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Fuel efficiency Ancap rating
$22,990–$55,990 7.1 L/100km 4

The MG ZS is a small SUV produced by the reborn MG brand, now owned by Chinese giant SAIC.

Launched locally in November of 2017, the MG ZS range currently comprises seven variants, from the combustion ZS Excite to ZST Essence, as well as two battery-electric offerings in the ZS EV Excite and ZS EV Essence.

Featured Review

2023 MG ZS EV SUV Promo Stills 4303

2023 MG ZS EV review: Australian first drive

The facelift to MG's affordable electric SUV is much more than just a battery upgrade

7 Sep 2022

When an electric compact SUV arrives into the local market touting itself as Australia’s cheapest EV, it’s reasonable to expect that plenty of buyers are going to be forgiving of a few shortcomings.

And so they were with the MG ZS EV when it lobbed in late 2020 priced at just under $44K. Its modest battery range of around 260km a slightly dinky 8.0-inch multimedia screen and massively underdone chassis tune – actually more like an improvised jam than an actual tune – were not significant dissuaders for early adopters.

Now we have the heavily updated follow-up to that original, with the assurance that all of the above have been improved, along with upgrades to a host of other key areas.

Further, rather than just one top-spec Essence model, the new ZS EV is now offered in two trim levels. The entry-level Excite is $44,990 drive-away, while the Essence is $48,990 drive-away.

From the front, at least, you won’t have any trouble telling old from new. The new model loses the very Mercedes-inspired starry grille, instead running a much more aero-looking, mostly enclosed snout, giving it a more distinctive front end compared to petrol variants of the ZST.

New, brighter LEDs also feature front and rear. It’s a cohesive if conservative exterior design; not what you’d call distinctive, but not likely to cause offence either.

Build quality, too, feels excellent. The doors shut with a thunk and panel gaps are snugly uniform. The paint is a standout; barely a trace of orange peel, with the rich, glossy colour and clear coat extending into all the shut-line areas.

The basics

The likes of Toyota, which skimps even on base colour in the engine bay of some of its cars, could learn a thing or two from MG.

Pricing and features

So while those drive-away prices for the new pair are up on what the original car sold for (it’s actually $5K in the case of the Essence) both are still super keen in the broader context of competitors.

No surprises that the Excite misses out on a bunch of equipment, including some safety features. Blind-spot monitoring and rear-cross traffic alert, for example, are now reserved for the top-spec Essence. That’s despite those features being included as standard on the petrol-only version of the ZS (known as the ZST) that sells from $25,490 drive-away.

Essence spec also adds imitation leather trim, heated front seats with electric adjustment for the driver’s seat, wireless phone charging, folding mirrors, and a vast panoramic glass roof.

Both models get a 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster to replace the old analogue setup, as well as a 10.1-inch touchscreen that’s usefully larger and more modern than the old 8.0-inch unit.

MG Pilot drive assistance (detailed in Safety) is also common to both grades, as are 17-inch alloy wheels, a 360-degree camera system, and a wired connection for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Significantly, both models get a new 51kWh battery pack, up from the original's 44.5kWh unit. It’s a lithium-iron phosphate (LFP) unit that ditches the cobalt; independent testing shows that it charges slightly faster than a conventional lithium-ion battery.

How do rivals compare on value?

Closest by some margin is the (also Chinese-made) BYD Atto 3, which is similarly offered in two spec levels, one with a 50kWh battery at $44,990, and a range-topper at $47,990 with 61kWh of energy storage. The Atto 3 drives pretty well and has a way more, er ‘adventurous’ interior design, which may be a bit out there for some tastes.

Hyundai’s Kona EV deserves to figure in any buying consideration, although at $54,500 plus on-road costs for the entry-level Elite with the smaller 39kWh battery (an Extended version with 64kWh battery is available), its price is well above even the top-spec ZS EV Essence. The Kona does, however, offer a similar range of around 320km.

Also in the price ballpark – albeit as a hatch, not an SUV – is the base Nissan Leaf at $50,990 plus on-road costs. This regular Leaf (as opposed to the ‘Plus’) runs a 40kWh battery providing 270km of WLTP range, a single front-drive motor producing 110kW and 320Nm, and hits 100km/h in 7.9 seconds.

