Tuesday, March 5, 2024

MG ZS 1.3 Turbo

When a Chinese automotive giant bought the rights to MG in 2006, a lot of people were naturally worried about its future. The British iconic sports car maker turned luxury marque has been in gradual decline since its acquisition by British Leyland, and right before its Shino acquisition, had a disastrous failed revival attempt as a performance brand.

Things however, as it turned out, to be pretty alright for this veteran badge. Its new owners, then Nanjing Automobile Group, decided to take a step back from the  flashy yet hard-to-sell performance cars and instead started offering feature-rich, practical daily drivers for very reasonable prices.

One of the first cars to come out under this new direction was the MG GS. The snub-nose GS was eventually succeeded by the ZS, which was also one of the first official cars MG introduced when they entered the Bangladeshi market. The model recently got an update, so we took one out for a spin to try it out.

The new look of MG
From the front, it almost looks like the car lost weight. The front LED headlights are now thinner, with opaque DRL and disconnected from the grille. The new honeycomb pattern grille is of a different shape, with the centre MG badge spotting one of the car’s 360-degree cameras.  Underneath the main grille is another, smaller, honeycomb grille, flanked by two recessed halogen fog lamps.

From the side, the car looks mostly the same, if a bit longer thanks to its revamped front fascia. One exception to this is the new 17-inch two-tone alternate pattern alloy wheels, which are quite edgy compared to the outgoing ones. The brake callipers behind them are painted red, perhaps to serve as a visual reminder of its turbocharged engine. More on that later.

Much like the front, the rear end has also been revamped, with a new lower bumper with non-functional exhaust tips. A much more exciting new addition are the new tail lamps, flanking the motion-activated automatic trunk lid. MG calls them the “LED plasma taillamps”and they, combined with the rest of the rear end, look like a face that is silently judging any car behind it.

Updated cabin
The interior of the ZS was already quite comfortable and feature rich, with the new refresh adding more to it.
The cabin is wrapped in vegan leather upholstery, tastefully complimented by red stitching and a red insert. The carbon fibre-like dashboard now features a larger 10.1-inch infotainment screen with (wired) Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The gauge cluster is now also a screen, a virtual instrument display capable of showing a plethora of information.

Moving a bit back, the front passengers are treated to heated seats, with the driver enjoying the additional comfort of six-way powered adjustability.  Both rows have access to dedicated USB charging ports, a six-speaker audio system, along with ample natural light thanks to the massive panoramic sunroof that covers almost the entirety of the vehicle’s roof.
The rear cargo bay is illuminated and can hold up to 1,187 litres of cargo with the rear seats folded down. Interestingly, the bay floor is coated in a velcro-like material, allowing one to pretty much stick anything to it with the proper strap. The spare wheel can be found under the floor along with some tools to work on the car in the event of a roadside incident.
Being primarily designed to haul families, the ZS put heavy emphasis on occupants’ safety. The cabin is protected by a set of 6 airbags with the Turbo trim coming standard with MG Pilot suite, a software package featuring a bunch of advanced safety features such as lane keep assist, traffic jam assists, rear cross-traffic alert, active emergency braking and many more.

The driving experience
As suggested by “Turbo” in the name, the revamped ZS comes with a new engine. The 1.3-litre turbocharged inline-three makes around 155 Hp and 230 Nm of torque, which is about 43 and 80 more than its naturally aspirated 1.5 litres inline-four.
Send that power to the front wheels via the CVT gearbox and the car gives you the expected throttle response, slight lag followed by rapid acceleration. We found the acceleration to be quite good on its own, but for those who like to be a bit more “in control,” MG thoughtfully added eight simulated gears to play with.
Being a comfort-focused car, the suspension is left as it was, bouncy with significant body roll at spirited turns. We really don’t recommend the latter, because at one point of your test drive, our poor photographer was almost thrown off his seat during a particularly exciting turn.

Final thoughts
Ever since its acquisition by Nanjing, now part of SAIC Motor, the MG has been the go-to brand for affordable, practical, yet very well-equipped vehicles. The new ZS is no exception to that.
If you are looking for a new five seat crossover and do not have an aversion to Chinese automobiles, this can be just the thing you are looking for. With a price that is less than many sub compact sedans on the market and a feature list that rivals cars double its price, the MG ZS is a hard bargain to pass up.



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