MG ZS EV 2021 essence

2021 MG ZS EV review: Australian first drive

Rating: 8.1
$40,990 Mrlp
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MG told Australians it would make electric vehicles more affordable for more people, and with the release of the 2021 ZS EV, it has done exactly that.
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MG Australia representatives have been telling us for some time now that the brand is ‘determined to make more electric vehicles more affordable for more Australians’, and with the sharp pricing for the 2021 MG ZS EV, the company has well and truly delivered on that promise.

The next key point, beyond the initial pricing announcement though, will be what the ZS EV is like to live with. But, let’s first recap the price.

The extended breakdown is in our pricing and specification guide – with the full-electric ZS starting from $40,990 before on-road costs, or $43,990 drive away.

That drive away price represents a $3000 saving on what was initially announced as a pre-order special, illustrating just how determined MG is to keep the price as sharp as possible.

Any early adopters who put down a deposit (the first 100 special orders were snapped up immediately), will of course get their new ZS EV for the new, reduced price.

Crucially, that makes the MG ZS the most affordable electric car on sale in Australia. MG Australia’s CEO Peter Ciao, told CarAdvice he won’t even be driving one, such is the demand from customers.

As we’ve come to expect from MG, the ZS EV is extensively specified as a standard offering, and there’s a pretty competitive powertrain too, especially given the price. Central to that is a 105kW/353Nm electric motor, with a 44.5kWh battery pack that delivers a WLTP-certified driving range of up to 263km.

On our second run in the ZS EV, which covered an equal mix of urban and highway running, we averaged 14.6kWh/100km, while the longer-term average for our test MG was showing 16.9kWh/100km over more than 550km of driving.

That 16.9 figure means you’ll get bang on the 263km range claim, in theory (officially the ZS EV it rated at 18.6kWh/100km). We’ll do some more detailed testing when we get the ZS in the garage for a week, but on face value, the range claim looks to be pretty realistic.

2021 MG ZS EV
Engine (capacity, cylinders, type)44.5kWh electric motor
Power and torque (with RPMs)105kW, 353Nm
Transmissionsingle-speed automatic
Drive type (FWD, etc)FWD
Kerb weight1502kg
Range claim (WLTP)263km
Fuel use on test14.6kWh/100km
Boot volume (rear seats up / down)359L / 1187L
Turning circle11.2 metres
ANCAP safety rating (year tested)Not tested yet.
Warranty (years / km)5 years / unlimited km (8 year/160,000km battery)
Main competitorsHyundai Ioniq, Mini Electric, Nissan Leaf
Price as tested (ex on-road costs / drive-away)$40,990 / $43,990

Interestingly, CarAdvice has been impressed with the regular MG ZS, with the only caveat being that we reckon the entry-level 1.5-litre non-turbo engine is a little underdone for the segment. It gets the job done by all means, but it could be more powerful when pitted against the best in segment.

Still, MG would counter that its buyer research indicates more emphasis is placed on standard features, price and warranty. Whichever way your opinion falls, the powertrain issue is out of the equation now with the punchy electric motor, and as such, we expect an already competent SUV to be even better.

As we’ve stated with a few of the other more recent electric offerings, the MG ZS isn’t a quirky, weird looking, stand out electric vehicle in a styling sense.

From the outside, it’s an MG ZS exactly as you’d be accustomed to, that just happens to be electric. If anything, the ZS EV blends into the sea of medium SUVs already roaming the streets of our major cities.

Those of you who want to look into electric vehicle ownership but don’t necessarily want to advertise the fact, will appreciate the understated nature of the ZS EV.

MG claims the ZS EV will charge to 80 per cent capacity in 40 minutes on a 50kW fast charger, or up to full in seven hours using a 7kW home setup.

If you’re buying an EV, it stands to reason you’ll also be setting up the capability to charge at home, meaning you can leave each morning with a ‘full tank’ having powered up overnight.

The standard features list includes an 8.0-inch infotainment screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, six-speaker system with surround sound, native satellite navigation and a big sunroof.

There’s also plenty of standard safety kit including adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, emergency braking, speed assist and lane departure warning – as part of the MG Pilot package, not found on the petrol ZS range.

MG continues to remind us that this point specifically is one it intends to keep pushing – any MG should be heavily loaded with standard kit and represent good value to Australian buyers regardless of drivetrain. When you have a look through the equipment list, it’s hard to argue the toss.

Peeling out into Sydney traffic from MG’s flagship Sydney showroom for our launch drive, all the positives we associate with electric vehicles are immediately apparent.

Punchy and immediate pedal response, effortless power delivery, rapid acceleration and a seamless driving experience.

While the ZS EV is no race car (you sense that outright pace wasn’t a focus given the claimed 8.2-second run to 100km/h), it’s sharp enough off the mark or roll on, that you can get up to speed faster than you will ever need to.

Quick darts into side streets with a short break in traffic for example, are safe thanks to that immediate and seamless response. As stated above, the addition of the electric powertrain moves the ZS into an even more accomplished driving experience.

In short, the ZS EV feels responsive, smooth, and lag free, without feeling like a performance SUV.

Aside from the slight whirring you hear as speed increases, the cabin remains generally calm even up to highway speed. There’s some tyre noise and some wind noise, above 80km/h, but the cabin is a comfortable place to be – far quieter than an internal combustion powered vehicle.

As is the case with every electric car we’ve tested, long runs on the highway at 110km/h will start to eat into the available range, but around town, you’ll be comfortable pushing pretty close to the claimed limit.

Onto a twisty section of B-road and the bump absorption remained solid. You can feel the heft of the battery pack to a certain extent, but the payoff is that with it mounted so low in the chassis, the centre of gravity is impressive.

With that in mind, the ZS EV doesn’t wallow from side to side, or feel top heavy into corners. It actually feels quite balanced, despite the fact that few ZS EV buyers will be wanting to hook into corners at speed.

You can adjust the level to which the regenerative braking works, but I tend to leave the systems on their most aggressive setting for launch drives to give the car the best chance to recuperate as much energy as possible.

You can also switch between Eco, Normal and Sport driving modes, with Normal used for our launch drive.

The steering could do with some sharpening up, as it exhibits a lightness that we’d prefer to be firmer especially in corners.

Overall, the drive impression is one of balance and solidity. Electric vehicles are undeniably heftier than their internal combustion counterparts, but the way in which they can be packaged to get as much of that heft as possible down low in the chassis, means their inherent balance isn’t as compromised as it might otherwise be.

A mid-life update might also add some ability to the damping of the shock absorbers. The springs work nicely to soak up nastier bumps, but the shocks could settle a little more quickly.

The ZS EV is covered by a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which doesn’t match MGs excellent seven-year warranty on non-electric cars.

There is, however, an eight-year/160,000km warranty on the battery pack, which according to MG Australia, is what the electric car buyer is most focused on. Still, I’d like to see the ZS EV get the same warranty coverage as the seven years MG’s other vehicles get.

After a day with the MG ZS EV, a few things are clear. Firstly, the brand has done exactly what it promised it would, which is launch with a competitively specified, and sharply priced, pure electric vehicle.

Secondly, it looks and feels exactly like the MG ZS that has impressed from launch, meaning you won’t stand out if you do decide to go down the EV path.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, the MG ZS EV offers a realistic real-world range that should appeal to city buyers, especially those looking at an electric vehicle as a second car.

While 400-500km is probably the eventual sweet spot in terms of range to get critical mass in this country, there are now genuine options offering a 250-300km range.

The main barrier to electric vehicle ownership though has been price, and MG has now set a sharp benchmark to start a more affordable trend in terms of entry into the market.

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