MG has enjoyed stellar success with its ZS EV in Australia, but this week’s launch of an updated model – one that delivers more range, more tech, a new look, and a new logo, while retaining its market-leading entry price – shows it’s not willing to rest on its laurels.
That’s undoubtedly a good thing in isolation, but it’s also an important move for MG at a time when the brand faces stiff competition from fellow Chinese-owned brands entering the market here with very sharply priced offerings.
For those still unfamiliar with the reborn MG brand under its Chinese custodians, SAIC Motor, some comfort can be taken in the fact its budget-priced ZS EV (small SUV), finished 2021 as the second-best selling electric car after the Tesla Model 3.
While EVs own a relatively small share of the new cars sold in Australia, the market is beginning to shift, with a growing number of buyers looking to ditch the conventional combustion engine in favour of affordable electric alternatives like the MG ZS, and the new BYD Atto 3.
Little wonder, really, given the current climate of sky-high fuel prices and soaring interest rates, the combination of which is sending cost-of-living expenses through the roof. It’s no surprise the 500 cars allocated by MG for pre-sale sold out months ago.
The good news is MG Australia says it has secured 2000 cars for 2022, but we’d still suggest if you’re looking for an affordable entry into EV ownership don’t wait around.
It’s a significant update for the MG ZS both inside and out, and one that should go a long way to lifting the brand further and bringing it a step closer to more polished offerings from rivals.
It has a good look all round and is far more resolved than its predecessor, which was rudimentary by comparison and looked like any other MG ZS. There’s even a hint of Kona Electric with that grille-less front end, which is guaranteed to leave the punters guessing at first glance.
While overall cabin design is much the same as the ZS it replaces, new high-resolution displays with a wider viewing angle and less reflection do plenty to lift the cockpit.
The biggest hardware change is the car’s new battery pack, which uses Tesla’s Model 3-style lithium iron phosphate chemistry designed to maximise stability and offer longer cycle life, while packing a greater range.
The previous ZS EV had a 44.5kWh battery good for a range of 263km, while the new 50.3kWh unit is rated for 320km range on the WLTP test cycle.
While the extra range will entice more buyers to make the leap to a battery electric vehicle, MG Australia is quietly confident of being able to offer customers its longer-range 72kWh version here once testing for this market has been wrapped up, which would extend the ZS EV’s range to a claimed 440km.
MG has also updated the drive motor and claims to have improved the battery management electronics.
It’s a more technologically advanced car, boasting app-based remote functionality via smartphone, as well as a brand-first vehicle-to-load function (V2L) for powering external devices.
MG has come out with all guns blazing for its facelifted ZS EV, with pricing that mirrors the previous version despite its greater range, new look, and new features.
Previously the ZS EV was offered as a single model, where the latest version is available in two trims: the new entry-level Excite priced from $44,990 drive away, and the range-topping Essence from $48,990 drive-away.
MG ZS EV pricing:
- MG ZS EV Excite: $44,990 drive-away (MSRP $43,990)
- MG ZS EV Essence: $48,990 drive-away (MSRP $47,990)
Earlier in the year MG indicated pricing for the new ZS EV would be $46,990 drive-away for the Excite, climbing to $49,990 for the ZS EV Essence – so the new price is a win for buyers, and shows the impact a bit of competition from BYD is having.
Although the BYD Atto 3 has a list price of $44,381.35, the final drive-away price varies from $44,990 in Tasmania to $47,935 in Western Australia due to the various incentives on offer around Australia.
The Extended Range starts at $47,990 drive-away, and offers a larger 60kWh battery and 420km of range on the WLTP cycle – an extra 100km over the standard version.
The Hyundai Kona Electric Elite Standard Range starts at $54,500 before on-road costs, while the top-spec Highlander is priced from $58,000.
The Nissan Leaf with 311km range starts from $50,990 before on-roads, climbing to $61,490 for the Leaf e+ with 439km of range.
It’s only a mid-life makeover, so the overall cabin design remains familiar with a combination of light and airy space, and some cool new tech that looks and feels as good as anything in the class.
The design itself is relatively clean and uncluttered, with a horizontal layout that takes its design cues from Audi’s similarly-sized Q2 in the form of metal accents and turbine-look air vents.
Even the seats look and feel like those in the Audi, with plenty of contrast stitching. There’s thicker cushioning and just as much bolster on the seat base and seat back, so they provide excellent comfort and great support.
