MG ZS EV 2021 essence

2021 MG ZS EV long-term review: Charging in the suburbs

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When you live out in the suburbs or venture away from home, does an EV make sense as a family car?
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This month, as promised in the intro to our long-term 2021 MG ZS EV review, I delved into all things charging to find out whether topping up your EV outside the familiarity of your home would make sense for potential buyers.

Turns out it was more complex than I thought.

In our last update, I mentioned charging the MG overnight at home provided more than enough electrified juice to see me through my daily driving. But I was yet to venture outside of my comfort zone to come face to face with public charging infrastructure.

To recap, this is what I use in my daily driving.

Weekdays, I do the school drop-off, which is a 9.4km drive from home, then on to the CarAdvice office in North Sydney, adding another 28km to my commute.

On the way home, I do the same route in reverse, which leaves me with approximately 150km in reserve when I pull in my driveway. Add on to and from soccer once or twice a week, another 20km per trip. Worst-case scenario, when I get home, I have just under 100km left of the WLTP-certified driving range of 263km.

Now the mindset that I have taken into my time with the ZS EV is around the charging of it specifically, as my normal driving habits have remained the same. I still mum-uber, quickly nip out to the shops and do the daily commute without changing how I drive, with the air-con still on and mostly old-school RnB blaring out the speakers after school drop-off.

In a nutshell, I have driven the MG like I would any other petrol-powered car.

RELATED: Long-term report one: Introduction

However, my approach to charging an electric car, I’ve discovered, is shared by my CarAdvice colleagues. We treat them the same way we treat our mobile phones – whenever we can, we plug it in. The length of charge time or location are irrelevant – we would take the chance to top up an EV any time we can get it.

At home, I have a garage with a normal wall plug. As I keep going on about, I plug the MG in as soon as I get home, and it's topped up to full by the next morning. If I’m at home during the day on weekends, which is when I do a lot of my errands, I pop it on for a few hours too.

At the CA office in North Sydney, we have a Tesla wall box like the type you would have set up at home, and it works with the MG – something I later realised wasn’t the case everywhere.

But no matter how long my stay in the office, I plug the MG in.

2021 MG ZS EV
Power and torque105kW / 353Nm
TransmissionSingle-speed automatic
Drive typeFront-wheel drive
Kerb weight1502kg
Boot volume359L / 1187L
Turning circle11.2m
ANCAP safety rating4 stars for standard ZS, but ZS EV currently unrated
Warranty5 years / unlimited km (battery is 8 years / 160,000km)
Motor countSingle
Battery size44.5kWh
Driving range263km (WLTP)
Charging time80 per cent capacity in 40 mins on a 50kW fast-charger
Tow rating braked, unbrakedUnrated
Main competitorsHyundai Kona, Nissan Leaf, Hyundai Ioniq

Now on to public charging while out and about. Firstly, a quick Google search will show you which shopping centres have charging facilities, which parking stations have them, and other spots along your route to allow you to plan ahead.

I live out in the Hills District in Sydney's north-west, and I was surprised how many charging points there were on offer around here given I’ve never seen one – or paid enough attention to them at least.

If you don’t own a Tesla, you will likely be using a ChargePoint charging station, so I headed to a big shopping centre to get acquainted.

The first lesson I learned was Tesla charging ports don't always work on your non-Tesla vehicle, so save yourself the hassle of having to move the car again and park in the ‘other’ EV spots.

Secondly, ChargePoint requires you to download the app and create an account first – information I didn’t know prior to my excursion. And the app wouldn't accept my credit card details for some odd technological reason, so I couldn’t use the machine.

Side note here: a lady parked next to me in a Nissan Leaf while I was furiously tapping my phone, and effortlessly touched her card on the machine, connected the plug, and got the kids out of the car within a 45-second interval. It was nice to see charging can become carefree once your initiation is complete – although she did take the last functioning charger, but who am I to hold a grudge?

A positive to the shopping centre stations and large car parks is generally they happen to be right near an entrance or exit, and usually get prime parking spots for access into the shopping centre. Nice when wrangling kids in a busy car park while negotiating with a trolley.

While visiting a friend out in the ’burbs, I thought I would kindly ask for a top-up, which was easy to do while parked in their driveway using their wall plug like I do at home. I packed an extension lead just in case, but didn't need it as the ZS EV's cable stretched the 2m distance easily.

The same approach did not work when I visited my apartment-dwelling friend, for obvious reasons, so instead, I fuelled up on coffee and a good chinwag and went on my merry way.

I do all of my driving in ‘Eco’ mode to get the most out of the regenerative braking on offer and find the claimed range stacks up pretty well in real-world terms. If you see 200km on the display and travel 100km, you will generally have pretty close to 100km left. On a cold morning recently, I did notice the MG chewed through a bit more range than usual, likely because I was using the heater too. As it was a short trip it didn't affect me overall, but something I would keep in mind for a winter escape.

In fact, that is what happens to your mindset after spending some time with the MG. You begin to factor things in and become more present in the driving experience.

And once you get used to charging the ZS EV whenever and wherever you can, you become like the Nissan Leaf owner I mentioned earlier – carefree, unwavered, and not driving the car any different to a normal vehicle really.

Around the suburbs, an electric car makes a lot of sense. Running errands in start-stop traffic just isn't as annoying in an EV, as every time you brake, you are topping that baby up and it becomes a weirdly satisfying experience.

Plus, the throttle response is effortless. You can zip in and out of spaces easily, and moving silently through traffic is peaceful. The ZS's cabin helps a lot here, too, as the ride quality is smooth and quiet inside the cabin. It's also really light and airy thanks to the panoramic sunroof. All in all, it's a pleasure to drive.

As the CarAdvice team have suggested before, electric cars work really well for some people, and if you can afford a second vehicle that you use for carting the kids around, you should be seriously considering one.

If you can only afford one car, a 2021 MG ZS EV can still be on your list, because realistically how often are you going to drive interstate? Call me idealistic here, but as charging infrastructure rolls out further across Australia, which it inevitably has to, longer-haul journeys in your EV will become the norm.