TIME WELL SPENT: MG ZS 1.5 Exclusive – 6/10

Another compact SUV rolls in the motor park in the form of MG’s new ZS. However this one is all about value for money.

What DOES the MG brand stand for these days and is the new ZS possibly be the most convincing model the company has offered us… so far?

The latest offering from MG – The ZS
Seems rather strange jabbing away at the keyboard about the MG ZS – especially when I spent a chunk of time actually selling a car with the same title… albeit many many years ago. Oh well… here we go again… another `ruddy compact SUV to add to the colossal choice of others on offer at the moment. Despite my own personal thoughts on the SUV (on the whole I dislike them generally) if you don’t like ’em – get used to it. As Brian Potter said about garlic bread; “I’ve tasted it son… its the future” – and he’s right – the marketplace is flooded with this type of car and in all sizes too.

This latest offering from MG is a five door car with two drive-line options and three trim levels. You can have a 1.0 turbo automatic or a 1.5 injected five speed manual – the former is a joint development with General Motors and the latter being loosely based on the power unit found in the MG3. Trim levels comprise of…  in their pecking order – Explore – Excite & Exclusive. With so many other brands offering established tin, MG have had to pull the stops out to offer some USP in the face of some very highly regarded competition – especially Dacia.

It comes with two drive-lines – A 1.0 turbo triple auto or 1.5 injected manual as seen here. Not the most powerful but free revving and smooth unless you really push hard. Its a development of the engine first seen in the UK in the MG3
MG offer an impressive warranty – on paper at least – 80,000 miles and 7 years is pretty damn good by any standard… and its transferable to the second owner too. Unlike some brands the warranty is a fully backed by the manufacturer for its entire length… and not fobbed off onto the dealer network – impressive. The car sits in the same class and size of the likes of the Ford Ecosport and Honda HRV but with the entry model costing well under £13,000 there isn’t much out there coming close for value so it seems. Cheap to buy, fully supported by the manufacturer… it has some important boxes ticked.

Styling wise, its obvious where the cues have come from. There’s some hints of Mazda, a dash of BMW for example – but that grille??? its just TOO BIG. Its hard to ignore the wheel track being notably narrower than the width of the body either. This is more obvious when the car is viewed from a three quarter angle. Those with an engineering background may wonder if this has a detrimental effect on the handling of the car – I did and was pleased to discover that it doesn’t. My only issue with the aforementioned is the way it makes the car look a bit wonky or gawky from certain positions.

Open the doors and rather than be greeted with the smell of leather its more like an essence of plastic and adhesive, none of which is overbearing – more of a disappointing contrast to the well finished and smart looking exterior

I noted a fairly impressive fit and finish to the exterior bodywork and paint. Everything lines up well, no awkward gaps, no ripples in the glazing  – in fact the exterior build quality is amongst the best. I have seen much worse on cars costing twice the price, clamber inside however and you do tend to be reminded of the cost. Open the doors and rather than be greeted with the smell of leather its more like an essence of plastic and adhesive – none of which is overbearing – more of a disappointing contrast to the smart looking exterior.

Well equipped, comfortable with good ergonomics. Very good aircon / heating and a lovely thick flat bottomed steering wheel. Looks good on the eye but one or two fixtures and textures are hilariously cheap to the touch – irrespective of screen price. I particularly liked the “windows” font on the infotainment screen. Nice Audi style outboard eyeball air vents – nice touch!
There’s a good amount of space overall and the rear seats are comfortable and snug. Leather isn’t the best feeling or smelling out there. Back doors almost open to 90 degrees enabling easy entry or exit. Road / suspension noise in the back though can sometimes be worryingly loud.
I quite liked the eyeball fascia vents that emulate the kind you find in certain Audi cars – they even manage to feel of agreeable quality in operation too. The roll top on the dashboard is padded and makes a nice change to the awful feeling dash of the MG GS. The steering wheel is just the right size and feels well made while having a thick chunky leather trim to its rim. The ergonomics are pretty good with all the knobs and twiddly bits being in the right places. There’s a decent heating and ventilation unit which enables plenty of fresh air to the face and a rapid screen demist feature.

You’ll find a good amount of storage space around the cabin but none of the cubby holes or trays are lined making loose objects roll, slide and clatter about the place during spirited driving

Despite the front seats feeling like vinyl opposed to genuine leather, they support you pretty well, have a good scope of height adjustment and seem comfortable despite no lumbar support control. You’ll find a good amount of storage space around the cabin but none of the cubby holes or trays are lined making loose objects roll, slide and clatter about the place during spirited driving. Cost cutting is once again noted by the finish and feel of some of the interior trim around the floor and centre console – the mock carbon fibre effect is hilariously poor and the infotainment on / off / volume knob felt so loose I thought it would pop off in my fingers.

But to be fair, wireless button excluded, nothing feels like its going to break, it just feels very very cheap in certain area’s – you just have to manage your own expectations and remember the screen price. Once you have done this 80% of its misgivings fade into insignificance. Cabin space is okay for the external dimensions – especially head room and the boot is well planned, has a good sill height and a flat floor. Once on the road the car remains for most of the time reasonably refined and smooth. Little vibration can be felt through the cabin and only if you really drive hard does it get noisy.

