What is the MG ZS EV?
An MG ZS small SUV with all the oily bits taken out and replaced with an electric motor and battery pack.
It’s the first electric car sold by MG in Australia.
As part of the enormous SAIC group, MG makes plenty of electric cars for its home country of China, but it’s only just kicked off a planned electric revolution for Australia.
To look at, the EV is almost identical to the ZS, right down to identical panels and windows.
Trainspotters may notice the subtly different grille that has a fold-up door to access the charging point, or the unique alloy wheels that distinguish the electric version.
The EV badge on the boot is the final giveaway that this is different to others in the ZS family.
Price and value
The headlines scream that the MG ZS EV is the most affordable battery electric vehicle on the market – and it is, for now (the pace of change in the growing EV segment suggests that may not be the case for too long).
But it also costs a lot more than the MG ZS it’s based on.
Those petrol-powered models sell for between $21,990 and $26,990 drive-away.
The EV is closer in equipment levels to the more expensive versions, picking up leather-look trim, a panoramic sunroof, smart key entry and an 8.0-inch touchscreen with sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Plus it also comes with some additional safety gear, such as autonomous emergency braking (standard on the ZST, but not the regular ZS), blind spot warning and active cruise control.
Collectively they might cost a few grand.
Still, there’s a $12,000-plus premium for going electric.
Living with the MG ZS EV
The ZS EV doesn’t rewrite the rules inside but it does show decent attention to detail with some of the finishes and materials.
The stuff that looks like leather (it’s fake) isn’t remotely supple, but some stitching lifts it visually.
The boot has a false floor that transforms it into a deeper 359-litre cavity.
Engine, transmission and drivetrain
There’s a single electric motor driving the front wheels in the MG ZS EV.
Pop the bonnet and there’s a surprising amount of space by modern car standards, all because that engine bay is usually home to a petrol engine and its associated hardware.
The e-motor power peaks at just 105kW, but there’s a more meaningful 353Nm of torque, providing the pull required to shove the car along.
Initial acceleration is perky, even more so if you dial up Sport mode, which sharpens the throttle responses.
Like all EVs, there’s near-instant response when you squeeze the throttle, something that adds to its around-town liveliness.
Approaching 100km/h the enthusiasm wanes slightly, although it has no problems holding its speed and cruising up hills.
The battery pack holds 44.5kWh of electricity, which is enough for a claimed 263km of range, according to the WLTP test cycle.
Our circa-100km drive suggested that 240km is easily achieved, even when driven hard.
As for charging, the central part of the grille pops out to expose both a Type 2 and a CCS fast-charge charging plug.
A regular 10-amp home socket can be used in an emergency, and will take around 25 hours to charge the battery to 100 per cent.
Single-phase 32-amp power will reduce that time to seven hours, while a 50kW DC fast charger will reduce than again to 40 minutes up to 80 per cent charge.
MG ships the car with a basic 5m long Type 2 cable, which won't facilitate any kind of fast charging from a home socket. An aftermarket wallbox would be a sound investment if you want to get the most out of charging your MG ZS EV at home.
Driving the MG ZS EV
The MG ZS EV weighs only 50kg more than the petrol versions of the same car. That’s not much by electric car standards, in part because the battery pack isn’t as big as some.
But having some of that weight down low helps reduce the top-heavy feeling, albeit only slightly.
It does sometimes feel bulky, though, especially when called upon to wash off speed quickly. The brake pedal needs a firm application.
Michelin Primacy tyres ensure decent cornering grip, so the ZS EV hangs on nicely, albeit occasionally flickering the stability control light into action if you’re pushing on.
It’s a shame the steering is thoroughly wooden, because it makes for a car you end up muscling around a corner rather than guiding it.
It also adds to a nose-heavy sensation that detracts from its athleticism. Recovering from bumps can also take longer than it should, detracting from an otherwise good ride.
All of which is less of an issue in the suburbs, where the ZS EV does a good job in a zippy way.
There are hints of torque steer (or steering wheel tugging) when accelerating out of intersections, but elsewhere it’s obedient.
How safe is the MG ZS EV?
There’s no ANCAP rating for the ZS EV, but the car it’s based on scored four stars in 2017.
It’s not a fair comparison, though: the ANCAP testing is tougher in 2020 and the ZS EV has more active safety gear than the regular ZS.
Looking purely at equipment, there’s a full complement of airbags (six) covering those up front in a frontal crash and all outboard occupants in a side impact.
Active safety systems come under the MG Pilot banner and include autonomous emergency braking (AEB), adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, speed limit recognition and blind spot warning.
MG also appears to have better calibrated some of those systems compared with early MG Pilot efforts, so there’s less beeping and fewer unwarranted warnings.
How much does it cost to run the MG ZS EV?
It’s time to recalibrate away from petrol costs to the cost of electricity to get an idea of how much the ZS EV costs to keep moving.
Claimed consumption is 18.6kWh per 100km and that’s very close to what we achieved during a 100km taste test.
Most people will pay something like 25-30 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity, so the electric MG should cost something like $5.50 in energy costs per 100km.
Of course, there’s always the option of using free public chargers or home solar, which can potentially bring that cost to zero.
Either way, it’s a lot less than you’d be spending on petrol.
Servicing is required every 12 months or 10,000km and the first five services (covering five years and 100,000km) total $1602.
All good news so far.
Less good is that the seven-year warranty that applies to other MGs does not apply to the ZS EV, dropping to a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty as well as a separate eight-year, 160,000km for the high-voltage battery.
Verdict – MG ZS EV
The cost-conscious buyers who have gravitated to the born-again MG may not be swayed by what is a sharp price for an electric vehicle (in 2020, at least).
But those intent on going electric will find the ZS EV a relatively affordable way to switch off petrol.
It doesn’t break any ground on the driving front, but then again neither do any of its electric rivals.
But it does deliver with a zippy electric drivetrain and decent selection of equipment.
What you will like
The electric motor’s performance; plenty of equipment, including active safety gear
What you won’t
Price premium over petrol models; dull, lifeless steering
MG ZS EV Specifications
Price From $43,990
Drivetrain Single electric motor, FWD, single-speed direct drive transmission
Energy use/CO2/battery capacity 18.6kWh/100km, 44.5kWh
Safety Not rated
Warranty / Service Interval 5 years/unlimited km, 20,000km/12 months
Spare Wheel (type) repair kit