Kevin Haggarthy

Prices start at £12,495

We asked people to guess the price of the new MG ZS and no one volunteered a figure less than £18,000, yet it starts at £12,495. Fully equipped you get Apple CarPlay, Sat Nav and cruise control. The seductive sale price is matched to a strong seven-year/80,000-mile warranty, contributing no doubt to MG recently being voted one of the top ten most reliable car brands by What Car?

The competitive angle

We British love SUVs; a segment currently number one in the car sales charts and proving so popular in fact that even Rolls-Royce and Ferrari plan to make them. Porsche, for example, make great sports cars, but the bestselling Porsche – the Cayenne – is an SUV. Such is the competition that any manufacturer brave enough to build cars in this popular ‘do or die’ segment will need to make a success of it and be pretty confident about the future too.

MG ZS - UK Launch - Oct 2017 (37) - smallYou can be forgiven for thinking then that an SUV like the MG ZS, selling at least four grand below the price of the competition, is pitching massively against the odds. You’d be wrong, for the company is one of the fastest growing automotive brands in the UK and the MG ZS is currently proving one of its most popular vehicles. Wisely, it is not seeking to topple established brands from their mantle in volume sales and are unlikely to succeed should they try, but instead opt for selling a profitable number within a realistically targeted niche entry level sector of this highly popular market.

So why is it that an SUV starting at the bottom of the price range is holding its own? Arguably, part of the answer could lie in the history and philosophy of the brand; the MG Car Company started in 1924, and much of the marque’s popularity was rooted in its cars being accessible, affordable, fun, and fit for purpose. Historically, that fitness for purpose was as a sporting brand, whereas now it is defined in this modern era as an SUV (the MG ZS) along with the nippy little MG3, and MG GS. Whilst no longer a British owned brand, MGs are designed in Longbridge in the UK, and seek to retain the British values it has inherited.

The MG ZS is certainly good value, well equipped, and easily has the space and utility to match the competition. It scores an extra goal with the impressive warranty and holds its own in the car park in terms of looks, quality and detail. Simply put, it has its market sussed. What’s more, you’re not bamboozled with complicated model and spec choices; there are two engines, a 1.5 DOHC VTI-tech four-cylinder engine with a five-speed manual gearbox, and a 1.0 litre GDI turbocharged three-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed auto. That’s it.

MG ZS - UK Launch - Oct 2017 (30) - smallThe cars have been tuned specifically to meet UK and European driver demands, from all-purpose lifestyle down to the trip to the local newsagents. In truth modern day SUVs do little more than that anyway, and with a choice of ‘urban’ or ‘dynamic’ modes to lighten or latterly give more feel to the steering, it copes more than adequately with either, thus highlighting the value over choosing a standard saloon for similar money.

Our road test preference for the 1.5 DOHC VTI-tech engine enabled us to use manual gear selection to extract credible performance, whereas some colleagues argue that the three-cylinder is the sweeter and more cost effective/user friendly option. Well yes, we all know three-cylinder engine technology is on a high at present so they may well be right; that’s for you to judge on a test drive.

Trim and equipment options start with ‘Explore’ (1.5 manual only), then there’s the ‘Excite’ version, and then the highly equipped ‘Exclusive’ available in either engine spec and with an average price difference of two grand. The 1.0 litre gives you 0-62 mph in 12.4 seconds compared to the 1.5’s 10.9 seconds, whilst there’s a surprisingly higher top speed for the 1.0 litre car of 112 mph compared to 109 mph for the 1.5 litre car. The 1.5 out-performs the 1.0 litre on fuel economy however, achieving a stated 49.6 mpg over the 1.0 litre’s 44.9. The 1.5 scores well on CO2 at 129 g/km compared to the 1.0 litre’s 144. The tables turn again in favour of the 1.0 though, with an insurance group rating of 10E compared to the 1.5’s 11E.

Drive them both

All round there’s little in it, but we suggest driving both is a must as personal preference will be the decision maker here rather than stats. Ultimately, that seven-year warranty will give the budget-buyer confidence, and we suspect MG may have found its niche in steering entry level buyers into the SUV market, as opposed to teasing away regular SUV buyers from established brands. You will drive away with a bargain that will reliably serve its purpose for sure, and if that is what matters most, your new MG ZS will keep you happy for many a year to come.

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