GOING TO THE DOGS
Forget snakes on a plane – we’ve got dogs in a car, as our MG ZR serves as a classic canine carrier
THE STORY SO FAR Miles driven 148 Total mileage 77,639 What’s gone wrong? The heater. It has one job…
During yet another funfilled day at CCW Towers, it was pointed out to me that I was one of the few members of the editorial team who hadn’t sampled any of the £500 challenge cars. And did I want to try one out?
Now, I have three dogs – English setters named Schatze, Riba and Hudson – and usually, only my battered old Volvo 940 estate is up to the job of carting them around. With my Fiat Panda out of MoT and my Saab 900 being surprisingly un- Swedish with a mystery misfire and power loss, having something similarly canine-friendly in reserve seemed like a wise idea.
But which of CCW’s monkey trio to go for? Not the Puma – it’s too small. Plus, it’s named after a cat, which wouldn’t have gone down well with three dogs. The Mercedes has size on its side but also has a hide interior and I didn’t think editor David would appreciate nibbled leather. So the MG ZR it was – it’s compact enough for urban running around, has a spacious hatchback boot and the hounds would appreciate its Rover roots. Actually, being dogs, they couldn’t care less, but at least rovers in a Rover (sort of ) seemed fitting.
The 200/ZR models had never really popped up on my radar, despite my love of Longbridge. I quite like associate editor David Brown’s 200 BRM LE, but that’s more to do with me wondering just how big the orange touch-up brush used on its snout must have been. I wouldn’t say the ZR particularly bowled me over, but as hot hatches go, it’s entertaining enough and has more character and driver engagement than I was expecting. It has the rough edges that mark out most things to emerge from the ex-Austin plant, but that’s not The cobbled streets of Oakham in Rutland proved a bit of a shock for the ZR’s, um, shocks. necessarily a bad thing. I’d much rather be in one of these than a Volkswagen Golf MkIV, for example. That said, the VW would probably have a much better heater – I really wish the MG was better insulated against the winter chills. The dogs were less bothered by the cold, but then they do have fur coats by default. The ZR’s sloping rear rather constrained canine accommodation, but it was the work of few seconds to drop the split back bench, albeit without a totally flat floor. The high sill and rear lamp positioning rather limited graceful leaping into the rear, especially for Riba who, with only three legs, is the doggy equivalent of a Reliant Robin. But once in, the setters were comfy enough to be chauffeured for walkies, albeit with the ZR’s sporting performance, eager brakes and hard suspension threatening to pitch one of them into the front every so often – the gap between the front seats is quite big. However, I don’t think I’ll be swapping the Volvo for an MG ZR any time soon, since the MG may be somewhat less effective than the big Swede at carting around antique furniture, demolishing condemned buildings and deflecting stray space junk reentering the earth’s atmosphere. But the hot hatch coped well enough. Problem is that the dogs have left enough hair in the back to re-thatch Donald Trump. I’d better get out there with the Dyson and sort it out.
Richard, three settled setters and the ZR about to hit the road.