Over so soon?
We've had the 2021 MG ZS EV in the CarAdvice garage for six months now and it's time to hand the keys back.
So what did we learn about Australia's most affordable electric vehicle?
Well, perhaps the switch to electric isn't as tricky and eventful as we may have thought.
To recap, our Clipper Blue ZS EV arrived in the garage late last year and spent time with most of the Sydney team. For many, it was the first experience of using an electric car for a prolonged period of time.
Now priced from $44,990 drive away, our car added the no-cost option of Clipper Blue metallic paint (one of five choices), but that’s it. The ZS EV comes loaded in its standard form, with a panoramic sunroof, full suite of driver assistance technology and support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Power comes from a single electric motor with a 44.5kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Output is rated at 105kW and 353Nm with a claimed WLTP range of 263km on a full charge.
You can read our launch review on the ZS EV and even catch up on our previous long term instalments here.
|2021 MG ZS EV|
|Power and torque||105kW / 353Nm|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Boot volume||359L / 1187L|
|ANCAP safety rating||Five stars (tested 2019)|
|Warranty||Seven years/unlimited km (Previously five years vehicle, eight years/160,000km battery)|
|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|
Over the past six months we have put a bit over 5000km on the electric ZS, and found it to be almost dramatically uneventful.
Using the car as an urban runner meant we never needed more than the claimed range, and regularly saw over 250km from a single ‘tank’. Prolonged highway cruising was less efficient, as the car doesn’t get to use its regenerative braking, but given the range and format of the ZS EV, we’d suggest it better suits short-trip city-dwellers better than intra-urban touring anyway.
Charging became a regular habit, where if the car wasn’t being used we would pop it into the CarAdvice garage driveway overnight, and just let the wall box do its thing.
The team became familiar with charging stations around the office and in our regular haunts, although we rarely found we needed them, outside the occasional filming or photo opportunity.
We had one strange issue where the car reported some errors with charging and needed a visit to MG for a software update. These were actually caused by the charger, which apparently needed an update of its own.
In all though, in terms of the electric-powered side of things, the ZS does what it says on the box. The 50kW fast-charging interface relies on the charger itself, and we found although the relatively rudimentary 7kW ‘home charge’ speed isn’t quick, it became second nature for drivers to simply plug it when it wasn’t being used.
We had one instance where it didn’t have the range to go where we had planned (someone forgot to plug it in), but it was a minor inconvenience on one day, rather than an ongoing issue. We were also worried that the light plastic charging port cover on the nose may become loose over time, but nothing eventuated there. It’s still light, but it is still attached and works just fine.
So yes, Australia’s most affordable electric car is an effective electric car.
It worked as a compact SUV too.
The interior layout is very similar to the petrol ZS and ZST models, with the rotary gear selector the main differentiator.
It has an easy to use layout, and while the surfaces may look more premium than they are to touch, it’s a good blend of ‘nice’ in what is fundamentally an affordable vehicle.
The materials held up too, with even the white stitching on the faux-leather trim putting up with multiple backsides during the first half of 2021.
Vision is good, there is ample storage, and overall comfort for both front and rear passengers was largely impressive too. The big sunroof is great for kids in the back as it makes it a really bright place to spend time.
We would prefer larger cup holders though, as with two small cups in there it can be a bit cramped, and not buying your passenger a coffee because it wont fit in the car is not a great way to strengthen those workplace bonds!
Note too that the steering wheel offers height but not reach adjustment, so we’d suggest you size one up before buying, especially if you are over six-foot.
The 359L boot is good for the class and more than enough for the shopping or other urban errands. The rear seat folds to offer 1187-litres if you need to load longer or larger items.
It’s not a flat-load floor though, and we had one of the clips on the parcel shelf break during our time with the car.
Where we did find a real weak point of the interior though, is the infotainment system.
On paper it is well featured, with an 8.0-inch screen, native navigation and support for both Apple and Android device projection, but in practice it falls short and really could have done with more comprehensive user testing.
The screen feedback speed isn’t great, the interface to control the temperature is just a bit naff, and the overall reliability of some of the functions, particularly the satellite navigation, was pretty ordinary.
This electronic usability extends to the instrument cluster, where the car will beep and bloop, but not be particularly clear about what the alert is for.
All this is fixable obviously, and is perhaps the area where emerging brands like MG could rapidly improve their product offering, by performing localised software testing and versioning.
Our infotainment system improved out of sight after a software update (performed as part of the charging fix noted earlier), but remained temperamental with some cables for wired phone connections.
On the road, the ZS EV is zippy and responsive enough to be entertaining in urban traffic.
The electric motor gives consistent behaviour off the line, and the car is effortless and easy to motor about in.
Using the regenerative braking system soon becomes second nature, and changing the car’s behaviour via the different modes does noticeably alter the way that it drives.
We found ‘light’ to be the best for heavy urban traffic.
Where it could benefit from some more local tuning is in the suspension department, particularly at the rear, where on choppy surfaces it can feel a bit harsh and firm.
We see brands like Kia and Hyundai performing unique suspension tuning for Australian driving conditions, so it would be a great way for MG to again enhance their product to better suit our environment.
Things are fine on smoother roads and at shopping speeds, so it really needs only be a better level of bump absorption on more uneven surfaces where the work needs to be done.
While we didn’t need a service (standard intervals are 12 months or 20,000km), it’s worth noting that every fourth year is a hefty $800, compared to around $270 every other year. It’s still cheaper than a regular ZS though.
And in a way, value this is where the MG ZS EV really shines.
You get real electric motoring for $45k, along with all the trappings you’d expect at that price point.
No, it’s not as polished as an Audi or as tech-heavy as a Tesla, but in terms of being an accessible starting point for fuel-free driving, the MG ZS EV is absolutely worthy of consideration. A well priced, practical and silent SUV could make a great second car for your two-car urban garage.