MG ZS 1.5 Excite: Pastures Of Plenty.

The opening statement from MG Motor UK regarding their all new mid size SUV reads as follows: Have it all with the new MG ZS. Premium features for an economy price. Smart new design and next-level technology. Plus a family-ready compact SUV that looks good on any city street. A proud boast one would think, especially for a company as young (old) as MG and yet this ZS is the car with which they hope to continue their successful sales push. Indeed, rather impressively and despite a market downturn of 6.3%, according to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), MG has successfully bucked the trend becoming the UK’s best performing car brand in January, a story previously reported on by MotorMartin and which can be read in full by clicking here.

So what we have here is MG’s answer to the Nissan Juke, Mazda CX3, Ford EcoSport amongst others, a car that fits comfortably in the range between the ever popular MG3 and the impressive MG GS. A car that MG already have supreme confidence in, so much so that it comes with a 7 year/80,000 mile warranty. But what is it that makes MG Motor UK so confident that the ZS SUV is the car that will help with the mainstream acceptance of MG in the marketplace?

One look at the all new ZS and you can really see where MG are coming from with their ‘Emotional Dynamism’ design philosophy as it helps to create a more upmarket feel to their corporate look, a look that is soon to be rolled out to the MG3 later on in the year as well as featuring across all upcoming models. The front grille has been designed with MG’s rich heritage in mind and features a contemporary version that impresses whilst also allowing for a larger version of their iconic badge to be displayed proudly up front. In fact MG emphasise in their literature that the design encompasses exceptional attention to detail emphasising the distinctive detailing on the ‘eye’ headlights and signature tail lights. It has a level of detailing and range of impressive features stating that you would not expect to find on a car of this size or price.

Moving around the car and it’s clear that MG have got their dimensions spot on as the ZS displays perfect proportions front to rear with strong creases running from those clever front lights through to the superb, heavily accentuated rear wheel arches, a distinctive feature of the car and one that catches the eye every time you walk towards this mid sized SUV. Chrome surrounds to the high side windows, front bash plate and stylish roof rails give the ZS a distinctive look that is more than enough to make it stand out from the crowd, especially when combined with the 17” Diamond Cut alloy wheels on this Excite Edition. And that red paint, it’s truly stunning with MG stating that the ‘Dynamic Red’ colour has been developed using a special coating technology that allows MG to achieve a deep and translucent finish with three layers of paint and that the colour is hard-wearing but also achieves enhanced brilliance and beautiful depth. More proof then of MG Motor UK’s attention to detail.

Sitting inside this MG and you can really start to appreciate the ‘new’ direction that MG are forging ahead with as, good as the MG GS and MG3 interiors are, the ZS is another step forward with soft materials covering those surfaces that you regularly touch, a carbon fibre design surround on the infotainment display, and even a stitched leather effect options for the seats. Impressive. The thing is, the ZS interior is exactly as it needs to be with a decent specification level on even the base Explore model but upgrade to the mid spec Excite Edition, the model on testand you can enjoy: Manual or Automatic gearbox, LED daytime running lights, good looking 17” Turbine alloy wheels, Leather steering wheel with audio controls, 6 way manual seat adjustment, Heated and electric adjust mirrors, Front fog lights, Air conditioning, 8” colour touch screen, ‘Follow me home’ lights, Apple CarPlayTM*, 3 steering modes, Parking sensors, Remote central door locking, Bluetooth integration, Rear ISO FIX child fitting, Cruise control, Designer Houndstooth fabric seats, Chrome window surrounds, Stylish roof rails, Tilt-adjust steering column and the excellent MG badge boot open. And then there’s the top Exclusive model which ups the game again with the inclusion of Leather style upholstery with contrast stitching, Satellite Navigation, Reversing camera and sensors and a Leather gear surround (auto).

Getting comfortable is simple enough and with plenty of space for both front and rear passengers there should be no complaints, which is no surprise when you consider that this MG is 179mm longer, 44mm wider and 46mm taller than it’s direct competition in the form of the Nissan Juke, indeed with easily enough room for five, boot capacity of 448l with the seats up, 1375l with the seats folded flat and you have a vehicle that’s easily suited to the needs of the modern family. And let’s not forget the myriad of storage cubby holes and drinks holders dotted conveniently around the front, rear and sides of the cabin.

A 1.5 DOHC VTI-tech, four-cylinder engine with smooth and responsive five-speed manual gearbox takes care of things up front, although there is an option of a 1.0 GDI turbocharged, three- cylinder version of the engine which, MG say, complements the six-speed automatic gearbox option to produce a fast-paced and dynamic ride for drivers looking to experience a little extra. The power produced by the 1.5l power-plant on test is a more than reasonable 105bhp at 6000rpm with torque figures of 104 ft/lb at 4500rpm which combine to provide an engine that delivers out in the ‘real world’. Having power exactly where you need it whilst still allowing for drivers to stir the receptive five speed manual gearbox as and when the need dictates, an action that the short throw of the lever and willingness from the four-cylinder engine positively encourage, gives the ZS the ability to take you through the traffic on the daily commute or to traverse the highways and byways of this green and pleasant land of ours when journeying further afield. Impressive, especially when you consider that with a more conservative driving style a combined figure of 49.6mpg is more than achievable.

Let’s not forget though that this is, after all, an MG, SUV or otherwise and that there are people out there that will forever associate the brand with sports cars and sports car handling and it’s these people that will be most surprised by the resurgent company and their products, especially in the form of the ZS. There’s still a hint of that historical sporting pedigree running through the DNA of this MG, a fact that can reasonably be attributed to the design and engineering teams’ expertise at Longbridge and who were heavily involved with preparing this mid sized SUV for the discerning European palate, which all adds together to make the driving and handling a pleasure to experience. With MacPherson struts up front and torsion beam rear suspension mixed with 3 selectable steering modes to vary the input required, the MG ZS handles superbly on our battered and torn up roads offering stability at high speed combined with a suppleness that still allows for the more twisting roads to be fully enjoyed whether alone or with passengers. In fact, even with the steering left in Normal mode the feeling and resistance through the wheel is excellent allowing you the confidence to attack corners with a certain amount of relish.

Back then to MG’s original statement: Have it all with the new MG ZS. Premium features for an economy price. Smart new design and next-level technology. Plus a family-ready compact SUV that looks good on any city street. And a think about how successful the ZS has been in achieving MG’s objectives for this, their all new mid sized SUV. It’s certainly raised the bar when it comes to levels of technology and equipment included for the price whilst certain other manufacturers could certainly learn something from the simplicity of choice that MG have engineered into the buying process with their 3 levels of trim and a manual or automatic gearbox depending on 4 or 3 cylinder engine choice. There’s no doubt in my mind that the ZS is a handsome and distinctive looking car that manages to stand out amongst the competition, especially with it’s rather special ‘Dynamic Red’ paint technology and yet MG have not forgotten that for most of us our car needs to provide us with different roles and capabilities depending on the journey to be undertaken.

And in this respect, the MG ZS is destined to be the hit with the car buying public that MG Motor UK set out to have, especially when the ZS can be on your drive for between £12,495 and £17,495. That’s a bargain.

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