I can’t say we’ve ever been a fan of faux carbon fibre on the dashboard fascia in any vehicle, but with the red needlework it certainly looks more cool than kitsch.
The biggest changes inside are to be found in the instrument cluster and centre console.
The driver’s display is an all-new digital unit. It’s not massive, but rather the perfect size as not to be distracting. It doesn’t overwhelm the driver with too many layers of information, as some do.
The graphics are crystal clear and there’s good colour depth. Honestly, these two bits of tech really do spruce up the cabin relative to the old car.
The 10.1-inch infotainment screen might be the floating style, but it still looks nicely integrated into the dashboard, and is claimed to be more fingerprint resistant and less affected by glare than before. We’re going to need more time behind the wheel to properly test MG’s claims here.
While the interface itself is good and quick to react to inputs, the native operating system is less sophisticated than those from the more established Korean brands. Of course, none of that matters with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto in play.
We also like the sculptured, leather-clad steering wheel with its flat-ish bottom look. It looks to be Audi-inspired, though disappointingly there’s no adjustment for reach – only height, which could prove problematic for those with long legs.
The new ZS EV sticks with a rotary controller for selecting forward and reverse gears, while a few toggle switches immediately ahead are there to engage the three drive modes.
Directly above is a wider bank of silver piano keys which operate the climate control and de-misters. Below is a wireless charging pad, a couple of USB ports (USB-A and USB-C), and a 12V power socket for those who still use such a thing.
Moving to the second row and there’s ample room for two in comfort, with three a squeeze due to the narrow and flat centre cushion. There are vents and two USB ports, but no centre armrest.
While the ZS EV is classed as a small SUV for VFACTS, there’s a surprising amount of space in both seating rows, and even more headroom despite the inclusion of a huge panoramic glass sunroof which covers a staggering 90 per cent of the car’s roof area.
In the boot, the MG can swallow up to 359 litres of cargo behind the 60/40 split-fold rear seats, which fold to make a mostly flat floor and free up 1187 litres – though there’s still a bit of a lip to contend with.
There’s no properly integrated folding lever for the seats; it’s a pull strap that indicates some cost cutting.
Conveniently, the boot floor is also adjustable (downwards) to allow for larger boxes to be carried. Think dishwashers and dryers.
The updated ZS EV gets a 50.3kWh (up from 44.5kWh), liquid-cooled, lithium iron phosphate battery with an official driving range of up to 320 kilometres on the WLTP test cycle.
That’s an improvement of 57 kilometres over the previous ZS EV’s claimed 263km range.
Bear in mind, the average daily commute in Australia is just 28km so short regional trips should still be possible, though I’d argue the 72kWh battery and its 430km range would find plenty of favour among EV adopters here.
It makes 130kW of power and 280Nm of torque through a single electric motor driving the front wheels via a single-speed automatic transmission.
It can accelerate from standstill to 100km/h in 8.2 seconds, with a top speed of 175km/h. Driving efficiency is a claimed 17.3 kWh/100km.
Equipped with both CCS and Type 2 charging ports in the redesigned front grille, the new MG ZS EV can be rapid charged to 80 per cent using a 50kW charger in 54 minutes.
Charging at home or at the office using 7kW charging to full capacity will take eight hours, while using 11kW charging will take five hours.
MG also offers ZS EV customers a wall box it calls the MG ChargeHub in a variety of colours, which is designed to work with all cars that use Type 2 charging. It’s available in either 7kW single-phase for $1990 plus fitment cost, or 11kW three-phase output for $2090 plus fitting.
The first thing you’ll notice from behind the wheel of the new MG ZS EV is the significant improvement in noise, vibration and harshness suppression.
At risk of sounding obvious in an EV, it’s whisper quiet in the cabin bar some tyre noise from the low-rolling resistance Michelin rubber – but that was over coarse chip roads.
MG tells us the entire vehicle has been subjected to extra soundproofing. There’s an added panel inside the front guards, and additional sound-absorbing material in the firewall.
The overall design has been penned to deliver low wind resistance, all of which has resulted is a very quiet cabin while on the move.
If you’re like me you’ll immediately start trying each of the three drive modes: Eco, Normal, and Sport. There’s not a whole lot of difference between all three settings if you give it a boot from a standing start. All three feel comfortably rapid.
