Longevity. Not many car brands can take the podium next to MG for its history, some nine decades in the making. Having begun as a British brand back in 1924, it’s been through some ups and downs, rising most recently in the hands of SAIC Motor Corporation.
Now, with the history lesson over, we can assure you that MG’s latest offering, the 2022 MG ZST Essence is going to deliver value for money and post-sale support, well into your own MG story.
The ZST is the evolution of the ZS, now with a more sleek, stylish design, and featuring more power, and additional tech. One of Australia’s best-selling small SUVs, the Essence is its range topping option.
As well as scoring everything the lower variants get, the Essence grabs 17-inch alloys with a unique design, 6-way electric adjustable driver’s seat, red MG logo embossed front head rests, front seat heating, a full digital instrument cluster and panoramic stargazer sunroof.
Body lines and curves that complement each other, aesthetically pleasing LED headlights and taillights that are striking both day and night, an ‘exclusive’ high-gloss grille wearing the timeless MG initials. They’re all there.
Financially pleasing as they may be, the ZST Essence also proves you can look classy on a budget. Our test vehicle came to us in gorgeous Pebble Black. The two-tone machined alloys are a perfect fit and flow well with our overall package.
From the outside looking in, the interior of the ZST has a welcoming allure to it. The red contrast stitching, carbon fibre, satin chrome and black trim finishes, pair perfectly with the exterior look.
Once inside though, you realise not all things feel as good as they look. The ZST interior is comprised of soft touch plastics, synthetic leather trim, PU and PVC seats (the flimsy sliding sunroof cover does not provide much faith either).
That said, the Essence does offer some decent real estate, with plenty of leg room and general room for activities both front and rear. A claimed 395-litres of luggage space expands to 1187-litres with the rear seats folded.
It’s more than enough baggage room for those longer trips, short golf course visits, soccer team transport or school bus scenarios. Three people can travel in sufficient comfort over short distances, in the second row.
A pair of child seats offered no challenge to the ZST either (yes, ISOFIX is present for inquisitive parentals). Now, although you receive door bins, a pair of USB outlets, map pockets and even ‘oh sh!t’ roof mounted grab handles in the back seat. There’s a problem.
While there’s a lack of directional air vents, coat hooks, rear-seat lighting, and a non-existent centre armrest, our biggest gripe, because of that last one – is that there’s no cup holders in row two. That’s a disaster when you have kids.
The front row cup holders don’t get too much praise either. Completely useless for those gym shakers or larger liquid containing canisters, and two regular takeaway coffee cups can have you playing Jenga before every sip.
You do still receive a 6-speaker stereo, auto headlights and wipers, adaptive cruise control, rear parking sensors, three front USB ports (including the rear vision mirror for dash cams and the like), keyless entry and start, and front, side and rear reverse cameras.
Power windows and mirrors, a space-saver spare and even a sunglasses holder (a personal win for us). Exploring the goodies a little more closely, the 360-degree camera system takes us back to 90s webcam quality.
The 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system is a bit the same, as while it’s full colour, has Bluetooth and wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the menu functions, climate control and satellite navigation system feel like an old Garmin or Navman portable unit.
You can also rest assured the auditory experience is not going to damage your hearing. The equaliser and sub-woofer controls seem novelty (and we’re pretty sure the latter is simply a sound effect). Any thought of pumping bass is out of the question.
Under the hood is a 3-cylinder 1.3-litre in-line petrol turbo engine pushing out 115kW of power and 230Nm torque. Paired with a 6-speed auto transmission, with a 45-litre fuel tank, we’re pretty sure you’ll be keeping your licence for years to come.
Nevertheless, the ZST performs as you would expect. For daily duties, long scenic exploration, or the short city/suburban trips, it will get you from A to B without drama. No need for drive modes, flappy paddles, or any other distractions, just get in and drive.
The steering is smooth and follows input as directed. Road noise in general isn’t too bad, but cabin noise can echo, and items left in storage bins/compartments can become apparent very quickly.
Sweaty palmers be warned too, it’s a ‘slippery when wet’ situation here. The steering wheel can feel quite hard and for some, uncomfortable on longer drives that involve some twists and turns.
Suspension is decent for what the ZST faces on Australian roads though. It’s no 6-figure vehicle running the latest European air suspension, but it handles Sydney pot holes (the ones that now look like craters). It sits on Michelin Primacy 3 ST tyres too.
MG claims fuel consumption of 7.3-litres/100km and in real world testing we saw 8.1-litres/100km. Given there are no ‘need for speed’ tendencies, we reckon that’s a good result. On the safety front, the 2022 MG ZST Essence has a 4-star ANCAP rating.
It comes with autonomous emergency braking, six airbags, blind-spot monitoring, traffic jam assist, lane departure warning and MG Pilot, which is constantly on the lookout for any unexpected hazards.
Backed by the Chinese car maker’s 7-year unlimited kilometre warranty and roadside assist, you can jump into one from $33,490 drive away. It’s available in five colours, including York White and Brighton Blue.
Whether it’s a daily driver, mum’s taxi, the grocery getter or on first car duties, the 2022 MG ZST Essence will tick all your basic requirements for a small SUV.
Our test vehicle was provided by MG Australia. To find out more about the 2022 MG ZST Essence, contact your local MG dealership.