It's not the easiest task for car manufacturers – build a car that offers zero emissions, make it family-friendly, and ensure it’s not going to burn a hole in the consumer's pocket. Oh, and did I mention that looks are important, too?
Turns out MG is giving this all-boxes-ticked approach a solid attempt, with the new ZS EV. While there is a perception that electric equals expensive, the MG is trying its best to show that this doesn’t always have to be the case.
The 2021 MG ZS EV is the most affordable electric vehicle available in Australia today. Priced at $43,990 drive-away, I know what you may be thinking. That is twice the price of the entry-level ZS Excite ($21,990), so is it justified?
As we know, wholly electric cars still haven't got to a price-parity level of their combustion counterparts, due to the expense of the batteries and other electric hardware. The ZS EV is based on the $26,490 ZS Essence, which means the electrons command a 66 per cent premium over the more traditional fuel source.
In context, the Hyundai Kona Highlander Electric ($65,290) is 78 per cent more than its petrol sibling ($36,660), and the Kona Elite EV ($60,740) is a whopping 98.5 per cent more spendy than the ICE car ($30,600).
|2020 MG ZS EV|
|Power and torque||105kW / 353Nm|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Boot volume||359L / 1187L|
|ANCAP safety rating||4 stars for standard ZS, but ZS EV currently unrated|
|Warranty||5 years / Unlimited KM (battery is 8-year / 160,000km)|
|Driving range||263km (WLTP)|
|Charging time||80 per cent capacity in 40 mins on a 50kW fast-charger|
|Tow rating braked, unbraked||unrated|
|Main competitors||Hyundai Kona, Nissan Leaf, Hyundai Ioniq|
While it was the value for money that impressed me the most with this vehicle, I have to say I was also rather delighted with its appearance. It’s well proportioned, sleek and modern.
Equipped with unique 17-inch alloys and that MG 'Exclusive' grille with chrome surround, the ZS EV stands out just enough, in a smart and inoffensive wat.
The interior looks refined with a mixture of fabrics, white stitching and red accents on the carpet. Its minimalist approach is appreciated, as it provides a clean and inviting environment.
It’s comfortable and offers everything you’d expect from a car in this price range. It comes complete with an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rotary gear selector, perforated leather-trimmed flat-bottom wheel, and a large panoramic glass sunroof.
That said, the materials are quite light and hollow when you tap on them, perhaps a reminder that as an up and coming brand, MG isn't quite at the level of some of the more established players, even at the value end of the market.
I also would have liked a little more storage up front, as the middle compartment is tiny. However, up the back there is plenty of space, which makes this a great family car option, too. Boot space with the rear seats up is up to 359L – with full folding of the rear seat, cargo capacity increases to 1187L.
Safety features for the ZS EV include autonomous emergency braking, forward-collision warning, auto high-beam, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and speed recognition with overspeed warning.
The EV variant of the ZS does not have a five-star ANCAP safety rating, despite carrying added safety tech not offered on the petrol ZS. Technically the ZS EV is unrated by ANCAP, but Euro NCAP rated the ZS EV at five stars in 2019, by comparison, the MG ZS, scored four stars in 2017.
However, price and features aren't everything with electric cars, so let’s take a look at the all-important battery life.
The ZS packs a 44.5kWh pack, which puts it in the middle of the mainstream energizer-segment, with the Kona featuring a 64kWh battery and the Tesla Model 3 anywhere from 50-75kWh. On the lower end, the Leaf a 40kWh unit, the Ioniq Electric a 38kWh pack and the Mini Cooper SE has just 32.6kWh of storage.
I'll own up here and say that I still suffer from a bit of range anxiety when driving electric cars. It's entirely self-imposed, as I’m generally slack when it comes to charging things – my iPhone is constantly out of battery, so why would I remember to charge my car?
Like many of you, this is something I'll need to work to overcome by spending more time behind the wheel of the silent generation of future transport.
With that in mind, and my car charged, I ventured out into Sydney traffic.
Under the bonnet of the ZS EV you’ll find a 105kW/353Nm electric motor that drives the front wheels only. Response is good, and like many other EVs it’s very reactive off the throttle, which makes the overall driving experience much more enjoyable. There’s a great sense of urgency in Sport mode, but if that’s not your flavour, there are two others available in Normal and Eco.
During my time with the car, I was able to run the ZS along some of Sydney's expanding freeway network, as well as through bumper-to-bumper traffic.
On patchy urban road surfaces, the MG feels softly damped and you do tend to feel all the bumps. Once you hit the open road, though, the MG is far more composed.
Perhaps drawing on its base as a light SUV, the steering feel isn't what you'd term as sporty, but as a whole the car doesn't really encourage you to treat it as such. It's positioned as an electric urban runabout, and so that's how I drove it.
In general, it is a nice little car and it didn't take long for me to feel much more at home and comfortable with the EV, plus, even after a varied and comprehensive road loop, the 'tank' was still pretty full.
I plugged the car back in at the CarAdvice Sydney office with 70 per cent charge available. It is a regular wall charger, which has been upgraded to draw 15 amps (still at single-phase), and it took seven hours to get the MG to full charge. This may sound like a rather significant amount of time for 30 per cent charge, but in more normal scenarios, this would have been an overnight job.
Our suggestion, however, is that if you are considering buying an electric vehicle, then look to upgrade your charging facilities at home to 3-Phase power (100amps).
MG claims that it can be rapid-charged to 80 per cent in approximately 45 minutes from a 50kW DC fast charger for top-ups on the go. In terms of kilometres, we are told that it has the ability to reach 263km in combined use (urban and freeway) scenarios when making full use of regenerative braking, from a 44.5kWh battery, with range based on the more realistic WLTP test cycle.
Finally, this car comes complete with a five-year warranty, unlimited kilometres, which falls two years short of the company's outstanding offering on other vehicles. The EV battery though carries its own eight year, 160,000km warranty.
All in all, MG should be applauded. This practical city runaround is a huge step forward for MG, it looks good and feels of far higher quality than its predecessors.
And, as an entry-level EV, I do believe it delivers on what consumers have been asking for.
It might not be the best electric car you can buy right now, but if you are planning on 2021 being your first step into EV ownership, then the MG ZS EV is certainly worth your consideration.