It’s fair to say I had the same question as a lot of people when I met my latest long-termer, the 2021 MG ZS EV. “How many kilometres do you get?”
It's the inevitable yardstick that we judge all electric vehicles by – our human instincts of craving boundless resources kick in as soon as we find out something has a restriction.
You can’t help but start to overanalyse how many kilometres you must drive in a day, between the school run, getting to and from work, kids' sport demands, and the countless unexpected trips for groceries as you’re always out of milk (carry the one, divide by 3.33 recurring).
But the ZS EV offers an interesting proposition as the most affordable electric car available in Australia today – at $43,990 drive-away. It has a claimed driving range of 263km in ideal conditions and undercuts its nearest rivals, the Nissan Leaf ($53,190 drive-away) and Hyundai Ioniq electric (around $53,000-$55,000 on the road, which varies by state), by at least $9000.
|2021 MG ZS EV|
|Power and torque||105kW/353Nm|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|ANCAP safety rating||Five star (tested 2019)|
|Warranty||Five years/unlimited km (battery is eight years/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|
|Length/width/height||4314/1809/1644mm (1620mm excluding roof rails)|
|Main competitors||Hyundai Kona, Nissan Leaf, Hyundai Ioniq|
It’s a fact not gone unnoticed by Australian EV buyers, with MG reporting the first 100 examples of the ZS EV sold out within days of reaching Australian shores in late 2020.
While electric cars cost more than their petrol-consuming counterparts, due to the expense of batteries and other electric hardware, the ZS EV has taken an important bite out of the price barrier for people to afford to buy an electric car in Australia.
With state governments considering levies on EVs, and with no tax breaks or incentives currently available, it's the best we can hope for – right now – in the uptake of zero-emissions cars.
Measuring 4314mm long, the ZS EV sits in the middle of the segment in terms of size, 13cm longer than an electric Hyundai Kona, but 17cm shorter than the Nissan Leaf at 4490mm – which is always handy for city-dwelling owners.
Boot space is mid of the energised segment, too, offering 359L with the rear seats in use, and 2L more than the Hyundai Ioniq Electric.
The middle pattern continues with the ZS packing a 44.5kWh battery compared to the Kona’s 64kWh offering, and on the lower end, the Leaf and Ioniq Electric providing 40kWh and 38kWh respectively.
A single-specification model, the MG ZS EV we have in the CarAdvice garage has a 105kW/353Nm electric motor that drives the front wheels only.
Offering Eco, Normal and Sport modes with three levels of regenerative braking, MG claims a 263km range from a single charge on the WLTP combined cycle, using urban roads and freeways. No prizes for guessing we will be keeping a close eye on that and real-world-testing the range over the next few months.
Sitting on 17-inch alloys with a new wheel design unique to the EV model, MG’s metallic Clipper Blue paint is standard, with choices of non-metallic Dover White and Pebble Black for no extra cost, while Diamond Red and Regal Blue (both metallic) attract a $500 premium.
The ZS EV's charging point is concealed within its ‘Exclusive’ front grille with chrome surround – spoiler alert – with the LED headlights and chrome highlights.
Inside, there's an electric adjustable seat for the driver, flat-bottomed leather-trimmed steering wheel and push-button start, with a panoramic sunroof with sunshade. You'll also find an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rotary gear selector, six-speaker surround-sound audio, keyless entry and satellite navigation.
Safety features for the ZS EV include rear-view camera, LED daytime running lights, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist, forward-collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, pedestrian alert, and speed recognition with overspeed warning.
My first impressions are that it is an attractive, fun runabout packed with technology, a responsive throttle and great visibility. Regenerative braking does take some adjustment time, but within a 45-minute commute home, I no longer noticed the difference.
Yes, I am human and have range anxiety like everyone else, but it hasn't stopped me from feeling at home in the MG pretty quickly – although I do plan to put my coping mechanisms to the test during our time together. Watch this space.
For the rest of the loan, I plan to test its family compatibility – how it copes with child seats, a full boot, a full second row and school-run traffic, plus how I handle range anxiety while mum-ubering.
Next, I’ll look at plugging in the MG at home, as well as the charging infrastructure while out in the Sydney suburbs. Are charging spots readily available away from the CBD? How well do they charge? And what happens when you need to charge your car at your friend's house?
Finally, I will take the ZS EV for a well-earned weekend away to see what level of planning is required if an electric car is your only mode of transportation.