Comfort and space

Slide and it’s clear MG’s interior design team has spent plenty of time looking at Audi and other brands from the Volkswagen Group. Hey, if you’re going to go looking for inspiration, why not single out the best?

The wheel, air vents and other bits of hardware and trim are heavily influenced by the Germans, to good effect. The dash top is soft, the stitching uniform and good quality, and the whole thing feels well put together.

Seat bases are a bit squidgy for heavier bodies and not generous for under-thigh support, but my more medium-sized colleague had no complaints.

There are no memory positions for the electrically adjusted driver's seat in the Essence, nor a head-up display, but finding an agreeable driving position is simple despite the fact the wheel doesn’t adjust for reach; only height.

A pair of centre cup holders can be covered by a neat roller lid, while the door bins are generous and easily accept 1.5-litre bottles.

HVAC is controlled by up/down switches, as is the audio volume; not as intuitive as knobs, but all feel good to the touch.

The new 10.0-inch screen is bright, hi-res, and responds quickly, and the graphics showing charging status and all the relevant battery info are clear and logical.

In the back, there’s decent headroom and legroom by class standards, and the flat floor contributes to making life tolerable for anyone occupying the middle seat. And for all the USB enthusiasts out there, the single USB-A fitted to the original model has now been joined by a second USB-C outlet.

MG ZS EV boot space is class-competitive at 359L and its depth can be set via the adjustable floor, leaving ample space underneath for the charging cables (although there is no spare wheel). Fold the rear seats and you liberate 1187 litres, but the seats don’t fold flat; they lay over like slumped hobos on a doorstep.

All up, it’s an interior that’s well presented, doesn’t attempt to be overly avant-garde for the sake of it and, crucially, doesn’t reek of cost-cutting to get the car to the price point it is.


Six airbags are standard in both variants, and three child seat anchors are provided plus two sets of ISOFIX points.

Both Excite and Essence feature the active safety and driver assistance tech bundle called MG Pilot, which comprises adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist with departure warning, traffic jam assist and intelligent cruise assist.

But as mentioned, you need to step up to the top-spec Essence for blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

As for the ANCAP rating, MG Australia says it’s “in discussions” with ANCAP to retain the five-star rating achieved by the original car in 2020.

On the road

The first thing that needs to be addressed is the significant drop in torque between the new car and the old. The torque output of the first ZS EV was a hefty 353Nm, which was clearly deemed a little excessive and unnecessary for the target market. Kia has come to a similar conclusion with its second-gen Niro EV.

In the new car, max torque is quoted at 280Nm. That 70Nm sounds like a significant drop, especially as it's only offset to some degree by a bump in maximum power from 105kW to 130kW in the new model, yet there’s no change to the claimed 0-100km/h figure of 8.2 seconds.

But that sprint figure doesn’t really convey how responsive the ZS EV actually feels in normal driving. Way more relevant in the real world is the rolling response from around 20km/h to say 70km/h. We timed it at 3.6 seconds, much quicker than ICE competitors in this segment that may have similar 0-100km/h times.

Also, it’s quiet. The motor never creates more than a very faint whine, while upgrades to soundproofing have cut road noise so that even on coarse-chip, it’s not loud or intrusive.

The regenerative braking, as with the original car, can be set in three stages, each providing a usefully distinct level of off-throttle behaviour. The strongest isn’t enough for one-pedal driving – we were told it’s been softened off in response to customers complaining it was too abrupt (er, why not just ignore it and use the middle setting, people?) but it still does slow the car appreciably and can harvest useful amounts of otherwise lost energy.

As for the dynamics? Our drive was contained to urban roads, so we’ll reserve judgment until we can have a proper punt on typical Aussie B-roads, but changes to the spring rates and dampers feel as though they’ve gone a long way to fixing the old car’s propensity to wallow over undulations and generally feel like the front and rear ends were often out of sync with each other.

The new ZS actually feels reasonably cohesive, at least in the confines in which we drove it.

For starters, the steering is quick and nicely alert either side of centre. No real feel, but no real worries there. Selecting Sport mode for shaper powertrain response does add weight to the steering but without introducing the artificial gloopy feel that afflicts some cars when the assistance is dialled back. It points eagerly, and the Michelin Primacy rubber provides all the grip the target market would reasonably expect.

Sensibly sized 17-inch wheels help the ride, too, which feels nicely pliant over sharp edges and potholes.