It’s only when we tested full-throttle acceleration from a rolling speed from 20-60km/h did we feel the extra oomph in Sport mode. And while some might scoff at the 8.2-second sprint time from 0-100km/h it feels positively spirited in an urban environment.
Of greater significance are the ride and handling improvements, something that could not be celebrated with its predecessor.
The new MG ZS EV gets new springs (and spring rates) and dampers with a new global tune that not only offers good compliance over all manner of bumps and broken road, but also tightens up body control.
You can punt this EV through chicanes and roundabouts and it remains properly controlled with minimal roll. It feels like a vastly different car to the old version.
While the there’s not a lot of feel through the leather-clad steering wheel, it’s solid on centre with decent weighting, and responsive either side. It really is good.
Alongside the drive-mode toggle is a KERS-marked switch for regenerative braking, which is said to extend the EV range by up to 15.4 per cent in normal road conditions.
The new ZS EV doesn’t offer one-pedal driving. Apparently owners of the previous ZS EV complained of nausea, so the engineers have dialled it right back.
There are still three settings: Light, Moderate and Heavy, but even in the latter there’s no jerky movements. You can certainly feel the difference between all three modes.
Pity, we can’t have one very aggressive setting for those of us who enjoy one-pedal driving in EVs.
It’s a cinch to drive, thanks a tight turning circle (as tested) and a surprisingly quick steering rack that makes it manageable in those underground city car parks.
The Excite comes standard with:
- 17-inch alloy wheels
- Automatic LED headlights
- 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster
- 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Wired Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
- Satellite navigation
- DAB+ digital radio
- iSmart app connectivity
- Leather-wrapped steering wheel
- Cloth upholstery with houndstooth pattern
- Keyless entry and start
- Tyre pressure monitoring
- Vehicle-to-load (V2L) charging
- Four-speaker sound system
The Essence adds:
- Six-speaker sound system
- Six-way power driver’s seat
- Wireless phone charger
- Leatherette upholstery
- Heated front seats
- Power-folding exterior mirrors
- Panoramic sunroof
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Sunglass holder
- Front seatback map pockets
- Roof rails
The 2023 MG ZS EV is available in a choice of five exterior colours, though the metallic paints cost an additional $700. They are:
- Diamond Red (metallic)
- Brighton Blue (metallic)
- York White (Non-metallic)
- Pebble Black (Non-metallic)
- Sloane Silver (metallic)
The 2023 MG ZS EV is also available with a range of accessories including:
- Fabric boot mat
- Rubber boot liner
- Boot lip protector
- Boot lip skid plate
- Chrome boot trim strip
- Dash mat
- Fabric floor mats
- Weather shields (all-four doors)
- Tinted bonnet protector
- Clear bonnet protector
- LED scuff plates for two doors
- Roof racks
- 7kW Go cable
- 22kW Rapid charge cable
The previous MG ZS was tested by ANCAP in 2019 where it scored five stars, thanks in part to the inclusion of six airbags and 10 active driver safety systems that come under the MG Pilot banner in the top-spec Essence.
MG told us it is currently working with ANCAP to deliver an updated rating for the new model.
The previous version scored 90 per cent for adult occupant protection, 84 per cent for adult occupant protection, 64 per cent for vulnerable road user and 71 per cent for safety assist.
Standard safety equipment includes:
- Six airbags
- Autonomous emergency braking
- Lane-keep assist
- Adaptive cruise control with intelligent cruise assist
- Traffic sign recognition
- Surround-view camera
The Essence adds:
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic alert
MG offers a seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty on the vehicle. The battery is covered for the same seven-year period.
Servicing intervals are 24 months or 20,000km, whichever comes first.
2023 MG ZS EV service costs:
- 24 months or 20,000km: $268.00
- 48 months or 40,000km: $268.00
- 72 months or 60,000km: $268.00
- 96 months or 80,000km: $807.00
- 120 months or 100,000km: $268.00
- 144 months or 120,000km: $268.00
- 168 months or 140,000km: $268.00
The updated MG ZS EV is demonstrably better than the car it replaces. It feels in another league.
The design is more mature, the technology updates transform the usability, and the engineering enhancements have improved the ride and handling to levels we simply didn’t expect.
The new MG ZS EV doesn’t feel like Australia’s cheapest EV. It feels like a properly engineered car designed to tick all the boxes for those wanting to jump headfirst into EV ownership.
It’s a solid effort with little to complain about in the big picture.
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MORE: Everything MG ZS EV