For­get snakes on a plane – we’ve got dogs in a car, as our MG ZR serves as a clas­sic ca­nine car­rier

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Living With Classic - RICHARD GUNN

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.

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