All up, this is a small SUV that just gets on with the job of moving you to your destination swiftly, seamlessly and quietly and doesn't actually draw unnecessary attention to itself.


Energy usage and recharging

During our limited time with the ZS, it used an average of 19.5kWh/100km, against its official combined number of 17.1kWh/100km (down from the previous gen’s 18.6kWh). Your consumption will vary significantly depending on driving conditions and the level of regen selected.

So let’s talk claimed recharging, given we didn’t have an opportunity to plug in the car.

Oddly, MG quotes an official 30-80 per cent charge time on a 50kW charger of 54 minutes, yet the company says the car is capable of taking a maximum of 80kW. We’d estimate that on a fast charger exceeding 50kW, 10 to 80 per cent should take around 45 minutes.

The redesigned charge port is also now easier to access and has four LED indicators to show the battery’s progress. Oh, and like Hyundai’s Ioniq 5 and Kia's EVs, the ZS EV has a vehicle-to-load function that enables owners to plug in appliances or recharge other bits of equipment.

For home recharging, MG says it can offer customers subsided wallbox chargers, with the ChargeHub 7kW unit priced at $1990 (plus fitting cost) and delivering a full charge in around eight hours, while the ChargeHub 11kW ($2090 plus fitting) trims that back to around five hours.

As for colours, five are available. Solid white or black are no extra cost; the three metallics – silver, blue and red – add $700.

A new app, called MG iSmart, allows remote control of various features like unlocking and HVAC operation, as well as monitoring charging status, locating the car etc.

Warranty and servicing

MG Australia’s warranty is right up there with the industry's best. It offers a seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, and that includes the battery. Only drivers using their cars commercially (such as for Uber) have their warranty capped at 160,000km.

Servicing will also come as a welcome respite for anyone used to annual visits with the dealership. The ZS EV only needs servicing every 24 months or 20,000km, with the first three intervals capped at $268 each.


In this second iteration, the MG ZS feels as though it's the dominant player in the small electrified SUV category

This is a really solid update of an original that had plenty going for it. By addressing the issues of range and chassis dynamics, MG has elevated the ZS EV into a territory where there's really not too much with which to find fault, especially given the super-competitive pricing.

If you're unfazed by the lack of blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert in the Excite and can live without the sunroof and fake leather trim – the base model's houndstooth fabric is actually very smart – then the saving it represents over the top-spec Essence could be worth pocketing.

The lack of adjustability for the driving position in both models may irk some, but there is otherwise minimal weirdness going on in the cabin, a good level of intuitive user-friendliness and excellent equipment.

In this second iteration, the MG ZS feels as though it's the dominant player in the small electrified SUV category, although it will take a comparison with the BYD Atto 3 to make that a statement of fact.

Meanwhile, it's proof that China, rather than Japan or Korea, is democratising the affordable EV.

2023 MG ZS EV specifications

Score breakdown
Safety, value and features
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling

Things we like

  • Punchy, refined performance
  • Improved body control and handling
  • Functional, well-presented interior

Not so much

  • DC charging speed only adequate
  • Lack of reach adjustment for steering wheel
  • No spare wheel

More Reviews

MG ZS Pricing and Specifications

VariantPriceFuel TypeFuel Economy (city)Power
Excite$22,990–$43,990Petrol, Electric7.1 L/100km84–130 kW
Essence$47,990ElectricN/A130 kW


More News

About the MG ZS

The MG ZS is a small SUV produced by the reborn MG brand, now owned by Chinese giant SAIC.

Launched locally in November of 2017, the MG ZS range currently comprises seven variants, from the combustion ZS Excite to ZST Essence, as well as two battery-electric offerings in the ZS EV Excite and ZS EV Essence.

The most-affordable combustion MG ZS offering is the ZS Excite, which is powered by a 1.5-litre 84kW/150Nm four-cylinder mated to a four-speed automatic transmission.

The flagship petrol-sipping MG ZS is the ZST Essence, which features a turbocharged 1.3-litre three-cylinder engine matched with a six-speed automatic.

The MG ZS EV Excite is one of the most affordable electric cars offered.

MG Motor’s Australian warranty spans seven years and is valid for unlimited mileage for all combustion-powered vehicles, and comes with a seven-year anti-perforation warranty.

New MG electric vehicles and hybrids add another warranty of the same coverage for batteries of non-commercial use.