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Parkers overall rating: 2.8 out of 5 2.8
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Cheap, practical small SUV does little to shine over rivals

PROS

  • Low list price
  • Impressive practicality
  • Seven-year warranty
  • Decent kit levels

CONS

  • Absence of safety kit
  • Below average performance
  • Mediocre drive
  • Feels dated in many respects

Verdict

The MG ZS is the smallest SUV in the Chinese-owned British brand’s model range.

Designed to offer value for money, it undercuts the cash price of almost all of its rivals by a sizeable margin – something that MG hopes will entice customers in what is the fiercely-contested Crossover sector of the market.

Rivals to the ZS are seemingly endless. The Renault Captur and Nissan Juke have had the lion’s share of the compact crossover market for the past few years, but the 2017 launch of the Kia Stonic and SEAT Arona, as well as the impending arrival of the Volkswagen T-Roc, means potential buyers are spoilt for choice.

So, can MG offer combine a bargain list price and a competent car in the same package?

Mediocre drive and handling

There’s just two engines on offer in the MG ZS – both of which are petrol. Opt for the 1.0-litre three-cylinder unit – developed in conjunction with General Motors (major US automotive conglomerate) and there’s a barely satisfactory amount of performance and refinement on offer. Note that this engine only comes with a six-speed automatic gearbox.

The alternative is a 106hp 1.5-litre petrol engine that is loud, unrefined and seriously struggles at motorway speeds. It does however, come with a perfectly good five-speed manual gearbox.

Head down a bumpy road and while the ZS does not feel overly firm like some of its rivals, the suspension does struggle to deal with a poorly surfaced country lane or residential street.

It hops and bounces over undulations, all the while delivering little feel through the steering wheel. On the plus side, the high speed ride on smooth, open motorways is reasonable.

Some useful levels of equipment

Head straight to the top-spec Exclusive model and the MG ZS has some useful pieces of standard kit such as sat-nav, a reversing camera, cruise control and Apple CarPlay.

However, there are some noticeable gaps in the equipment list. For example, climate control, Android Auto, hill-start assist and a height-adjustable passenger seat are all absent from the ZS. And then there’s the safety and driver assist equipment…

MG ZS SUV boot

Troubling lack of safety kit

For a family car the ZS has an almost complete absence of equipment designed to prevent the driver from having a crash. Sure, there’s an array of airbags plus ABS and ESC (a legal requirement in Europe), but that’s about it.

Autonomous emergency braking, blindspot monitoring, lane-departure warning, hill-start assist, driver fatigue detection – all things that are not available on the ZS.

When other cars launched in 2017 are at least offered with such safety equipment as an option, the ZS – regardless of cost – looks seriously outclassed.

MG ZS SUV dashboard

Class-leading space

Easily the car’s strongest suite, the amount of space on offer is impressive. Sat in the front or back there’s plenty of room to stretch out, plus interior storage levels are generous.

Bootspace with the rear seats up is 448 litres, rising to 1,375 litres with them folded down. That’s more than the Volkswagen T-Roc, SEAT Arona, Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and the Kia Stonic. The dual-height boot floor also offers greater flexibility.

However, while the space may be good, the boot opening is a touch narrow and the seats do not fold down completely flat.

Seven-year warranty as standard

All MG ZS SUVs come with a seven-year/80,000-mile warranty, a guarantee that stands second only to Kia’s seven-year/100,000-mile promise.


 

The Parkers Verdict

Regardless of the ZS’s cheap price, potential customers will have to seriously consider just how much of a compromise they want to make on the quality of vehicle they are buying.

The ZS is comprehensively outperformed by almost all of its newest rivals in just about every area (save for practicality) and, at times, feels like a car that could have been launched ten years ago.

For some, its long warranty and excellent levels of space may mean it’s all the car they require. Yet for us the mediocre drive, poor performance and total absence of safety technology makes it a hard car to recommend.

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