By Jonathan Crouch
Looking for a compact family-sized full-electric model on the used car market with zero emissions and the rapid responses characteristic of today's EVs? Here's the most affordable option you could consider, the early 44.5kWh version of the MG ZS EV, which sold between 2019 and 2021. It's an SUV, it's sensibly priced and it's well equipped. If ultimate driving range capacity isn't a top priority and you're buying on a budget, you might rather like it.
The world is calling for higher levels of electrified vehicle technology (which to some extent we've now got) and more affordable EV models (which we're still waiting for). Back in 2019, enter Chinese brand MG - and specifically, the original 44.5kWh version of this ZS EV model, which was priced to undercut similarly-sized rivals by a significant amount. It was even cheaper than smaller supermini-shaped EVs.
The ZS is a decently spacious compact SUV that was launched in 2018 with 1.0-litre or 1.5-litre petrol power. But MG were also keen to tell us at the time that this model's platform had been designed with full electrification very much in mind. This original ZS EV was replaced in Autumn 2021 by a revised model with a larger 72kWh Long Range battery, but it's the early 2019-2021 44.5kWh-era version we look at here.
What You Get
Some would number this car amongst the more stylish family sector EV models you can buy from the 2019-2021 period. At just over 4.3m in length, it's an SUV sized somewhere between the smaller Crossover class (think Renault Captur/Nissan Juke) and the larger family-sized Crossover segment (think Nissan Qashqai/Kia Sportage). In this original electric form, the ZS sports a revised 'star-rider' front grille to frame its brand's famous octagonal company logo.
Open the cabin doors and you're greeted with a spacious interior, though one with material quality not quite the equal of what you'd find from more established brands. Still, MG tried hard here, with a range of 3D shapes, metallic and chrome finishes - and faux-leather upholstery on the top 'Exclusive'-spec model.
With this model, it was clear that the Chinese bean counters were finally getting the idea that it doesn't do to try and make production cost savings in the cabin, an area so crucial to the day-to-day experience of automotive ownership. Hence, for example, the soft-touch coating for the upper dash top; the stylised 'jet'-style corner air vents; and the supple faux- leather that trims the steering wheel and gear knob. There's a decently large 8-inch centre-dash infotainment display too.
Without exception, all of the EV models you can currently buy on the UK used car market for ZS EV money are considerably smaller than this MG, both inside and out. Careful packaging positioned the battery pack beneath the car, so that it doesn't impinge on either passenger or luggage space.
With small crossovers, it's usually on the rear seat that you're reminded of their supermini origins. Not in this case. This car is slightly wider and longer than typical small SUVs and that really pays dividends here. In fact MG claimed that the kind of room on offer in the back of a ZS was much more comparable with the kind of space you'd get from a Qashqai-class family hatch-based SUV from the next class up - and there's some truth in that. The notably low centre transmission tunnel even means that you could theoretically seat three adults alongside each other back here - or at least you would be able to do that if this bench was better sculpted. As it is, the narrow centre seating position is really only suitable for children.
The boot's 448-litre total capacity is exactly the same as you'd get in a combustion-engined ZS which, to give you some class perspective, is a figure around 60-litres higher than you'd get from most normal compact SUVs. Fold forward the 60:40-split rear bench and the capacity figure rises to 1,100-litres.
What to Look For
There aren't many major issues here, other than a few electrical and software issues; go thoroughly over all the powered and infotainment functions of the car you're looking at. Even if there were, all cars will obviously be covered by MG's warranty, a fully-transferrable 7 year/80,000 mile package. Otherwise, it's just the usual things; look out for stone chips and alloy wheel scratches. And insist on a fully stamped-up service history.
MG parts prices are pretty affordable but you'll probably need to source them through an MG dealer. This being an EV, you'll save on a lot of the usual service items - you obviously won't need things like an oil filter and so on. And the brake pads will last a lot longer - possibly the life of the car.
On the Road
This early ZS EV was powered by a 44.5kWh, water-cooled lithium-ion battery which has a WLTP-rated driving range certified at 163 miles. A couple of years back, that would have been quite creditable but these days, comparable family EVs are routinely able to deliver well over 200 miles from a single charge. Mind you, those cars will be considerable more expensive than this one and are typically less spacious inside; it all comes down to what your priorities are. As with most EVs, this one should feel sprightly away from rest, courtesy of the fact that all its drive torque (353Nm) is generated immediately from the get-go. There's 105 kW of power, equivalent to 143PS, and the 62mph benchmark is dispatched in just 8.5s, though there's a rather limited top speed of just 87mph.
At the wheel, instead of the usual gear stick, you select drive from a Rotary Gear Selector, which allows you to switch between three gears - Drive, Neutral and Reverse. In front of this is a further control that allows you to switch between three levels of brake energy recovery (or turn the recovery system off). Level one will implement a small amount of regeneration, with much of the braking still dependent on the vehicle's brakes. Level three offers the greatest regenerative benefit, offering near one-pedal driving with minimal need for the brakes, improving the lifespan of the parts, increasing efficiency and reducing ownership costs.
Charging ZS EGV is straightforward thanks to its combined CCS and Type 2 port, mounted within the front grille for easy access from either side of the car. The CCS plug is an enhanced version of the Type 2 plug, with two additional power contacts for the purposes of quick charging and supports AC and DC charging power. Featuring rapid charging capability, the ZS EV can charge from 0-80% in 40 minutes from a 50 kW charging station (if you can find one).
At home, the car can recharge itself using a standard 7KW wallbox in six hours - overnight charging's easy, in other words. In emergencies, the car can also be charged via a standard 3-pin plug. The battery pack is comprised of 18 cells and weighs just 280kg, providing competitive performance without generating any emissions. Managed by MG's Intelligent Battery Temperature Control system, the battery pack is insulated from external temperature variations, delivering the optimum power and range whatever the weather.
In this ZS EV in its early 44.5kWh form, MG delivered a typically tightly-priced package. We'd hoped for a little more driving range from it but if most of your motoring is based around short urban runs, this car might still suit you down to the ground. It's well equipped, and spacious and nippy to drive.
Is it the best car in the sector? No. Is it the best really affordable model in the class? Absolutely yes. MG has just taken another big step forward.