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MG ZS EV review: A bright spark
TIME is apparently running out for us to do something about the climate, so let's not mince words: The MG ZS EV is the best electric car in the market at its price point, and even just above it.
In key ways it's superior to the Nissan Leaf, a groundbreaking Electric Vehicle (EV), and it exposes Renault's Zoe and the BYD e6 as the awful cars that they are.
Perhaps more to the point, the MG is one electric car that you can consider alongside a combustion one. Tellingly, the ZS EV is roughly the size and price of a Toyota RAV4, the world's single best selling sport utility vehicle (SUV) in 2018.
Of course, you can't save the planet all by yourself just by ditching fossil fuels. But every bit counts, and anyway there are other good reasons for switching to electric power, many of which the MG exemplifies.
It's pretty much the quintessential electric SUV, sticking closely to the basic layout of the breed: A motor drives the front wheels and a slim bank of batteries underneath the passenger compartment powers it all.
But execution makes all the difference, and the MG is respectably good at the business of being a car.
The cabin is spacious and feels airy, thanks in part to a panoramic glass roof, and the controls are laid out in a straightforward manner so you can jump in and drive, even if you've never been behind the wheel of an EV before.
The MG would make a faithful family packhorse too, with ample room in the back and a boot that offers 448 litres of space, rising to 1,375 litres if you fold the rear seats.
Some things are basic, such as the single-zone air-con system, which doesn't come with vents in the back, and some of the cabin plastics remind you that this isn't a premium car.
But the MG does come with its fair share of goodies, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, automatic lamps and wipers, cruise control and a powered driver's seat.
It's sold in Europe, where crash tests are strict, and it has a maximum five-star collision rating from Euro NCAP, an influential testing body. Six airbags must count for something, after all.
All of the above means the MG ticks most of the boxes that apply to modern family transport, so it's the drive system that sets it apart. Like other EVs, it boots up like a computer instead of bursting to life, and its acceleration is accompanied by a futuristic, faraway hum.
The MG personifies smoothness, since the motor hauls it up to speed without being interrupted by gearchanges, and in Sport mode the response to your right foot is instantaneous, so much so that being too heavy-footed makes the front wheels chirp.
While the strong acceleration is nice, the MG has the ability to make your current car feel noisy and crude by comparison, which is a trick many EVs pull off.
But what's most remarkable about the MG is how hushed it is on the highway. Because electric motors are so quiet, they sometimes fail to cover up other sounds like clonks from the suspension or creaks from the body.
Not so the ZS EV, which is well insulated from such secondary patter. Cruise along at speed, and your ears pick up little more than the faint rustle of air rushing over the body, some low rumbling from the tyres and the distant whine of the motor doing its thing.
The quietness alone is worth test driving the MG for, though it's also worth pointing out that the handling is never going to impress a Porsche driver.
Nor will the brakes, which have a mushy feel at the pedal. But the MG feels like a car designed to calm rather than thrill, so the suspension aims for comfort and pretty much nails it.
The ride quality is one of the best things about the ZS EV, and rolling down the road in one makes you wonder why other SUVs have to feel so fidgety over bumpy tarmac. That refinement means that life in the MG is pretty sweet. Living with it, however, is a different matter, because for most people a question mark still hovers over the issue of where to charge an EV.
For what it's worth, charging the ZS EV needn't be a daily exercise. The MG's 44.5 kilowatt-hour batteries provide a claimed range of 335km, and in The Business Times' own test of the car, the trip computer reckoned we would have run out of juice at 323km, enough to cover a week's typical motoring here.
When you do plug a cable into the MG's nose, where its charging port lives, it takes 7.5 hours for a wall-mounted charger to top up from empty. Fast chargers, like the kind available at a small but growing number of Shell stations, can take the state of charge from 5 to 80 per cent in 40 minutes.
Eurokars EV, the local MG importer, is selling chargers at a subsidised price of S$2,000, including installation. But if you don’t need one, the ZS EV’s price of S$126,888 with Certificate of Entitlement makes it a battery-powered bargain.
The low price is likely down to the ZS EV's Chinese origins. Although MG is still a British brand, its financial and engineering backing come from SAIC Motor, China's biggest car company.
But given how the Chinese saved Volvo, and how the country buys half the world's electric cars, it shouldn't really surprise anyone how well the ZS EV has turned out. It's assembled to a high standard, and when you look under the bonnet, it's hard not to be impressed by how neatly all the cables and components are laid out.
This is the sort of EV that makes you confident that the electric era is something to look forward to. Maybe you fret that your neighbours will snicker at the fact that you bought a Chinese car, but it's a safe bet that no other carmaker is laughing at the ZS EV.
MG ZS EV
Electric Motor 143hp, 353Nm
Battery Ternary lithium-ion, 44.5kWh
Charge Time / Type 7.5 hours / Wallbox
Electric Range 335km
0-100km/h 8.5 seconds
Top Speed 140km/h (limited)
Efficiency 14.7 kWh/100km
Agent Eurokars EV
Price S$126,888 with COE