Review: MG ZS (2017)
Crossover SUV. Comes with an 80,000 mile, seven-year warranty as standard. Fairly cheap. Practical.
Not great to drive. Cheap materials. Ssangyong Tivoli and Dacia Duster compare favourably.
MG ZS (2017): At A Glance
- New prices start from £12,455, brokers can source from £12,030
- Contract hire deals from £187.92 per month
- Insurance Groups are between 10–11
- On average it achieves 88% of the official MPG figure
The MG ZS is an entry-level crossover priced to undercut the Ford EcoSport and Nissan Juke. Forget flat caps and tweed jackets. MG today is a budget brand best compared to the likes of Dacia and SsangYong, and the
In some respects, the MG ZS is the first model from the Chinese-owned manufacturer that really deserves to be taken seriously. It's a small crossover-sized car (i.e. what everyone wants right now), and prices start at just £12,495. Chuck a seven-year warranty and some tempting finance packages into the mix and you'd be mad to overlook it.
It doesn't particularly look like a budget crossover, either. There's more than a passing resemblance to cars like the Mazda CX-3. We wouldn't describe it as ugly.
MG's clearly developed the ZS on a limited budget though and the interior is where a lot of it has been spent. It looks fine, although there's a strange mix of cheap and slightly not-so-cheap materials. On mid-spec Excite and top-spec Exclusive models, there's an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment screen giving access to DAB radio and Apple CarPlay, as well as navigation on the Exclusive. Curiously, there's no Android Auto.
What the ZS interior lacks in polish, it makes up for in practicality. There's a huge 448-litre boot, and the rear seats are easily dropped to provide even more room. Access is a bit tricky - there's a high lip, but it can carry much bulkier items than a Nissan Juke.
Buyers get a choice of two engine and gearbox combinations: either the 1.5-litre petrol out of the MG 3 with a five-speed gearbox, or a new 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic. We prefer the 1.0-litre while the auto is fine if not particularly sophisticated.
MG says its ZS has been tuned for UK roads, but it's clear that the budget's been spent elsewhere. The steering is peculiar, requiring lots of inputs just to keep the ZS in a straight line - tiring on longer journeys. And don't even bother trying to drive quickly along a twisty road.
It's a shame the MG ZS falls so behind in terms of how it drives, because everything else is acceptable for the money. The interior feels dated but is least practical. In truth, the better residual values of rivals means the MG ZS won't make sense for a lot of crossover buyers.
What does a MG ZS (2017) cost?
MG ZS (2017): What's It Like Inside?
- Euro NCAP rating of three stars
The interior of the MG ZS feels like a cheap imitation of the cabin of a good car. On first impressions, it's okay. But then you get in it, start touching things and it's suddenly not quite so nice. There's a weird mismatch of materials used, and our test car had a series of rattles. Even the steering wheel was very shiny - despite just 5000 miles on the odometer.
It's easy enough to get comfortable in the driver's seat, with a high seating position offering a good view all around. There's no reach adjustment in the steering wheel, annoyingly - just one of a number of areas where costs have clearly been cut.
A large eight-inch infotainment screen looks pretty slick and is simple enough to use, although only the top-spec Exclusive gets navigation as standard. As in-car navigation goes, it's a pretty good system that's intuitive to use.
Excite and Exclsuive models get Apple CarPlay as standard should you wish to swerve the car's in-built infotainment. Unfortunately the 15 million Android users in the UK, there's no Android Auto - a strange omission, in our view.
Three adults can fit comfortably in the rear - not something that can be said for rivals - with generous head and legroom and easy access thanks to the wide-opening doors. The large windows help visibility, too.
The boot is a very useful 448 litres with easy access, aside from the high lip over the bulky rear bumper.
The MG ZS is a practical choice but, while MG's clearly made an effort with the interior compared to previous models such as the MG 6, it still feels downmarket compared with more mainstream rivals.
Standard equipment from launch:
Explore features LED daytime running lights, 15-inch steel wheels, rear ISOFIX child seat fitting points, cruise control, fabric seats, chrome window surrounds, four-way manual seat adjustment, tilt-adjust steering column, radio and MP3, trip computer and Bluetooth.
Excite adds a choice of manual or automatic gearbox, 17-inch Turbine alloy wheels, leather steering wheel with audio controls, six-way manual seat adjustment, heated and electric adjust mirrors, front fog lights, air conditioning, eight-inch colour touchscreen display, 'Follow me home' lights, Apple CarPlay, three steering modes, parking sensors, remote central door locking, Bluetooth integration, cruise control and roof rails.
Exclusive gets 17-inch diamond cut alloy wheels, leather style upholstery, navigation, reversing camera and sensors, leather steering wheel with audio controls plus cruise control.
Child seats that fit a MG ZS (2017)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the MG ZS (2017) like to drive?
When MG first returned under Chinese owners, its cars had one thing going for them. Without exception, they handled well and were relatively fun to drive.
The same can’t be said for the ZS. It rolls about like a really old-fashioned SUV. Push it too hard (it’s not difficult) and the over-zealous electronic stability program (ESP) viciously applies the brakes to prevent you from understeering off the road or toppling over. It's not a fun sensation and potentially more dangerous than a bit of old school understeer.
And the steering is bizarre. Driving in a straight line requires constant adjustments in the steering - a tiring process on long motorway journeys - while, around town and on rural roads, it feels stodgy.
You can flick between three driving modes should you wish: urban, normal and dynamic. All this does it make the steering lighter or heavier depending your requirements. In dynamic mode, it's artificially heavy, and in urban mode, it's artifically light. Just leave it in normal.
The automatic gearbox is fine, as is performance from the 1.0-litre petrol engine. It’s a thirsty car, though - returning mid-30s MPG during our time with it.
For economy, you'd be better opting for the 1.5-litre manual. It lacks torque compared to the 1.0-litre, and feels ancient, but you don't buy an MG ZS for the latest engines.
In fact, you don't buy for an MG ZS for the driving experience at all. While you might forgive its cheap and cheerful interior at the showroom, a test drive is likely to have you heading straight to the nearest Nissan dealership.
|1.0 GDI Automatic||45 mpg||12.4 s||144 g/km|
|1.5||50 mpg||10.9 s||129 g/km|
Real MPG average for a MG ZS (2017)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
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What do owners think?
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