MG ZS EV's claimed maximum range of 163 miles could have been better. Fortunately, the base ZS EV now comes with a 51kWh battery that's good for a range of 198 miles, while the new Long Range model offers a range of up to 273 miles from a single charge of its 72.6kWh battery pack.
When we drove the ZS EV Long Range, we averaged an impressive 3.7 miles per kWh, equating to a real-world range of 252 miles, just 7 per cent down on the car's official WLTP figure.
The ZS EV has a maximum charging speed of 76kW, which is less than some rivals like the Peugeot E-2008 and Hyundai Kona Electric, which both offer up to 100kW. Still, topping up the 51kWh battery in the base model from 10-80 per cent will take 36 minutes, or 42 minutes if you go for the Long Range model with its larger battery. Recharging the Standard Range and Long Range using a standard 7.4kW home wallbox should take eight and 10.5 hours, respectively.
For company car drivers, the MG ZS EV qualifies for the 2 per cent Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) company car tax band, compared to the 34 per cent band the regular petrol MG ZS falls into. As an electric car, the ZS EV is also exempt from road tax (VED) and the London Congestion Charge.
The previous ZS EV was in insurance group 21, while the latest cars are all in group 28A, with the exception of the SE-spec standard range model in group 27A. This means the ZS EV sits in a lower group than some rivals, including the Kia Soul EV in group 34, although the 201bhp Hyundai Kona Electric is in group 24.
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Modern-day MGs haven’t been known for leading the field regarding residual values. That said, they tend to be very affordable in the first place, so should have less of a distance to fall. However, the ZS EV still seems to struggle to fight off depreciation. According to our expert data, the Long Range model in SE trim is the best performer, retaining 44.40 per cent of its initial value after three months and 36,000 miles.
The rest of the ZS EV range performs similarly when it comes to residual values. The worst performer is the Trophy version with the smaller 51.1kWh battery; this retains just 42.13 per cent.
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Interior, design and technology
Aesthetically the MG ZS is so-so. It is far from ugly, but it is just a bit generic to our eyes. It is clear that there are influences from other Asian cars, in particular a whiff of Mazda CX-3 from some angles. This isn’t just levelled at the electric ZS as petrol models look largely identical. The blanked-off grille unique to the ZS EV does help give it some individuality, though, and the smart alloy wheels help as well.
At heart, the ZS is quite a boxy SUV, which helps with cabin space. Even so, MG’s designers have done well to somewhat mask the angular proportions through use of a tapered roofline and angled rear side windows. There are five colours to choose from; Arctic White, Battersea Blue, Black Pearl, Dynamic Red and Monument Silver.
Interior quality was largely unchanged during the 2021 facelift, which means you'll still see some harder plastics and cheaper trim around the cabin. On the other hand, equipment is plentiful. Entry-level SE versions get 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, rear parking sensors, automatic air conditioning, adaptive cruise control and integrated sat-nav with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity.
Trophy versions add extras such as power folding door mirrors, automatic wipers, a wireless smartphone charging function, an upgraded audio system and MG's iSmart live services which includes weather and live traffic updates and access to Amazon Music.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The new 10.1-inch infotainment touchscreen is a definite upgrade over the previous system. The menus are straightforward enough, with clear graphics, although it could be a bit quicker to react to inputs. As we mentioned, both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on ZS EVs now, so you bypass MG's software and use your favourite apps for music and navigation.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Thanks to its boxy shape, the ZS EV is reasonably practical despite its compact dimensions and is ideally suited to those with kids, dogs or both. There is no seven-seat option, although few fully-electric cars can offer this, even in the classes above. There is plenty of space for five — especially compared to something like a Renault Zoe — and lots of driver’s seat adjustment. That said, the seating position is a little too high, making it feel more like you are sitting on the ZS rather than in it.
The seats are comfortable enough that long journeys shouldn’t be a pain, plus the large door pockets and extra cubby holes allow for plenty of storage for snacks, maps and books. The rear middle seat might feel tight for three adults during a long journey. As for visibility, things from the driver’s perspective are good.
The MG ZS EV is 4,314mm long, 2,048mm wide (including wing mirrors but 1,809mm excluding them) and stands at 1,644mm tall. This puts the ZS EV almost on par with a Nissan Qashqai, though the Nissan is slightly longer and wider.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
All four of the main seats offer good head and legroom, but the middle rear seat is on the narrow side. Even so, the tunnel down the centre of the car’s floor doesn’t encroach too much into the cabin, so there is a good amount of legroom for a middle passenger.
If you’re planning to use the ZS EV as a family car and need to carry young children, every version has two ISOFIX points fitted to the back seat.
MG has ensured that adding a big battery hasn’t translated into a tiny boot. With all seats in place, there is 470 litres available, and with the rears down, you get 1,100 litres. The Kia Niro EV offers roughly the same boot space, while the MG5 offers just nine litres of extra luggage capacity over the ZS EV with the rear seats in place.
The ZS EV's boot is a good shape in addition to being a decent size (which helps when loading awkward objects), and the dual height floor means there is the flexibility of having maximum cargo space or a flat load bay with the rear seats folded.
Reliability and safety
The MG Pilot system that's standard in every new ZS EV incorporates a range of active safety systems, including adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, a front collision warning, a lane-Keeping Assist system with departure warning, a blind spot monitor, and a Traffic Sign Recognition system. There’s also a Traffic Jam Assistance system, which combines the adaptive cruise and lane-keeping system to help keep you a safe distance from the vehicle infront, and keep the car within the lane on the motorway.
While the MG ZS EV hasn’t specifically appeared in our Driver Power ownership results, MG as a brand ranked last out of 32 brands in our 2023 best manufacturer rankings. Only time will tell whether this poor score will motivate the brand to improve.
Crash test experts Euro NCAP awarded the ZS EV a full five stars out of five in 2019, rating it at 90 per cent for adult occupant protection, 85 per cent for child occupant protection, 70 per cent for safety assist, and 64 per cent for vulnerable road users.
All new MGs come with an impressive seven-year/80,000-mile warranty, and you get the same amount of coverage for the battery pack. While as a core warranty, this is strong, the battery cover is ever so slightly behind some manufacturers that guarantee their batteries for eight years or 100,000 miles.
MG offers Standard Mileage or Low Mileage servicing plans for the ZS EV, with the former covering 15,000-mile/annual intervals, and the latter for vehicles expected to travel around 10,000 miles a year (or annual servicing - whichever comes first).
For an alternative review of the MG ZS EV, visit our sister site drivingelectric.com...