Show it a good smooth road and the car is relaxed and pleasing to drive. Cornering isn’t quite Caterham standards but for a lofty car with a narrow looking track the MG ZS feels safe and secure on tight bends

The car feels planted and grippy on the move but the suspension and road noise is excessive at times and the car seems to hop and bounce over some surfaces and undulations to the point of it being unsettling. Show it a good smooth road and the car is relaxed and pleasing to drive. Cornering isn’t quite Caterham standards but for a lofty car with a narrow looking track the MG ZS feels safe and secure on tight bends. All round discs do a good job of scrubbing off the speed although I noted the pedal feel to be a bit spongy underfoot compared to most other rivals. Personally, I felt the test car had been hard driven in the past or lacking in development.

Out on the road the performance is not exactly awe inspiring. Owing to the lack of a turbocharger on this model the performance seems to be reasonably OK. Power and torque are quoted as 106PS and 141Nm respectively so its best not to expect too much under the right foot. That said, 0 – 60 comes along in a whisker under 11 seconds and more than tops the ton where conditions allow. Where it does feel lacking is when it comes to building speed up on say joining a motorway for example. To get the best you have to drive… and drive hard especially when you take into account the time needed to pull from 50 through to 70 mph…. a yawn inducing 15+ seconds.

Lots of cues from other rivals on show. The wheels look too small though and the front track doesn’t look wide enough – you can see this here. No worries about visual quality though – good panel fit and paint application…  for the money? damn impressive. 
No frills in the boot – just a good sized affair with an almost fully flat floor – rivals take note. No lashing points for loose loads though but the sill height is perfect for lugging gear in and out.
Motorway cruising is fine so long as the road is smooth. Rough surfaces or ruts bring with them complaints from the suspension – especially in the rear. Suspension bump-thump and roar are pretty poor on a typical bodge repaired fast UK road though the communicative steering makes you appreciate the input from the UK based research and development department – its feel at the rim is great. And yet that’s the MG ZS all over… for everything that seems poor or below class there is something in the bag to make you smile again. An OK kind of car that is cheap and cheerful may work on a Dacia but for a car with so much brand heritage as MG… I still need a little more convincing.


The Humble Opinion:

In summary, the ZS perhaps represents the most convincing MG yet. In some areas its very good, while in others its well short of the mark. Take for example the exterior fit and finish… impressive is the word with everything lining up as it should and a wonderful well applied paint finish. Depending on your viewing point, it looks pretty smart too.

The ZS is well equipped although the Sat-Nav on the test car had a fault and wouldn’t boot up or switch on. For sure there is plenty of creature comfort but the MG ZS lacks a number of safety assistance features like lane departure warning or autonomous emergency braking – not even blind spot detection, not even as optional extras. 

But other plus points are its comfortable interior, good ergonomics, decent use of available interior space and refinement… so long as the road is smooth. The ride can get choppy and bouncy at times but overall its not a bad car to drive. Boot space is more than adequate for growing families so no worries about practicality.

So its cheap, well equipped and offers a seemingly good level of support and commitment from the manufacturer – is this enough to make you hot to trot to your MG dealer?

Other brands have got this value car thing sewn up so strongly that its watertight – namely Dacia once again. The MG ZS sits amongst a well established crowd of value cars though it seems to be nibbling away at the edges.

Drive and decide is what I say… but with some extra spit, polish and technical tweaking the ZS potentially… and could… pose as a serious threat to some of its budget brand rivals. 

MODEL TESTED: MG ZS Exclusive 1.5 Manual

Price: £15,495 (excluding optional paint scheme)

Driveline: 1.5 16v injected four cylinder with 5sp manual FWD gearbox

Power / Torque: 106PS / 141Nm

Performance: *0 – 60 in 10.9 seconds with 109mph max

Economy: *49.6mpg combined (43.4mpg on actual test)

Co2 Output: *129G/km

*=Govt or Manufacturers claimed data


  • Impressive looking exterior build quality and finnish
  • Excellent value for money
  • Class leading manufacturers warranty (80,000 miles or 7 years)
  • Drives better than the price tag would have you think
  • Roomy and practical
  • Good steering feel
  • Well equipped
  • Depending on your vantage point – smart looking


  • Lacks modern day driver safety assistance features
  • Non turbo engine can feel breathless
  • Sloppy and loose feeling gearchange shift quality
  • Jekyll and Hyde nature of the suspension
  • Some interior fixtures and fittings feel and look amazingly cheap
  • Confusing brand image – is it sporty or value or what? I just don’t know

Want to know more about the MG ZS? CLICK HERE









  1. Utterly utterly hideous thing. If MG was an animal it would have found a quiet corner, curled up, and died.

    Sorry but thats just my opinion

  2. Like the look but the company isn’t worth the risk in my book. My pals 6 was nowt but a nightmare and even the dealer lost interest and canned the franchise.

    Much better bet getting something pre-reg and established I say.

  3. Seen one of these recently and thought it was something else.

    How is this be an MG? It’s as remote from sporting as I can possibly imagine. Affordable fun motoring is what the brand stands for and not crud like this.

    Sorry but that’s how I see it.

    • I run a very busy MG Dealer (Summit Garage in Dudley) and both my Wife and Daughter have bought MG ZSs. There is no better package in the SUV sector as good as an MG ZS and each and every time I drive one, I’m impressed with how good this car is. Sure, it’s not perfect, but a mid range Excite is £14k! I’m as proud to drive our MG ZS as any of our other MGs…..is this a “proper” MG?…..Sure is!!

  4. Getting to see quite a few round here, often thinking it’s a Mazda. Given how Rover/MG used to be noted for above average ride/suspension/handling it’s a shame they have dropped the ball here but tweaks to improve shouldn’t be that difficult.

    It seems a major step forward from the recent GS and the next larger SUV looks even more promising. (I really don’t like the new MG3 nose though…)

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