Packed with features and tech, the 2023 MG ZS EV Essence is impressive on paper. Heated front seats, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot detection, a wireless phone charger, 6-speaker audio, roof rails and a panoramic glass sunroof are all included.
There’s also rain sensing wipers, electrically folding heated mirrors, blind spot detection and, well, ‘synthetic’ leather seats. Those goodies are in addition to what’s included in the cheaper (by $4,000) Excite model – currently the most affordable EV in Australia.
Across both variants are three driving modes (Eco, Normal, Sport), three re-gen modes (1,2,3), a leather trim steering wheel, 360-view camera, sat nav, LED daytime running lights, i-SMART connectivity, and MG’s Pilot driver safety technology.
Not to stop there, you’ll also find V2L external device charging, 17-inch alloys and a 10.1-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Just don’t get too excited about the lane keep assist.
It’s highly unpredictable, erratic even, and we had to literally fight the steering wheel to keep the MG in our lane when it was activated on the motorway for a 100km test run. There were multiple times that the system reacted far too suddenly for our liking.
We’d highly recommend shutting it off. On the upside, the active cruise control system is great once you get used to the hidden stalk position. The ZS is powered by a 50.3kWh liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery and the powertrain delivers 280Nm and 130kW.
A neat central dial is all that is needed to select drive, reverse, neutral or park. MG claim a range of 320km (17.1kWh/100km), while we averaged 19.2kWh/100km for our 600km, five-day review, a range of around 250km, with a mix of highway and urban driving.
There are CCS and Type 2 ports of course, and a DC fast charger will give the MG 80 per cent charge in 40-minutes. A 7kW or 11kW wall charger provides 6.0 and 4.5 hours respectively.
If you have to go old school, a 240v/10amp 2.4kW household power outlet takes around 20 hours to 80 per cent and up to 28 hours to 100 per cent, which we can confirm is accurate, with our testing.
The ZS EV is not the quickest electric vehicle either, but it’s fast enough for the chassis set-up. In Sport mode we achieved 0–100km/h in 9.0-seconds. Vehicle weight is 1,610kg and it has a modest 500kg towing capacity.
We spent most of our testing time in Eco or Normal. Out on the open highways in Normal, the ZS is fantastic. It would take a small capacity ICE turbo diesel or turbo petrol SUV to match the MG’s torque on hills.
Now in its second generation, the new infotainment system looks great and is easy to navigate. The screen is placed a little low (particularly given the high seating position) but it has everything we’d expect. It does feel a little ‘dial up’, so to speak.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto require a cable connection. The wireless phone charger works well, and the other charge points are handy. There are shortcut buttons also. Less impressive though is the A/C system.
The controls are clunky and the system is not cool enough. We had to run it full blast on 16-degrees Celsius on warmer 26–30 degree days, and we were still uncomfortable. On days when the needle hits 35-degrees plus, we wonder if it would cope.
Most of the heat comes from the glass roof, which is poorly insulated. Even with the cover closed, it was getting very hot up there. The vents are also loud, meaning the inside of the cabin sounds like a plane pressurising.
It’s too loud to listen to music or talk with the fan up, but too hot when they are turned down. That’s probably okay for Europe, but this is Australia. That aside, interior space is generous, with 359-litres of boot space with the seats in place. They split 60/40 for more.
A large centre armrest hides a storage tub and there’s a decent glovebox, two centre cup holders and four door bottle holders with stowage bins. A sunnies holder also features up top, but there are no cup holders for the rear passengers.
They do get a charge point and A/C vents back there, while the Essence also gets dual seatback pockets. Cabin road noise is not too bad and around town, it can be considered a quiet cabin for the price range.
There is adequate rear legroom for an adult, even with a taller set of adults in the front, and enough width for three kids or two adults to sit comfortably. We ran one booster seat in the back, with our two smaller kids, and there were no complaints.
The front seats are quite narrow and tall, and the steering wheel lacks full adjustment, but the front view and visibility are good, and all three mirrors are well placed. The 360-degree cameras are handy, but the resolution is average.
There are two sets of child seat anchor points in the rear, and all five passengers get three-point seatbelt restraints. The 2023 MG ZS EV has a 5-star ANCAP safety rating, with a score of 90 per cent for occupant safety and 84 per cent for child protection.
On the road, handling could be described as cruisy, becoming unbalanced at even a sniff of sporty driving. It’s obvious that the ZS EV is set-up for urban speed limits. The rear suspension feels under-sprung and underdamped to us.
The front is the opposite, feeling harsh over sharp bumps. There is no meaningful feeling at the wheel, however, parking and city driving is a pleasure thanks to the light action. Stability under emergency braking is average, but actual braking performance is good.
The re-gen braking will pull the car up to walking speed, but there’s no one pedal driving. We preferred the handling with the minimum re-gen option set, as it kept its balance more. Around town we took advantage of the re-gen and were impressed.
It’s a stylish SUV, a point that will no doubt be a big factor to potential owners in this class. If you wanted to customise your ZS, there are even MG accessories available, like weather shields, a rubber boot liner, fabric mats, and a fast charge cable.
For a daily commuter or suburban run-around, it’d be a good car, and for those living in cities, even better. In a nutshell, stick to the city and suburban speed limits, switch lane keep assist off, and enjoy all the MG ZS EV has to offer.
Our test vehicle was provided by MG Motor Australia. To find out more about the 2023 MG ZS EV, talk to your local MG Motor dealer.