COVER We drive MG’S new ZS SUV

First drive ver­dict on brand’s cru­cial new ZS crossover, priced from less than £13,000

Auto Express - - Contents - James Brodie James_brodie@den­nis.co.uk @jim­my­brods

Ver­dict on Bri­tish brand’s new Nis­san Juke-ri­valling crossover

New ZS ma­jors on space and stan­dard equipment 1.0-litre en­gine de­liv­ers 110bhp and 160Nm of torque

MG is de­ter­mined to cash in on the crossover craze. De­spite in­her­it­ing its name­plate from a nineties sports sa­loon, its new ZS will take on com­pact SUV ri­vals such as the Nis­san Juke and Re­nault Cap­tur, plus new­com­ers in­clud­ing the SEAT Arona. So its hopes are high, with bosses look­ing to the SUV to more than dou­ble cur­rent UK sales.

Bri­tish buy­ers will be of­fered three trim choices, priced from £12,495. How­ever, the com­pany reck­ons that the most pop­u­lar choice will be the Exclusive model, priced from £15,495 or £17,495 as tested here with a new 1.0-litre three-cylin­der en­gine and a six-speed au­to­matic gear­box.

The en­gine de­vel­ops 110bhp and 160Nm of torque, so it’s po­tent enough along­side the three-cylin­der petrol units found in many ri­vals. A slack six-speed au­to­matic gear­box is stan­dard, but it means that the 1.0-litre unit isn’t as eco­nom­i­cal as we would have hoped; a claimed 44.9mpg leaves it trail­ing the 50mpg bench­mark set by other cars in the class, while tailpipe emis­sions of 144g/km are high.

Re­fined

The mo­tor is at least fairly re­fined, keep­ing un­der-bon­net noise to a min­i­mum. There’s no­tice­able wind and road noise, how­ever.

At town speeds, the ride feels com­pli­ant over Bri­tain’s pot­hole-sul­lied roads. At higher speeds, body roll is ever present around cor­ners, and the ZS can’t help but pitch and dive and gen­er­ally feel un­set­tled. It all seems a lit­tle out of tune with any of the car’s three steer­ing modes.

Prac­ti­cal­ity is set to be one of the ZS’S sell­ing points. Boot space looks par­tic­u­larly gen­er­ous, with 448 litres on offer when all the seats are in place; that’s 94 litres more than you’ll find in a Nis­san Juke.

The in­te­rior con­tains an all-new dash­board de­sign that’s based around an eight-inch touch­screen. It’s a big step on from what MG has of­fered be­fore, but the materials are still cheap, hard and scratchy. Stan­dard equipment tips things back in the ZS’S favour, though, with Blue­tooth, cruise con­trol and elec­tri­cally ad­justable mir­rors on ev­ery model. The touch­screen is fit­ted on the mid-range Ex­cite trim up­wards.

Value for money is still the main brief. There’s an im­pres­sive seven-year, 80,000mile war­ranty, while on list price it of­fers more kit and space than ri­vals at a lower cost. But those prices are for 1.5 man­ual mod­els; the 1.0 turbo auto is £2,000 more.

PCP schemes should help to ad­dress the dif­fer­ence in cost, but we’ll have to wait and see how it com­petes with ri­vals on monthly deals. For now, MG UK is only tout­ing a fiveyear con­di­tional sale scheme, with zero per cent in­ter­est on de­posits cov­er­ing 20 per cent of the value of the car. The range-top­ping ZS Exclusive is avail­able from £199 a month.

“MG’S hopes are high, with bosses look­ing to the SUV to dou­ble cur­rent UK sales”

STYLING LED day­time run­ning lights and LED tail-lamps are fit­ted as stan­dard across the range. Ex­cite and Exclusive mod­els come with 17-inch al­loys

EQUIPMENT Eight-inch dis­play is stan­dard on all but the en­try-level model. It’s sharp to look at and slick to the touch, but not the eas­i­est to use

PRAC­TI­CAL­ITY Good legroom, head­room and shoul­der room make ZS one of the most prac­ti­cal and spa­cious cars in its class, plus 448-litre boot ex­pands to 1,375 litres. It’s just a shame that the steer­ing wheel has no reach ad­just­ment

In­te­rior is sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter than those in other MGS, but materials are still be­hind those in ri­vals

SALES MG hopes sharp-look­ing ZS can boost to­tal sales to 4,500 by the end of 2017, with 10,000 sales tar­geted next year

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