Morris goes electric - MG ZS EV
We tried an MG ZS with a small turbo engine last month. In this issue we test one without an engine at all. This is the EV version, touted as NZ’s cheapest electric option. Is it any good?
"Oohh, I haven’t seen one of those here before,” said the i3 driver waiting patiently for his half hour of free juice at the fast charger. “That’s the one that’s only 50 grand isn’t it?”
It seemed the converted knew of the MG ZS EV, and then the usual questions flowed; what size is the battery, what’s the range, how long does a recharge take? These I couldn’t answer, I hadn’t read the tech specs, but I could show him the boot, which he seemed impressed with. He said the ZS was bigger than he thought, (he hadn’t seen many of the conventional ones about either) while the cabin was better than he expected too.
And that’s how most of our encounters with the brand so far have been. These new arrivals from MG are better than you expect, given the price point and origin. And expect to see more of the ZS EVs about as the pre-sold stock starts to arrive in the country.
MG launched its electric offering with a special introductory price at just under $50k for the first 50, then just over that mark for the next 100. The price going forward has been confirmed at $55,990 plus the usual on roads. And they say they have no supply issues, so it’s an EV without a waiting list.
And now those specs. The ZS EV has a 44.5kWh lithium-ion battery which powers a 105kW/353Nm motor. MG states the range at 262km as per the WLTP combined cycle. Consumption is rated at 18.6kWh/100km. MG also mentions an urban range of 371km. Why the disparity? Regenerative braking opportunities in urban driving help preserve battery levels while low speed running simply zaps less power.
One of the few EV-specific readouts in the ZS shows motor speed, and at 100km/h it’s spinning at 6100rpm, but half that at 50km/h. There’s no gearbox as such on these EVs, with enough torque and ‘revs’ to pull a fixed ratio from stopped to topped out. There’s no point adding a multi-gear transmission then, as these things already cost enough and weigh a heap.
The ZS has a CCS charge port up front behind the shiny MG-badged grille. The specs say a 50kW charger will get it from 0-80 per cent in 40 minutes. Included is a trickle charger for home use, while a wallbox (available at extra charge, pricing dependent on the installation requirement) can charge it in seven hours.
We didn’t have the ZS EV for the usual week test period, but a couple of days gave us the general idea. People still obsess over an EV’s range and sure it’s a factor but if you’re an urban dweller, the type most suited for EV ownership, anything that does 200-250km we’d deem sufficient.
But what about getting to my bach, I hear you ask. Well, you’ll have to join the Musk-eteers and buy a long range Tesla. But for 90 per cent of a city commuter’s needs, this will do the job. And you should buy the wallbox, the convenience of charging overnight at home shouldn’t be snubbed. We fluked a free spot at a 50kW charger, and 27mins took the battery from 36 per cent to 79 per cent. Pity those Leaf drivers who turned up during that time, they were in for a wait.
Range is dependent on many things; how you drive, and what road you take. We set out with the distance to empty showing 224km. After we’d covered 100km that number was down to 80km. We were a bit heavy on the volts, consumption up around the 23kWh/100km mark but we had to see how it went. Hitting the legal limit in 8.2sec, it’s 1.8sec ahead of the turbo’d ZST we tested last month and half a second quicker on the overtake.
We re-tripped the computer and took a longer than usual urban route to work the next morning. That took in 25km of city traffic for an average of 13.4kWh/100km. Other aspects affect range too; switching the air con off is good for 15km, while the drive mode will also have an influence. In Eco, the distance to done said 149km, but in Sport that instantly changed to 129km. You’ll likely leave it in Normal, a good balance of the two, and enjoy the smooth, quiet, torquey power delivery. In Sport, the response is quicker and the jolt of twist quickens the acceleration above 50km/h.
The ZS has three levels of regenerative braking; Level 1 is fairly free wheeling while Level 3 delivers enough retardation to almost enable one-pedal driving. I’m not usually a fan of high levels of regen but this is well tuned, the transition to braking isn’t too sharp when you lift off the accelerator. And so if you’re paying attention to the traffic, you can slow yourself on the regen, only using the brake to bring you to a complete halt. And you’ll want to use the brake as little as possible, for the pedal feels like you’re standing on jelly.
The ride is okay on town roads but it can crash over potholes. Speed bumps require caution or the bumpstops get a workout. The steering is light in Normal (artificially heavy in Sport), and while the turning circle is sound, the pillars are chunky, obscuring your vision.
The ZS has some neat interior styling and is quite well finished, though some plastics reveal its price point (the ZS range starts at $22,990). The eight-inch infotainment system has a few idiosyncrasies but integrates with CarPlay and Android Auto to circumvent most of these. There’s nothing too unconventional in the cabin save for the rotary dial gear selector, which works well in that it engages D and R smartly, and you simply push it to set Park. The seat is comfy but takes a while to discover a reasonable position given the lack of adjustment. There’s all the MG Pilot active safety stuff too.
The ZS is a practical, small SUV, with decent accommodation in the rear seat, and the EV bits don’t impinge on the generous load area. There’s the usual split folding too, although there’s no spare wheel.
It weighs in 202kg heavier than the ZST, but the mass is carried low, so it turns with reasonable vigour. The weight split is slightly more corner friendly, so the tendency to understeer is lessened. Its dampers never really control the weight, so it crashes over bumps and any ripples through the turns are felt through the steering or the rear end. There’s not much in the way of torque steer but there is some wheelspin out of the bends given the easy twist and so this ZS EV is best kept to city running.
The EV is more than twice the price of the cheapest ZS, and 65 per cent dearer than the ZST Essence. But buy it for its lower overall environmental impact rather than for financial reasons. Helping the cause, it’s the cheapest EV on the market, has a decent range and recharge times, and that it’s a practical, small SUV adds to its appeal.
Model MG ZS EV Price $55,990
Engine cc, , , 105kW/353Nm
Transmission single-speed auto, front-wheel drive
Vitals 8.21sec 0-100km/h, 0L/100km, 0g/km, 1553kg